377 F.3d 402 (4th Cir. 2004), 03-14141, Mitrano v. Hawes

Docket Nº03-14141
Citation377 F.3d 402
Party NameMitrano v. Hawes
Case DateJuly 26, 2004
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Page 402

377 F.3d 402 (4th Cir. 2004)

Peter Paul MITRANO, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Christopher J. HAWES, d/b/a CJH Color and Design Group, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 03-14141.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

July 26, 2004

Page 403

ARGUED:

Peter Paul Mitrano, Merrifield, Virginia, for Appellant. John William Toothman, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellee.

Page 404

Before WILKINS, Chief Judge, LUTTIG, Circuit Judge, and Louise W. FLANAGAN, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina, sitting by designation.

Vacated and remanded by published opinion. Chief Judge WILKINS wrote the opinion, in which Judge LUTTIG and Judge FLANAGAN joined.

OPINION

WILKINS, Chief Judge:

Peter Paul Mitrano, an attorney proceeding pro se, appeals a district court order dismissing his breach of contract action based on improper venue.1 We vacate the judgment and remand for further proceedings.

I.

In August 2000, Mitrano entered into an oral agreement to provide legal services to Christopher J. Hawes, doing business as CJH Color and Design Group. A trademark infringement action by L'Oreal Societe Anonyme was pending against Hawes in France because Hawes had registered a website domain name, , with Network Solutions, Inc. Because of the lawsuit, control of the domain name was deposited into the registry of the French court.

At the time of the agreement, Mitrano resided in New Hampshire, and Hawes resided in Massachusetts. Between December 2000 and January 2001, however, Mitrano moved to Virginia while continuing to provide legal services to Hawes. On April 12, 2001, Mitrano filed a lawsuit on Hawes' behalf against Network Solutions and L'Oreal Societe Anonyme in the Eastern District of Virginia ("Eastern District"), challenging the transfer of the domain name into the French court registry ("the underlying suit"). The district court dismissed the complaint, and on appeal, this court partially affirmed, partially reversed, and remanded for further proceedings. See Hawes v. Network Solutions, Inc., 337 F.3d 377, 379 (4th Cir. 2003).On December 19, 2002, Mitrano filed this action against Hawes in the Eastern District, claiming that he provided approximately $579,280 in legal services to Hawes and that Hawes had only paid him $113,200. Hawes moved to dismiss, arguing that the district court lacked subject matter and personal jurisdiction and that venue was improper in the Eastern District. The district court concluded that it had subject matter and personal jurisdiction. However, relying on our decision in Broadcasting Co. of the Carolinas v. Flair Broadcasting Corp., 892 F.2d 372 (4th Cir. 1989), the district court reasoned that Massachusetts, rather than Virginia, was the proper venue because: (1) the contract was formed in Massachusetts; (2) the negotiations leading to the formation of the contract were held in Massachusetts; (3) the contract contemplated that services would be performed in Massachusetts or France; (4) actual performance of the contract occurred, in part, in Massachusetts; and (5) the alleged breach of the contract (failure to make payments) took place in Massachusetts. The district court therefore dismissed the action without conducting an evidentiary hearing.

Mitrano moved for reconsideration, arguing that the 1990 amendments to the federal venue statute, 28 U.S.C.A. § 1391 (West 1993 & Supp.2004), rendered Broadcasting Co. obsolete. Mitrano argued that, under the amended statute, venue was proper in the Eastern District because he "performed a substantial part of the legal

Page 405

services for [Hawes] in [the Eastern District], namely research, drafting of pleadings, court appearances, court filings and review of the underlying litigation that relates to this action." J.A. 31-32 (internal quotation marks omitted). In addressing the motion, the district court recognized that under the amended version of § 1391, venue for a given suit could be appropriate in multiple districts. The district court nevertheless concluded that venue was not proper in the Eastern District because Mitrano's performance of legal work was "tangential, not substantial" to Mitrano's breach of contract claim. Id. at 36. The court therefore denied the motion for reconsideration.

II.

Mitrano contends that the district court erred in ruling that venue was improper in the Eastern District. We agree.

We review the district court venue ruling de novo. See United States v. Newsom, 9 F.3d 337, 338 (4th Cir. 1993). To survive a motion to dismiss for improper venue when no evidentiary hearing is held, the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of venue. See Delong Equip. Co. v. Washington Mills Abrasive Co., 840 F.2d 843, 845 (11th Cir. 1988).

Prior to 1990, § 1391 provided that an action based on diversity of citizenship--as this one is--could be brought in the judicial district "in which the claim arose." 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a) (1988). When it was not clear that a claim arose in only one district, we applied a "weight of the contacts" test for determining venue under § 1391(a). Broadcasting Co., 892 F.2d at 377 (internal quotation marks omitted). Under this test, venue was proper in the district having the most significant connection with the claim. See id. at 376.

In 1990, § 1391 was amended to make venue proper in any "judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred."2 Judicial Improvements Act of 1990, Pub.L. No. 101-650, § 311(1), 104 Stat. 5089, 5114. Congress amended the statute because the prior language "led to wasteful litigation whenever several different forums were involved in the transactions leading up to the dispute." Cottman Transmission Sys., Inc. v. Martino, 36 F.3d 291, 294 (3d Cir. 1994) (citing Rep. of the Fed. Cts. Study Comm. 94 (Comm. Print 1990)). Under the amended statute, it is possible for venue to be proper in more than one judicial district. See Jenkins Brick Co. v. Bremer, 321 F.3d 1366, 1371 (11th Cir. 2003). We therefore no longer apply the "weight of the contacts" test. See Ciena Corp. v. Jarrard, 203 F.3d 312, 318 (4th Cir. 2000) (determining venue under amended statute without reference to "weight of the contacts" test). Additionally, in determining whether events or omissions are sufficiently substantial to support venue under the amended statute, a court should not focus only on those matters that are in dispute or that directly led to the filing of the action. See Uffner v. La Reunion Francaise, S.A., 244 F.3d 38, 42 (1st Cir. 2001). Rather, it should review "the entire sequence of events underlying the claim." Id.; see First of Mich. Corp. v. Bramlet, 141...

To continue reading

Request your trial
242 practice notes
  • 948 F.Supp.2d 1272 (N.D.Okl. 2013), 12-CV-0249-CVE-PJC, Conocophillips Co. v. Jump Oil Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 10th Circuit Northern District of Oklahoma
    • May 31, 2013
    ...an evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff must make only a prima facie showing that venue is proper in its chosen forum. Mitrano v. Hawes, 377 F.3d 402, 405 (4th Cir. 2004); Delong Equipment Co. v. Washington Mills Abrasive Co., 840 F.2d 843, 845 (11th Cir. 1988). On a Rule 12(b)(3) motion,......
  • Bae Systems Technology Solution & Services, Inc. v. Republic of Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration, 020416 MDDC, PWG-14-3551
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 4th Circuit United States District Court (Maryland)
    • February 4, 2016
    ...of "focus[ing] only on those matters that are in dispute or that directly led to the filing of the action." Mitrano v. Hawes, 377 F.3d 402, 405 (4th Cir. 2004). The court may consider evidence outside the pleadings. Am. Ins. Mktg. Corp., 958 F.Supp.2d at 612; see Sucampo Pharms., ......
  • Bell v. Rosen, 092215 GAMDC, CV214-127
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts
    • September 22, 2015
    ...to preponderate" (citations omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2)); cf. Mitrano v. Hawes, 377 F.3d 402, 405 (4th Cir. 2004) ("We therefore no longer apply the 'weight of the contacts' Defendants advocate applying the "weight of the ......
  • Intercoast Capital Co. v. Wailuku River Hydroelectric Limited Partnership, 011905 IWSDC, 4:04-cv-40304
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 8th Circuit
    • January 19, 2005
    ...improper venue when no evidentiary hearing is held, the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of venue." Mitrano v. Hawes , 377 F.3d 402, 405 (4th Cir. 2004) (citing Delong Equip. Co. v. Wash. Mills Abrasive Co. , 840 F.2d 843, 845 (11th Cir. B. DISCUSSION - MOTION TO DISMISS ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
242 cases
  • 948 F.Supp.2d 1272 (N.D.Okl. 2013), 12-CV-0249-CVE-PJC, Conocophillips Co. v. Jump Oil Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 10th Circuit Northern District of Oklahoma
    • May 31, 2013
    ...an evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff must make only a prima facie showing that venue is proper in its chosen forum. Mitrano v. Hawes, 377 F.3d 402, 405 (4th Cir. 2004); Delong Equipment Co. v. Washington Mills Abrasive Co., 840 F.2d 843, 845 (11th Cir. 1988). On a Rule 12(b)(3) motion,......
  • Bae Systems Technology Solution & Services, Inc. v. Republic of Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration, 020416 MDDC, PWG-14-3551
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 4th Circuit United States District Court (Maryland)
    • February 4, 2016
    ...of "focus[ing] only on those matters that are in dispute or that directly led to the filing of the action." Mitrano v. Hawes, 377 F.3d 402, 405 (4th Cir. 2004). The court may consider evidence outside the pleadings. Am. Ins. Mktg. Corp., 958 F.Supp.2d at 612; see Sucampo Pharms., ......
  • Bell v. Rosen, 092215 GAMDC, CV214-127
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts
    • September 22, 2015
    ...to preponderate" (citations omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2)); cf. Mitrano v. Hawes, 377 F.3d 402, 405 (4th Cir. 2004) ("We therefore no longer apply the 'weight of the contacts' Defendants advocate applying the "weight of the ......
  • Intercoast Capital Co. v. Wailuku River Hydroelectric Limited Partnership, 011905 IWSDC, 4:04-cv-40304
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 8th Circuit
    • January 19, 2005
    ...improper venue when no evidentiary hearing is held, the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of venue." Mitrano v. Hawes , 377 F.3d 402, 405 (4th Cir. 2004) (citing Delong Equip. Co. v. Wash. Mills Abrasive Co. , 840 F.2d 843, 845 (11th Cir. B. DISCUSSION - MOTION TO DISMISS ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results