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McLeod v. Ingram

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Valdosta Division

December 14, 2017

RICHARD JERRY MCLEOD, Plaintiff,
v.
BILLY INGRAM, ET AL., Defendants.

          ORDER

          HUGH LAWSON, SENIOR JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant Rob Oglesby's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 44). Defendant Rob Oglesby d/b/a Nate's Honor Animal Shelter files this Motion on behalf of himself and specially appearing for Fran Oglesby. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Jerry McLeod filed a pro se Complaint in this Court on October 11, 2016. (Doc. 1). Because Mr. McLeod is proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court conducted a preliminary review of Plaintiff's Complaint, as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Of relevance to the pending motion are the defamation claims which this Court allowed to proceed against Defendants Rob and Fran Oglesby.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Defendants move to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), arguing that because Georgia's long-arm statute specifically excludes defamation claims, this Court lacks personal jurisdiction and dismissal of the claims against them is warranted.

         A. Claims Against Fran Oglesby

         Plaintiff has sued Fran Oglesby as a Defendant in the above-styled matter. In Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 44) it is asserted that they “are unaware of the existence of a Fran Oglesby related to or involved with Nate's Place, but respond in an abundance of caution.” (Doc. 44, p. 1 n.1). However, whether or not Fran Oglesby exists in relation to this action is immaterial, as Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m) states that a defendant that is not served within 90 days after the complaint is filed is due to be dismissed. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(m). Here, dismissal is appropriate because the docket reflects that Defendant Fran Oglesby has not yet been served even though the 90-day window for service passed long ago. Even if Defendant Fran Oglesby had been timely served, however, dismissal would still be warranted for the reasons explained below. Thus, all remaining claims against Fran Oglesby are DISMISSED.

         B. Burden of Proof

         In the context of a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction in which no evidentiary hearing is held, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing a prima facie case of jurisdiction over the nonresident defendant. Morris v. SSE, Inc., 843 F.2d 489, 492 (11th Cir. 1988). If, however, the defendant submits affidavits challenging the allegations in the complaint, the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to produce evidence supporting jurisdiction. Diamond Crystal Brands, Inc. v. Food Movers Intern., Inc., 593 F.3d 1249, 1257 (11th Cir. 2010); Meier v. Sun Int'l Hotels, Ltd., 288 F.3d 1264, 1269 (11th Cir. 2002). If the plaintiff's complaint and supporting evidence conflict with the defendant's affidavits, the court must construe all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Madara v. Hall, 916 F.2d 1510, 1514 (11th Cir. 1990).

         “A federal court sitting in diversity undertakes a two-step inquiry in determining whether personal jurisdiction exists: the exercise of jurisdiction must (1) be appropriate under the state long-arm statute and (2) not violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.” Diamond Crystal, 593 F.3d at 1257-58 (quoting United Techs. Corp. v. Mazer, 556 F.3d 1260, 1274 (11th Cir. 2009)). This two-step inquiry is necessary because the long-arm statute does not provide jurisdiction to federal courts in Georgia that is coextensive with procedural due process. Id. at 1259. Rather, the statute “imposes independent obligations that a plaintiff must establish for the exercise of personal jurisdiction that are distinct from the demands of procedural due process. Id. In short, jurisdiction that might appear to be conferred by statute might be negated by due process concerns, and vice versa. See id. at 1261.

         C. Analysis

         Defendant contends that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over him because Georgia's long-arm statute does not reach defamation actions, and as Nate's Honor Animal Shelter (also referred to as Nate's Place and Nate's Patch) is located in Bradenton, Florida, there is no other basis for the court's personal jurisdiction over Defendant.

         As the Eleventh Circuit has stated, Georgia's long-arm statute actually “imposes independent obligations that a plaintiff must establish for the exercise of personal jurisdiction that are distinct from the demands of procedural due process.” Diamond Crystal, 593 F.3d at 1259. Thus, a defendant must have not only the minimum contacts necessary to satisfy due process, but must also fall under one of the specific provisions of the long-arm statute in order for this Court to have jurisdiction. Id. at 1260 (“It is beyond ...


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