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O'shea Duncan v. O'Shea

United States District Court, D. Maine

March 22, 2019

ALEXYS GRACE O'SHEA DUNCAN, Individually and as a Beneficiary of the Will and Trusts of John J.C. O'Shea Jr., Plaintiff,
KATHLEEN M. O'SHEA, Individually and as Co-Executor of the Estate of Rita O'Shea, Co-Trustee of the Will and Trusts of John J.C. O'Shea Jr., et al., Defendants.



         The Plaintiff, Alexys Grace O'Shea Duncan (“Alexys”), brings this action individually and as a beneficiary of the will and trusts of John J.C. O'Shea Jr., her grandfather, for alleged breaches of fiduciary duties, fraud, and conversion, among other claims, related to the management of the trusts' assets. Defendant Field, Manning, Stone, Hawthorne, & Aycock, P.C. (“Field Manning”), a Texas law firm, moves to dismiss (ECF No. 21) for lack of personal jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). Alternatively, Field Manning argues that the suit should be dismissed for improper venue under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(3). For the reasons that follow, I conclude that this Court does not have personal jurisdiction over Field Manning and, therefore, dismiss Field Manning as a defendant.


         The following facts are taken from the Second Amended Complaint and supplemental affidavits in the record. For purposes of this motion, I take as true the facts asserted in the complaint and any undisputed facts asserted by Field Manning.

         John J.C. O'Shea, Jr. (“John Jr.”) and his wife, Rita O'Shea (“Rita”) had four children: John J.C. O'Shea III (“John III”), Kelley A. O'Shea (“Kelley”), Kathleen M. O'Shea (“Kathleen”), and Brian C. O'Shea (“Brian”). The Plaintiff, Alexys, is Kelley's daughter and, therefore, John Jr. and Rita's granddaughter. John Jr. passed away in 1996 and his will was probated in Lubbock County, Texas. John Jr.'s will created two trusts: the O'Shea Family Trust and the O'Shea Marital Trust. Rita inherited half of John Jr.'s community property under Texas probate law, and the other half was apportioned between the two trusts. Rita was the executor of John Jr.'s estate, the trustee of the two trusts, and the primary beneficiary of the two trusts during her lifetime. The claims asserted against Field Manning in this suit arise out of Field Manning's representation of Rita.

         After John Jr.'s death, Rita and the Family Trust jointly owned a vacation house in Kennebunkport (“the Maine Property”). In 2009, Rita, individually and as trustee of the Family Trust, conveyed the Maine Property to a Texas limited liability company, Killybegs, LLC, in consideration for a membership interest in the LLC. Field Manning represented Rita in the creation of Killybegs, LLC, and Rita's conveyance of the Maine Property. All of Field Manning's legal services related to the creation of Killybegs, LLC, and the transfer of the Maine Property were performed in Texas. Thus, the documents prepared by Field Manning related to the LLC and the deed of conveyance were prepared in Texas, and Rita executed the deed in Texas. After the property was transferred to Killybegs, LLC, Attorney Carrissa Cleavinger of Field Manning mailed the deed and a transfer tax form from Texas to the York County Registry of Deeds in Maine for recording. Other than mailing the deed from Texas to the Maine registry for recording, Field Manning had no contact with Maine related to the work that the law firm performed for Rita. None of Field Manning's attorneys are licensed to practice law in Maine.


         1. Personal Jurisdiction

          “It is axiomatic that, to hear a case, a court must have personal jurisdiction over the parties, that is, the power to require the parties to obey its decrees.” Hannon v. Beard, 524 F.3d 275, 279 (1st Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). Where, as here, neither party requests an evidentiary hearing, the District Court uses the prima facie standard to evaluate whether it has personal jurisdiction over a defendant. United States v. Swiss Am. Bank, Ltd., 274 F.3d 610, 618 (1st Cir. 2001). Under this standard, “the inquiry is whether the plaintiff has proffered evidence which, if credited, is sufficient to support findings of all facts essential to personal jurisdiction.” Phillips v. Prairie Eye Ctr., 530 F.3d 22, 26 (1st Cir. 2008). In conducting this analysis, the Court “take[s] the facts from the pleadings and whatever supplemental filings (such as affidavits) are contained in the record, giving credence to the plaintiff's version of genuinely contested facts. [The Court] may, of course, take into account undisputed facts put forth by the defendant.” Baskin-Robbins Franchising LLC v. Alpenrose Dairy, Inc., 825 F.3d 28, 34 (1st Cir. 2016) (internal citation omitted). The burden rests on the plaintiff to demonstrate that personal jurisdiction exists. Plixer Int'l, Inc. v. Scrutinizer GmbH, 905 F.3d 1, 6 (1st Cir. 2018).

         “In determining whether a non-resident defendant is subject to its jurisdiction, a federal court exercising diversity jurisdiction ‘is the functional equivalent of a state court sitting in the forum state.'” Baskin-Robbins, 825 F.3d at 34 (quoting Sawtelle v. Farrell, 70 F.3d 1381, 1387 (1st Cir. 1995)). The same is true in a federal question case. Id. at 34 n.2 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(1)(A)). “[W]ith one exception the Rule 4(k) framework does not treat federal question cases differently than cases where a federal court adjudicates state-created rights based on diversity of citizenship jurisdiction.” 4 Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice & Procedure § 1068.1 (4th ed. 2018). That one exception is set out in Rule 4(k)(2), which authorizes the exercise of personal jurisdiction in federal question cases where a defendant lacks sufficient minimum contacts with “any single state” but has sufficient minimum contacts with the United States as a whole to justify the application of federal law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k) advisory committee's note to 1993 amendment. That exception does not apply here because Field Manning is subject to general personal jurisdiction in Texas, where the law firm maintains its regular business.

         To establish personal jurisdiction, “a plaintiff must satisfy both the forum state's long-arm statute and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Knox v. MetalForming, Inc., 914 F.3d 685, 690 (1st Cir. 2019) (quoting C.W. Downer & Co. v. Bioriginal Food & Sci. Corp., 771 F.3d 59, 65 (1st Cir. 2014)). Because Maine's long-arm statute is coextensive with the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, see 14 M.R.S.A. § 704-A(1) (Westlaw through 2017 2d Reg. Sess. and 2d Spec. Sess. of 128th Leg.), the minimum contacts doctrine controls. “Due process requires that the defendant have certain minimum contacts with [the forum] such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Scrutinizer, 905 F.3d at 7 (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)) (internal quotation marks omitted). “Consistent with the demands of due process, a federal district court may exercise either general or specific jurisdiction over a defendant.” Baskin-Robbins, 825 F.3d at 35. Alexys contends that both general and specific jurisdiction exist here. ECF No. 25 at 9-13.

         A. General Jurisdiction

         “General jurisdiction exists when the litigation is not directly founded on the defendant's forum-based contacts[.]” Swiss Am. Bank, 274 F.3d at 618 (quoting United Elec., Radio & Mach. Workers of Am. v. 163 Pleasant St. Corp., 960 F.2d 1080, 1088 (1st Cir. 1992)). “To permit the exercise of general jurisdiction, the defendant must engage in the continuous and systematic pursuit of general business activities in the forum state.” Cossaboon v. Maine Med. Ctr., 600 F.3d 25, 32 (1st Cir. 2010). Here, Field Manning's contacts with Maine are “manifestly insufficient” to subject the law firm to general jurisdiction. 163 Pleasant St. Corp., 960 F.2d at 1088. None of Field Manning's attorneys are licensed to practice law in Maine and the record contains no facts demonstrating that Field Manning conducted any activities in Maine outside of the limited contact related to the transfer of the Maine Property, let alone activities that are continuous and systematic. Cf. Cossaboon, 600 F.3d at 33-39 (holding that New Hampshire could not exercise general jurisdiction over Maine hospital that “engage[d] in some advertising of its services [in New Hampshire], maintain[ed] an interactive website, had one New Hampshire-based employee for a time . . . and treat[ed] some New Hampshire residents.”).

         B. ...

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