Hansford v. District of Columbia

Citation84 Md.App. 301,578 A.2d 844
Decision Date01 September 1989
Docket NumberNo. 1764,1764
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland

Gary M. Sidell (Leslie G. Fein and Crowley, Hoge & Fein, P.C., on the brief), Washington, D.C., for appellant.

Lutz Alexander Prager (Herbert O. Reid, Sr. and Charles L. Reischel, on the brief), Washington, D.C., for appellee.

Argued before ALPERT, BLOOM, and CATHELL, JJ.

ALPERT, Judge.

In this case of first impression, we must decide whether Maryland courts may exercise jurisdiction over a non-resident who "causes tortious injury in the state by an act or omission ..." on a federal enclave located within the geographical boundaries of Maryland. Under the circumstances set forth below, we answer in the negative.

On August 15, 1988, appellants, Thomas T. Hansford, Sr. and his wife, Mary Dell Hansford, filed a complaint in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County against the District of Columbia (appellee), a District of Columbia employee, J.E. Neil Olliviera (Olliviera), and Carl Sewanti Richardson, Jr. (Richardson), due to their son's murder. In their complaint, appellants allege that, in 1987, appellee and its employee Olliviera, were negligent in the operation of their maximum security prison for juvenile delinquents and, as a result, Richardson was able to escape from their custody and control. The prison, known as Oak Hill, is located in Laurel, Maryland. Richardson escaped from the facility during the summer of 1987. On August 16, 1987, Richardson murdered Thomas T. Hansford, Jr., the oldest child of appellants. Appellants live in Prince George's County.

On October 17, 1988, appellee and Olliviera filed a motion for additional time to answer the complaint. The court granted this motion on October 21, 1988.

On March 13, 1989, the District filed both a motion "raising preliminary objections and to dismiss complaints," and an answer to the complaint. The clerk's office docketed both on March 13th, numbering the answer ahead of the motion. On June 15, 1989, appellants filed their opposition to appellee's motion.

On September 8, 1989, the trial court granted appellee's motion based on lack of personal jurisdiction and dismissed the complaint against appellee. Appellants filed a timely appeal. On December 4, 1989, the trial court granted appellant's motion for entry of a final judgment.

Appellant asks this court to consider whether the trial court erroneously:

I. granted appellee's motion to dismiss insofar as it found no Maryland statute authorized the exercise of jurisdiction over appellee as a "foreign municipal corporation" even though it maintains a full time presence in this state by operating a maximum security detention facility.

II. considered and granted appellee's motion to dismiss due to lack of personal jurisdiction where appellee had, five (5) months prior to filing such motion, entered its general appearance in the case, and where appellee filed an answer, including ten (10) defenses, a set-off, a cross-claim, and a jury trial demand, before filing its motion raising preliminary objections.

III. granted appellee's motion to dismiss insofar as it found sovereign immunity barred liability in Maryland courts based on appellee's negligent operation in Maryland of a maximum security prison for violent juvenile delinquents.

I. Personal Jurisdiction

Appellee contends that the lower court properly granted its motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction since the District of Columbia's alleged negligence in allowing Richardson to escape and in not assisting in his recapture occurred at Oak Hill, a federal enclave, 1 over which the District and the United States have been ceded exclusive jurisdiction. Appellant counters that, regardless of Oak Hill's status as a federal enclave, the lower court still has jurisdiction over appellee pursuant to the Maryland Code, Courts and Judicial Proceeding, § 6-101 and § 6-103. Appellee is correct. We explain.

The land on which Oak Hill is located was acquired by the United States in 1923, pursuant to a congressional directive, for use by the District of Columbia for municipal purposes. 42 Stat. 1327, 1360, ch. 148 (1923). 2 At the time of this acquisition, Chapter 743, § 2 of the Maryland Sessions Laws of 1906, later codified as Md.Ann.Code Art. 96, § 36 (1957), granted the United States exclusive jurisdiction of land acquired by it:

Exclusive jurisdiction in and over any land so acquired by the United States shall be and the same is hereby ceded to the United States for all purposes except the service upon such sites of all civil and criminal process of the courts of this State, but the jurisdiction so ceded shall continue no longer than the said United States shall own such lands.

(Emphasis added).

Later, Section 47, enacted in 1943, limited any cession of jurisdiction over "lands hereafter acquired by the United States" to concurrent jurisdiction at most. That section provides that the State retains jurisdiction over lands acquired by the United States to the fullest extent possible under the Constitution. Thus, we conclude that Maryland for land acquired by the United States between 1906 and 1943, has "ceded exclusive jurisdiction to the United States for all purposes except the service of process." 63 Ops.Md.Att'y Gen. 332, 333 (1978); 61 Ops.Md.Att'y Gen. 441, 446 (1976).

Historically, the jurisdiction of courts to render judgment in personam was grounded on their de facto power over the defendant's person. Hence, his presence within the territorial jurisdiction of a court was prerequisite to its rendition of a judgment personally binding him.

International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S.Ct. 154, 158, 90 L.Ed. 95 (1945) (citation omitted). In International Shoe, the Court held that due process requires only that, in order to subject a defendant to a judgment in personam if he is not present within the territory of the forum, he must have "certain minimum contacts with it such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend 'traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.' " Id. The Court's reasoning in upholding the jurisdiction of the State of Washington over the International Shoe Company was that

it would be unfair to one who has a cause of action based on activities within a state to be compelled to go outside the state to make his claim. On the other hand, it would not be unfair to compel the foreign corporation to defend the case in the state in view of its contacts there.

Auerbach, The "Long Arm" Comes to Maryland, 26 Md.L.Rev. 13, 17 (1966).

After International Shoe, "states began to enact 'long arm' or 'single act' statutes asserting jurisdiction on the basis of acts within the state." Id. at 19. In 1964, Maryland enacted a "long arm" statute intended to extend the jurisdiction of the state courts to the fullest possible limit under the state and federal constitution. See 1964 Md.Laws 95. See also Legislative Council of Maryland, Report to the Gen. Assembly 1964, at 179-180.

In the case sub judice, however, we do not believe that personal jurisdiction can be secured through Maryland's "long arm" statute. Md.Cts. & Jud.Proc.Code Ann. §§ 6-103, 6-101 (1989). Section 6-103(b)(3) authorizes a court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a person who "causes tortious injury in the state by an act or omission in the State." (Emphasis added). We note that § 6-101(d) defines "State" as including "any federal enclave, reservation, or land within the geographical limits of the State." We further note the legislative intent of this statute set forth in § 6-101(e):

It is the intention of the General Assembly to extend the personal jurisdiction and venue of courts of the State and the power to serve process of those courts to any person on federal enclaves, reservations, or lands within the State to the fullest extent permitted by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

The Court of Appeals in Lowe v. Lowe, 150 Md. 592, 598, 133 A. 729 (1926), while considering the right of a resident of Perry Point, a federal enclave, to sue for divorce in a state court, stated that "courts have, with practical unanimity, held that the power of exclusive legislation carries with it exclusive jurisdiction, and in many cases have treated the cession as accomplishing a thorough separation of the land and its inhabitants from the state." The Supreme Court, however, in Evans v. Cornman, 398 U.S. 419, 421-22, 90 S.Ct. 1752, 1754-55, 26 L.Ed.2d 370 (1970), clearly rejected "the fiction of a state within a state," and held that individuals living on the grounds of National Institutes of Health (N.I.H.), a federal enclave within the geographical boundaries of Maryland, could not be denied the right to vote in Maryland elections. See also Howard v. Commissioners of Sinking Fund, 344 U.S. 624, 627, 73 S.Ct. 465, 467, 97 L.Ed. 617 (1953).

In the instant case, were we to consider the issue of whether the alleged tortious act of appellee was committed "in the state" on the basis of the preceding authorities and the definition of "state" provided in § 6-101(d), we would be inclined to accept appellant's contention that Maryland courts have personal jurisdiction in the present matter.

Section 6-101 must be read, however, together with Maryland statutes which limit jurisdiction. "It is [ ] an established principle that all statutory provisions which relate to the same subject matter and are thus in pari materia should be construed together and harmonized as far as possible." Unnamed Physician v. Commission on Medical Discipline of Maryland, 285 Md. 1, 10, 400 A.2d 396 (1979).

Although the State has statutorily reserved jurisdiction over lands that the United States has acquired since 1943, under Maryland State Government Code Annotated § 14-102(b) (1984), this reservation does not

affect the jurisdiction and authority of the State over land or...

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4 cases
  • Hansford v. District of Columbia
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • September 1, 1990
    ...Appeals affirmed the judgment, although for a different reason than that relied upon by the circuit court. Hansford v. District of Columbia, 84 Md.App. 301, 578 A.2d 844 (1990). The intermediate appellate court held that a Maryland court could not exercise jurisdiction over the District of ......
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  • Hansford v. District of Columbia
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • January 28, 1991
    ...Court of Appeals of Maryland JAN 28, 1991 Judge Karwacki did not participate in the consideration of this case. Reported below: 84 Md.App. 301, 578 A.2d 844. ...

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