Friday, March 16, 2007

Weistock v. Levin (Maryland U.S.D.C.) (Not approved for publication)

Signed March 13, 2007. Memorandum and Order by Judge Catherine C. Blake (not approved for publication).

On consideration of a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction by the defendant ("Levin"), and the opposition to that motion by the plaintiff ("Weistock"), or in the alternative Weistock's motion to transfer the venue, the judge TRANSFERRED the case to the Northern District of Illinois.

This case arose from the allegedly negligent treatment received by Weistock's husband from Levin in the course of what proved to be fatal lung cancer. Weistock and her husband had been referred to Levin, who practiced in Illinois, for a second opinion. Opting to receive treatment form Levin, Weistock's husband traveled to and received all treatments in Illinois. Eventually, Weistock's husband succumbed to kidney failure, which Weistock claimed was a result of the cancer treatments administered by Levin without due and proper regard to the patient's preexisting condition.

Weistock brought suit in Maryland state court, and Levin had the case removed to federal court on diversity basis. On motion to add Weistock's children to the suit, Levin opposed for lack of personal jurisdiction in Maryland. Weistock claimed personal jurisdiction did exist in Maryland, or in the alternative requested that the venue be transferred to the Northern District of Illinois.

Noting that, when personal jurisdiction is challenged, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving, by a preponderance of evidence, grounds for jurisdiction. Specific jurisdiction may exist where the claim is related to or arises out of the defendant's contacts with the state, or general jurisdiction may exist when the defendant's contacts with the forum state are continuous and systematic. Weistock met the first test required under Maryland law, citing injury arising under a Maryland statute, Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, Section 6-103(b)(1). Weistock was unable to allege at least minimum contacts between Levin and Maryland to support constitutionally reasonable jurisdiction, though, since all activities took place in Illinois, Levin had made no effort to attract patients from Maryland, and the largely passive Web site and the national television ads run by Levin were not sufficient to support even the lower general jurisdiction standard.

Rather than dismiss, though, the judge found that interests of justice compelled transfer of the case to the proper venue, where all the allegedly tortious actions took place.

The Memorandum and Order are available in PDF format.

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