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Wohlbach v. Ziady

United States District Court, S.D. New York

July 25, 2018

JAMIE WOHLBACH and JANE DOES 1-30, Plaintiffs,
v.
ERIC ZIADY, JOSEPH N. SHIRLEY, UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE, JOHN DOES 1-7, and JANE DOES 1-3, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          RAMOS, D.J.

         Jamie Wohlbach brings this action against Eric Ziady, Joseph N. Shirley (collectively, the "Individual Defendants"), and the University of Delaware ("the University"), asserting several federal and state causes of actions arising out of her employment as the head coach of the women's softball team at the University. In the instant motion, Defendants move to dismiss the amended complaint ("Am. Compl") (Doc. 5) pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) and (3). Doc. 17. Wohlbach moves to transfer this case to the District of Delaware pursuant to 28 U.S.C §§ 1404(a), 1406(a). Doc. 20. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED and Wohlbach's motion to transfer venue is DENIED.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND [1]

         At all times relevant to this dispute, Jamie Wohlbach was a Delaware resident and was the head coach of the women's Softball team at the University of Delaware. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 6, 19. The University of Delaware operates exclusively in Delaware and has no campuses in New York. Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Amended Complaint ("Defs.' Mem.") (Doc. 18) at 1-2. At all times relevant to the amended complaint, Ziady and Shirley were employees of the University.[2] Id. at 1.

         Wohlbach alleges that during her employment, the University failed to abide by the Title IX guidelines and discriminated against her and the women's Softball team. Am. Compl. at 8, 9.[3]Specifically, the University denied the softball team the funding designated by the state of Delaware for the program and applied it elsewhere. Id. at 9. After Wohlbach complained about the misappropriation of this funding, the Individual Defendants allegedly created a hostile work environment and retaliated against her. Id. ¶¶ 13, 16. The Individual Defendants assigned her to ministerial duties, ostracized, mocked, and ridiculed her, and solicited players' parents to complain about her. Id. ¶¶ 13, 17. Wohlbach further alleges that the University failed to compensate her for the work performed and prevented her from taking assignments that would have led to increased pay. Id. ¶ 28. Wohlbach was paid less than the University's baseball coach and her male successor as the softball coach. Id. ¶¶ 14, 28. On July 31, 2015, the University terminated Wohlbach's position as the head coach of the women's softball team. Id. ¶ 19.

         II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Wohlbach filed the complaint on July 31, 2017, see Compl. (Doc. 1), and amended the complaint on October 30, 2017. See Am. Compl. On February 12, 2018, Defendants moved to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2) and (3) of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Doc. 17. In response, Wohlbach moved to transfer the case to the District of Delaware pursuant to 28 U.S.C §§ 1404(a), 1406(a). Doc. 20.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Standards under Rules 12(b)(2) and (3)

         "The legal standard for a motion to dismiss for improper venue is the same as a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction." Casville Invs., Ltd. v. Kates, 12 Civ. 6968 (RA), 2013 WL 3465816, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. July 8, 2013) (citing Gulf Ins. Co. v. Glasbrenner, 417 F.3d 353, 355 (2d Cir. 2005)). "When a defendant challenges either the jurisdiction or venue of the court, the plaintiff bears the burden of showing that both are proper." Id. (citing DiStefano v. Carozzi N. Am., Inc., 286 F.3d 81, 84 (2d Cir. 2001); Savoy Senior Hous. Corp. v. TRBC Ministries, 401 B.R. 589, 596 (S.D.N.Y. 2009)). To meet this burden, the plaintiff must plead facts sufficient for a prima facie showing of jurisdiction or venue. Glasbrenner, 417 F.3d at 355 (citing CutCo Indus, v. Naughton, 806 F.2d 361, 364-65 (2d Cir. 1986)).[4]

         In diversity actions, personal jurisdiction is determined in accordance with the law of the forum in which the federal court sits. Sirius Am. Ins. Co. v. SCPIE Indem. Co., 461 F.Supp.2d 155, 160 (S.D.N.Y. 2006). In determining personal jurisdiction over a non-domiciliary, New York courts engage in a two-step analysis. Chloe v. Queen Bee of Beverly Hills, LLC, 616 F.3d 158, 163 (2d Cir. 2010) (citing Best Van Lines, Inc. v. Walker, 490 F.3d 239, 243-44 (2d Cir. 2007)). The first step is the application of New York's long-arm statute. Id. If the exercise of personal jurisdiction is deemed appropriate pursuant to the long-arm statute, the second step is to determine whether personal jurisdiction comports with the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution. Id. at 164. Under New York's long-arm statute, the Court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant who: "(1) transacts any business within the state or contracts anywhere to supply goods or services in the state; or (2) commits a tortious act within the state . . .; or (3) commits a tortious act without the state causing injury to person or property within the state . . .; or (4) owns, uses or possesses any real property situated within the state." N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 302(a) (McKinney).

         Venue is proper in the chosen forum if: (1) at least one defendant resides in the district and all the defendants reside in the same state in which the district is located; (2) a "substantial part" of the events giving rise to the claim occurred in the district; or (3) the defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction in the district and "there is no district in which an action may otherwise be brought." 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). Venue is improper when a defendant does not reside in the state at issue, even if a co-defendant does reside in the district in which the suit is brought. Gerety v. Sunrise Express, Inc., 95 Civ. 2090 (HB), 1996 WL 19047, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 18, 1996) (citing Camp v. Gress, 250 U.S. 308, 315 (1919)).

         B. Motion to Transfer

         Both § 1404(a) and § 1406(a) allow a case to be transferred to another federal district in which the action might have been brought. See 28 U.S.C §§ 1404(a), 1406(a). In other words, the receiving court must be a proper venue and must possess personal jurisdiction over the defendants. See Carlton Int'l, PLC. v. American Concord Techage, Inc., 94 Civ. 3750 (JFK), 1995 WL 450274, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. July 31, 1995) (holding that § 1404(a) does not permit transfer to a district with which the defendant has no contact (citing Foster-Milburn Co. v. Knight,181 F.2d 949, 952 (2d Cir. 1950))); see also Gibbons v. Fronton,661 F.Supp.2d 429, 434 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (holding that ยง 1406(a) only permits transfer to ...


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