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Briggs v. Briggs

April 16, 2008

CHRISTOPHER BRIGGS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ALISON SHAFTIC BRIGGS (AKA ALISON ANN BRIGGS, ALISON SHAFTIC), AND DOES 1-10, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hayes, Judge

ORDER

The matter before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction (Doc. # 4) filed by Defendant Alison Briggs.

Background

On October 12, 2007, Plaintiff Christopher J. Briggs ("Plaintiff") filed a Complaint (Doc. # 1) against Defendant Alison Shaftic Briggs ("Defendant"). The Complaint alleges causes of action for breach of contract, promissory estoppel, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The parties do not dispute that Defendant is a resident of Pennsylvania and Plaintiff is a resident of California. The parties do not dispute that non-party Charles W. Briggs ("Charles"), who is now deceased, was Plaintiff's brother and Defendant's husband. The parties do not dispute that Charles was involved in an employment-related legal dispute with his Pennsylvania employer that resulted in a settlement that was negotiated in Pennsylvania. The parties do not dispute that Charles committed suicide and his memorial service and funeral took place in Pennsylvania.

The allegations in the Complaint with respect to the causes of action for breach of contract, promissory estoppel, fraud and negligent misrepresentation are essentially identical. The Complaint alleges that Charles was involved in an employment-related legal dispute in Pennsylvania against his Pennsylvania-based former employer. Id., ¶ 14. The Complaint alleges that, while Plaintiff was at his California residence, Plaintiff and Defendant negotiated and formed an oral "third party beneficiary agreement" with the following terms: Plaintiff would "direct, control, manage and actively participate in every phase" of Charles' legal dispute; "the entire net amount of any sum of money/ money/ monetary funds obtained by [Charles] via the dispute . . . would be and would remain the exclusive and personal property of [Charles];" and when then-existing financial difficulties in Defendant's household had resolved, "Defendant would reimburse/ compensate Plaintiff for his services and sacrifice by Defendant directly paying to Plaintiff the full and entire gross monetary value of any award and/or settlement obtained via the claim against [Charles' employer]." Id., ¶¶ 14-15. The Complaint alleges that the representations made by Defendant in connection with the "third party beneficiary agreement" were false, that Defendant made such representations to induce Plaintiff's reliance, and that Plaintiff reasonably relied on Defendant's representations. Id., ¶¶ 46-49. The Complaint alleges that, with the exception of three days, the entire "third party beneficiary agreement," which required hundreds of hours of work, was performed by Plaintiff in San Diego, California. Id., ¶ 24. The Complaint alleges that Charles received a settlement from his former employer, and that "Defendant has never paid any money to Plaintiff." Id., ¶¶ 33-34.

In support of the causes of action for breach of contract, promissory estoppel, fraud and negligent misrepresentation, Plaintiff attests that on October 29, 2005, there "were two phone calls between my cell phone in San Diego and the residence of [Charles and Defendant]," which "ended up becoming working calls regarding this third party beneficiary agreement reached between myself and [Defendant]." Christopher Briggs Decl, p. 34: 17-35: 13. Plaintiff attests that he "spent hundreds of hours here in San Diego working on boxes of documents on" Charles' lawsuit, pursuant to the "third party beneficiary agreement." Id., p. 31: 16-20.

The Complaint alleges with respect to the causes of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress that Defendant made a telephone call to Plaintiff at his San Diego residence during the time frame of January 3, 2007 to January 8, 2007 and "screamed at Plaintiff, 'I'll see your brother dead before he pulls a Cookie Cook on me!'" Complaint, ¶122. The Complaint alleges that Charles committed suicide and his body was found on March 13, 2007. Id., ¶ 124. The Complaint alleges that Defendant instructed her "agents" to tell Plaintiff, while he was at his San Diego residence, that "You no longer have a brother. He killed himself;" that Plaintiff's brother's corpse "was now the exclusive 'property' of Defendant;" and that Plaintiff would not be allowed to attend Charles' funeral. Id., ¶ 124-127. The Complaint alleges that Defendant's actions "were done with the intention to invade Plaintiff's mental and emotional tranquility," and that as a result of Defendant's actions, Plaintiff suffered "injuries," "medical conditions" and "emotional distress." Id., ¶ 133.

In support of the causes of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress, Plaintiff's wife, Patricia Briggs, attests that "[d]uring the timeframe of January 3, 2007 through January 8, 2007, [Plaintiff] telephoned [Defendant] while we were at our residence in San Diego. . . . During this brief telephone call, [Defendant] sounded like a raving lunatic. She screamed, 'I'll see your brother dead before he pulls a 'Cookie Cook' on me!" Patricia Briggs Decl., p. 4. Plaintiff attests that, while he was at his San Diego residence, he communicated with Defendant's "agents" at the Decarbo Funeral Home in Pennsylvania who told Plaintiff, "per [Defendant's] instructions, that neither me or my family were welcome at" the funeral or memorial service; and that "[w]hen I was speaking with Decarbo from my home in San Diego, being told that my brother was property and that neither I or my family were welcome at my brother's funeral, I experienced the loss of vision for the first time, certainly not the last time." Christopher Briggs Decl., p. 51: 11-13, 54: 20-25, 55: 3-9.

On November 11, 2007, Defendant filed the Motion to Dismiss the Complaint, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Defendant moves to dismiss on grounds that the Court cannot exercise personal jurisdiction over Defendant, a Pennsylvania resident, because her contact with California cannot be characterized as "continuous and systematic," Defendant has not "purposefully availed herself of the privilege of conducting activities" in California, and federal court jurisdiction in California over Defendant would be unreasonable.

On November 26, 2007, Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. # 6).

On December 3, 2007, Defendant filed a Reply in Support of the Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. # 7).

Standard of Review

On a motion to dismiss a complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing personal jurisdiction. Farmers Ins. Exchange v. Portage La Prarie Mut. Ins. Co., 907 F.2d 911, 912 (9th Cir. 1990). Where the motion to dismiss is based on written materials rather than an evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of jurisdictional facts to satisfy this burden.*fn1 Dole Food Co. v. Watts, 303 F.3d 1104, 1108 (9th Cir. 2002). While the plaintiff cannot "simply rest on the bare allegations of its complaint," Amba Marketing Systems, Inc. v. Jobar Int'l, Inc., 551 F.2d 784, 787 (9th Cir. 1977), uncontroverted allegations in the complaint must be taken as true. AT&T v. Campagnie Bruxelles Lambert, 94 F.3d 586, 588 (9th Cir. 1996). Conflicts between parties over statements contained in affidavits must be resolved in the plaintiff's favor. Id.; see also Bancroft & Masters, Inc. v. Augusta Nat'l, Inc., 223 F.3d 1082, 1087 (9th Cir. 2000) ("Because the prima facie jurisdictional analysis requires us to accept the plaintiff's allegations as true, we must adopt [the plaintiff's] version of events for purposes of this appeal."). "[I]f a plaintiff's proof is limited to written materials, it is necessary only for these materials to demonstrate facts which support a finding of ...


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