Gratz v. Gratz

In this action asserting several business tort claims, the court will exercise specific personal jurisdiction, though not general jurisdiction, over the defendant, who is the plaintiff’s stepmother. In a nutshell, the plaintiff claims that his stepmother intentionally drove a wedge between him and his father, causing his father to violate or terminate various contracts and thereby cause losses to the plaintiff.

According to the plaintiff, the defendant owns some real property and keeps personal property in Richmond; she communicated with the plaintiff’s father about the contracts at issue while he was in Richmond; she has visited Richmond numerous times on business; and her company purportedly does business in Richmond. But these allegations do not make a prima facie showing of general personal jurisdiction. The defendant is a citizen of Florida, and the plaintiff has not establish that she is “essentially at home” in Virginia.

However, there is a prima facie showing that the defendant purposely availed herself of conducting activities in Virginia, directly and through the plaintiff’s father. She admits that she and the plaintiff’s father own real property in Richmond and that she has had numerous communications with him over the last ten years while he has been physically present in Virginia. She also maintained personal property in Richmond, including a vehicle that she allowed the plaintiff’s father to use while he was in Richmond.

Based on these considerations, Virginia is certainly not a foreign forum to the defendant. Moreover, the properties that are the subject of the contract dispute are in Virginia, and the plaintiff is a Virginia resident; therefore, Virginia has a much stronger interest in this case than does any other jurisdiction. Under these circumstances, the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction over the defendant is constitutionally reasonable.

Motion to dismiss denied.

Gratz v. Gratz, No. 3:18cv645, Apr. 16, 2019. EDVA at Richmond (Payne).

Categories: Opinions, U.S. District Court - Eastern District of Virginia

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