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Simpkins v. Simpkins

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

March 18, 2019



          Barbara D. Holmes, United States Magistrate Judge.

         TO: Honorable Eli Richardson, District Judge.

         By Order entered January 4, 2019 (Docket Entry No. 5), this action was referred to the Magistrate Judge for pretrial proceedings under 28 U.S.C. § § 636 (b)(1)(A) & (B), Rule 72(b), and the Local Rules of Court.

         Presently pending before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss (Docket Entry No. 8), to which Plaintiff has filed a response, which the Court has construed as a motion to transfer. See Docket Entry No. 15. For the reasons set out below, the undersigned respectfully recommends that the motion to dismiss be denied without prejudice and the motion to transfer be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Richard J. Simpkins (“Plaintiff”) is a resident of Davidson County, Tennessee. On December 21, 2018, he filed this pro se lawsuit against Terri Simpkins Wright (“Defendant”), who he alleges is his “paternal half aunt.” See Complaint (Docket Entry No. 1). Plaintiff sets out allegations of wrongdoing against Defendant related to her role in the settlement of the intestate estate of Plaintiff's father, who is alleged to have died in 2015. Id. Plaintiff contends Defendant breached fiduciary duties and that Defendant's “denial of his inheritance monies denies and breaches his 14th Amendment rights against loss or denial of said properties, monies, and inheritance.” Id. at 10. The crux of Plaintiff's complaint involves a dispute over approximately $80, 000.00 that was in his father's bank account in Florida and over which Plaintiff alleges that Defendant has wrongfully taken control. Id. at 5-7. Although Plaintiff does not assert the basis for federal jurisdiction, he alleges that Defendant lives in Utah and the Court has liberally construed the complaint as alleging diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). See Docket Entry No. 5 at 1.

         In lieu of an answer, Defendant has filed the pending motion to dismiss. Defendant seeks dismissal under Rule 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, asserting that she has no contact with Tennessee that supports the assertion of personal jurisdiction over her by this Court. See Memorandum of Law in Support (Docket Entry No. 9) at 3-4. Alternatively, the Defendant asserts that: (1) the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff's claims to the extent that Plaintiff is essentially asking the Court to exercise jurisdiction over a probate matter; and, (2) Plaintiff's allegations fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Id. at 5-8. Finally, Defendant contends that Plaintiff is a vexatious litigant and the Court should enter an order prohibiting him from filing further complaints against Defendant without first obtaining court permission. Id. at 8-9.

         In response, Plaintiff has filed (1) a motion for leave to amend his complaint, see Docket Entry No. 14, and (2) a memorandum in opposition to the motion to dismiss. See Docket Entry No. 15. By his motion to amend, Plaintiff revises and adds to his factual allegations, deletes his assertion of a Fourteenth Amendment violation, and asserts the claim that Defendant “wantonly, maliciously, [and] recklessly” engaged in “tortuous interference with expected inheritance.” See Proposed Amended Complaint (Docket Entry No. 14-1). In his response to the motion to dismiss, Plaintiff offers no objection to Defendant's lack of personal jurisdiction argument other than to assert that, in retrospect, he should have filed this lawsuit in either the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida or for the District Court of Utah. See Memorandum in Opposition (Docket Entry No. 15) at 8-9. Plaintiff further offers arguments against the substantive dismissal of his claims and in support of his claims and allegations. Id. at 4-8 and 9-21.

         In reply, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's allegations fail to support plausible claims upon which relief can be granted and that Plaintiff has not shown why the federal probate exception to jurisdiction does not apply. See Reply (Docket Entry No. 16) at 1-2 and 4. Defendant further argues that Plaintiff essentially admits that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over her, id. at 3, and argues that dismissal of the lawsuit, not transfer to another federal venue, is the appropriate course of action given the substantive deficiencies in Plaintiff's lawsuit. Id. Although Defendant contests that transfer of venue is appropriate, she does not dispute that she is a resident of Utah.


         A. Personal Jurisdiction

         Due Process requires that a defendant be subject to the personal jurisdiction of the court. World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 291 (1980). As the party bringing the lawsuit, Plaintiff must establish that this Court has personal jurisdiction over Defendant. See Neogen Corp. v. Neo Gen Screening, Inc., 282 F.3d 883, 887 (6th Cir. 2002); Nationwide Mut'l Ins. Co. v. Tryg Int'l Ins. Co., Ltd., 91 F.3d 790, 793 (6th Cir. 1996). There must be a showing that Defendant has “certain minimum contacts with [the forum] such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'” International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (quoting Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463 (1940)).

         Plaintiff has not argued, let alone shown, that this Court has personal jurisdiction over Defendant, and he actually concedes in his response to the motion to dismiss that his lawsuit should not have been filed in this Court. See Docket Entry No. 15 at 9. Accordingly, Defendant's contention that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over her has merit.

         B. Whether to dismiss or ...

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