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Perkins v. Stumpe

United States District Court, D. Arizona

September 17, 2018

Shawna Perkins, Plaintiff,
William Stumpe, Defendant.


          Douglas L. Rayes United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is Defendant William Stumpe's motion to dismiss. (Doc. 12.) The motion is fully briefed.[1] For the reasons discussed below, Stumpe's motion to dismiss is granted.

         I. Background

         In June 2016, Plaintiff Shawna Perkins and Stumpe entered into a Domestic Partnership Agreement (“Agreement”), which included, among other things, provisions governing the distribution of property in the event that the couple's relationship ended. In September 2016, Perkins and Stumpe ended their domestic partnership. Also in September, Stumpe provided information to Perkins' ex-husband concerning Perkins' financial status for use in a family law proceeding in California. Based on these events, Perkins filed suit alleging: (1) breach of contract for Stumpe's failure to comply with the Agreement, and (2) interference with her California spousal and child support orders. (Doc. 11 at 7.) Stumpe moves for dismissal of both claims. The Court discusses each in turn.

         II. Discussion

         A. Breach of Contract

         Perkins alleges that Stumpe breached the Agreement when he refused to provide her with the post-dissolution benefits outlined in it. (Id. at 7.) According to the Agreement, upon dissolution of their relationship Perkins was entitled to: (1) receive a lump sum amount of $100, 000; (2) retain all assets, jewelry, clothes, furniture and anything else obtained during the relationship; (3) retain her Lexus, with all maintenance and gas paid by Stumpe for 5 years following dissolution; (4) receive one year's salary in a one-time payment from Staybright Electric; and (5) the return of all personal property she owned at the time of the Agreement. (Id. at 10-11 ¶¶ 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6A.) Perkins contends that she was denied all five benefits. (Id. at 7.)

         The Agreement, however, includes a mandatory arbitration clause, which in relevant part reads: “Any disputes under this Agreement shall be required to be resolved by binding arbitration of the parties hereto.” (Id. at 10 ¶ 10.) Stumpe asserts that Perkins' breach of contract claim should be dismissed “so Perkins can proceed by arbitration as mandated by the [A]greement.” (Doc. 12 at 8.)

         The Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), 9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq., “mandates that district courts shall direct the parties to proceed to arbitration on issues as to which an arbitration agreement has been signed.”[2] Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc. v. Byrd, 470 U.S. 213, 218 (1985). “The court's role under the Act is therefore limited to determining (1) whether a valid agreement to arbitrate exists and, if it does, (2) whether the agreement encompasses the dispute at issue.” Chiron Corp. v. Ortho Diagnostic Sys., Inc., 207 F.3d 1126, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) (citing 9 U.S.C. § 4). If the court decides that an arbitration agreement is valid and enforceable, then it should either stay or dismiss the claims subject to arbitration. Nagrampa v. MailCoups, Inc., 469 F.3d 1257, 1276-77 (9th Cir. 2006). “Where a contract contains an arbitration clause, courts apply a presumption of arbitrability as to particular grievances, and the party resisting arbitration bears the burden of establishing that the arbitration agreement is inapplicable.” Wynn Resorts, Ltd. v. Atlantic-Pacific Capital, Inc., 497 Fed.Appx. 740, 742 (9th Cir. 2012) (internal citations omitted). Courts therefore should “construe ambiguities concerning the scope of arbitrability in favor of arbitration . . . .” Mastrobuono v. Shearson Lehman Hutton, Inc., 514 U.S. 52, 66 (1995).

         There is no dispute that the parties entered into the Agreement, that the Agreement contains a mandatory arbitration clause, and that Perkins' breach of contract claim falls within the scope of that clause. Perkins does not argue that the arbitration clause is unenforceable, nor does the Court find any reason for concluding as much. Therefore, the Court dismisses Perkins' breach of contract claim. See Meritage Homes Corp. v. Hancock, 522 F.Supp.2d 1203, 1211 (D. Ariz. 2007). If Perkins wishes to pursue this claim, she must do so through an arbitration proceeding consistent with the terms of the Agreement.

         B. Interference Claim

         Perkins also alleges that Stumpe “interfer[ed] with and ultimately stopp[ed] [her] previous court ordered support in a family law case in California[.]” (Doc. 11 at 7.) After reviewing Perkins' complaint, the Court understands as a general matter that Perkins accuses Stumpe of providing the California court presiding over her child and spousal support awards with information that caused the court to terminate these awards and order sanctions against Perkins.[3] Stumpe argues that Perkins' claim should be dismissed for: (1) lack of personal jurisdiction, and (2) failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted. (Doc. 12 at 5-6, 8-11.) Because the Court finds that it lacks personal jurisdiction over Stumpe, it will not opine on the sufficiency of Perkins' factual allegations or the plausibility of her claim.

         Where a defendant moves to dismiss a complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating that jurisdiction is appropriate. Sher v. Johnson, 911 F.2d 1357, 1361 (9th Cir. 1990). Where, as here, the motion is based on written materials rather than an evidentiary hearing, “the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of jurisdictional facts.” Id. In such cases, the court inquires only “into whether [the plaintiff's] pleadings and affidavits make a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction.” Caruth v. Int'l Psychoanalytical Ass'n, 59 F.3d 126, 128 (9th Cir. 1995). In determining whether the plaintiff has met this burden, uncontroverted allegations in the plaintiff's complaint must be taken as true, and “conflicts between the facts contained in the parties' affidavits must be resolved in [the plaintiff's] favor for purposes of deciding whether a prima facie case for personal jurisdiction exists.” AT & T v. Compagnie Bruxelles Lambert, 94 F.3d 586, 588 (9th Cir. 1996).

         Because no applicable federal statute governing personal jurisdiction exists, Arizona's long-arm statute applies to this case. See Terracom v. Valley Nat'l Bank, 49 F.3d 555, 559 (9th Cir. 1995). Arizona's long-arm statute provides for personal jurisdiction to the extent permitted by the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution. Ariz. R. Civ. P. 4.2(a); see also Uberti v. Leonardo, 892 P.2d 1354, 1358 (Ariz. 1995) (stating that under Rule 4.2(a), ...

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