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Hughes v. Dyncorp International, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division

June 23, 2019




         This cause comes before the Court on defendant's motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, transfer venue to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. [DE 1');">11');">1]. The matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, defendant's motion to dismiss [DE 1');">11');">1] is GRANTED and this action is DISMISSED for lack of personal jurisdiction.


         Defendant, DynCorp International LLC ("DynCorp"), is a "government services provider that supports U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives by delivering support solutions for defense, diplomacy and international development." [DE 1');">12');">1');">12, 1');">1');">p. 1');">1]. DynCorp is incorporated in Delaware but is headquartered in and maintains its primary place of business in McLean, Virginia. Id. DynCorp employs more than 1');">13, 000 people in 27 countries. Id. at 2. 1');">1, 1');">18 of those employees work in North Carolina at DynCorp's offices at Fort Bragg and Elizabeth City. Id.

         Plaintiff, Mr. Timothy Hughes, is a former DynCorp employee. He worked for DynCorp from 201');">12');">1');">12 to 201');">17 as a Security Specialist and Coordinator at U.S. military bases in Afghanistan. [DE 1');">1, ¶ 3; DE 1');">12');">1');">12-1');">1, p. 2');">p. 2]. Over the course of his employment with DynCorp, plaintiff signed several Foreign Service Employment Agreements ("FSAs"). [DE 1');">12');">1');">12-1');">1, p. 2');">p. 2]. Plaintiff signed the first FSA in November 201');">12');">1');">12 in Texas. Id. Upon his rehiring, plaintiff signed a new 1');">12');">1');">12-month FSA in January 201');">15. Id. Plaintiff and DynCorp renewed the January 201');">15 FSA twice, with the second renewal occurring in November 201');">16. Id. DynCorp asserts that it emailed the renewal to plaintiff- who was working in Afghanistan at the time-on November 25, 201');">16, and plaintiff returned the signed FSA the following day. Id. at 2-3. DynCorp claims, however, that plaintiff had secretly altered five provisions in the FSA without informing DynCorp. Id. at 3.

         In August 201');">17, plaintiff left DynCorp prior to the completion of his most recent FSA in order to attend reserve officer training with the U.S. Marine Corps. [DE 1');">1, ¶ 9; DE 1');">12');">1');">12-1');">1, p. 3]. Plaintiff intended to return to work for DynCorp, but in October 201');">17 he was informed that he was ineligible for re-hire. [DE 1');">1, ¶¶ 6-1');">12');">1');">12]. Plaintiff asserts that DynCorp informed him that he was not eligible for re-hire because his departure in August 201');">17 had not been compliant with the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. §§ 4301');">1, et seq. [DE 1');">1,' ¶ 1');">12');">1');">12]. DynCorp claims that plaintiff was ineligible because it had discovered that he had fraudulently modified the terms of his most recent FSA. [DE 1');">12');">1');">12-1');">1, p. 3].

         Plaintiff contacted a USERRA investigator to complain. [DE 1');">1, ¶ 1');">13]. Plaintiff alleges that DynCorp informed the investigator that USERRA did not apply to plaintiff because he was an overseas employee, but the investigator advised that USERRA did apply to overseas employees. Id.¶lA. Plaintiff alleges that DynCorp then informed the investigator that plaintiffs "USERRA claim was being denied because [DynCorp] learned that [plaintiff] had made changes to his employment contract." Id.1');">15. DynCorp allegedly told the investigator that it "would honor USERRA's requirement to re-employ[] [plaintiff] but that he would then be terminated, immediately because of the contract issue." Id.1');">16. Plaintiff alleges that DynCorp advised that, unless he "drop[ped] his USERRA claim," his personnel file would be modified to reflect a termination rather than a resignation, which would negatively affect plaintiffs ability to secure employment with another government contractor. Id. ¶¶ 1');">17-1');">18. Because he "wished to continue working for government contractors in Afghanistan," plaintiff withdrew his USERRA claim. Id. ¶¶ 21');">1-22.

         In March 201');">19, plaintiff initiated this action, asserting a single cause of action against DynCorp for allegedly violating USERRA. [DE 1');">1]. Specifically, plaintiff claims that he "was refused re-employment and retaliated against for making a USERRA claim," and that DynCorp "attempt[ed] to prevent [him] from exercising his rights under USERRA and . . . threatened] to alter employment documents if he continued with his USERRA claim." [DE 1');">1, ¶¶ 22-26].

         DynCorp has moved to dismiss plaintiffs complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 1');">12');">1');">12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction or, in the alternative, to transfer the case under 28 U.S.C. § 1');">1404(a) to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. [DE 1');">11');">1]. DynCorp first argues that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over it because its headquarters and principal place of business are in Virginia and it has only a "very limited presence in North Carolina" and the "facts do not support an exercise of personal jurisdiction by North Carolina courts over [DynCorp] in this matter." [DE 1');">12');">1');">12, p. 3-4]. DynCorp next argues that plaintiffs most recent FSA, signed in November 201');">16, governs the employment relationship at issue in this matter and includes an exclusive forum-selection clause requiring disputes to be resolved in the Eastern District of Virginia. [DE 1');">12');">1');">12, p. 4; see DE 1');">12');">1');">12-1');">1, p. 26-27].

         Plaintiff has responded in opposition to dismissal, arguing that this Court does have specific personal jurisdiction over DynCorp and that transfer is inappropriate given the venue provisions in USERRA. [DE 1');">13].


         Defendant argues that the instant suit must be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 1');">12');">1');">12(b)(2). A suit may be dismissed under Rule 1');">12');">1');">12(b)(2) if a court lacks personal jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 1');">12');">1');">12(b)(2). "When a district court considers a question of personal jurisdiction based on the contents of a complaint and supporting affidavits, the plaintiff has the burden of making a prima facie showing in support of its assertion of jurisdiction." Universal Leather, LLC v. Koro AR, S.A., 773 F.3d 553, 558 (4th Cir. 201');">14). District courts must view the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and draw inferences in favor of finding jurisdiction. Combs v. Bakker, 886 F.2d 673, 676 (4th Cir. 1');">1989).

         In his response, plaintiff argues only that this Court possesses specific, rather than general, jurisdiction over DynCorp. Federal courts may exercise specific jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant if (1');">1) "such jurisdiction is authorized by the long-arm statute of the state in which the district court sits" and (2) "application of the long-arm statute is consistent with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Universal Leather, LLC v. Koro AR, S.A., 773 F.3d 553, 558 (4th Cir. 201');">14). Here, the Court must look to North Carolina's long-arm statute, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1');">1-75.4, which permits courts to exercise jurisdiction to the "outer limits allowable under federal due process." Dillon v. Numismatic Funding Corp., 1');">1 S.E.2d 629');">231');">1 S.E.2d 629, 630 ( N.C. 1');">1977). To determine whether the exercise of jurisdiction over a defendant comports with the Due Process Clause, courts must consider "(1');">1) the extent to which the defendant purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conducting activities in the forum state; (2) whether the plaintiffs claim [arose] out of those activities; and (3) whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction's constitutionally reasonable." Universal Leather, 773 F.3d at 559 (citing Tire Eng'g v. Shandong Linglong Rubber Co., 682 F.3d 292, 302 (4th Cir. 201');">12');">1');">12)) (alteration in original).

         Specific jurisdiction requires courts to focus "on the relationship among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation." Walden v. Fiore,1');">1 U.S. 277');">571');">1 U.S. 277, 283-84 (201');">14) (internal quotations omitted). To meet the third requirement, that personal jurisdiction be constitutionally reasonable, "the defendant's ...

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