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Singh v. Singapore Housing & Development Board

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

June 1, 2017




         I. Background

         Plaintiff Azaadjeet Singh, pro se, filed the above-captioned case on November 2, 2015, against Defendant Singapore Housing & Development Board (“HDB”). Doc #: 1. On December II, after reviewing the Complaint, the Court directed Singh to amend his complaint to properly allege personal jurisdiction and set forth a cognizable claim for relief. Doc #: 3.

         On January 8, 2016, Singh filed his Amended Complaint. Doc #: 5. In the Amended Complaint, Singh alleges, “On December 1, 1997, Azaadjeet Singh [buyer] and Housing & Development Board [HDB] [seller] entered into a written agreement . . . for the purchase of the apartment Block 403 Bukit Batok West Avenue 7 #02-24 Singapore 650403. . . . On or about in 2005, HDB breached the said agreement by compulsorily acquisition of the apartment.” Am. Compl. ¶ 11 (brackets in original).

         Two months later, on March 9, 2016, the Court noted that nothing had been filed since January and directed Singh to file either proof of service compliant with 28 U.S.C. § 1608 or a status report regarding service of process. Doc #: 6. On March 31, 2016, Singh filed a Status Report describing his attempts to serve HDB. Doc #: 7. On April 7, 2016, the Court issued a follow-up, non-document order requesting or proof of service or another status report, by June 7, 2017.

         On May 19, 2016, Singh filed a second Status Report. Doc #: 8. The Court observed, “[t]he Status Report describes and documents Singh's attempts to serve HDB and also appears to move the Court for default judgment.” Order 1, Doc #: 9. The Court denied the motion for default judgment and directed Singh to file proof of service and a “a separate memorandum demonstrating that such service is legally effective upon a foreign entity, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ P. 4(j), 28 U.S.C. § 1608, and other relevant rules.” Id. 2. Singh did so on July 5, 2016. Doc ##: 10, 11.

         After five more months' docket silence, the Court issued an order finding service of process on HDB effective as of April 7, 2016, and instructing the Clerk of Court to enter default against HDB. Order 5, Doc #: 12. The Court directed Singh to “ file, on or before February 13, 2017, a proper motion for default judgment, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b). To afford HDB an opportunity to object to the Clerk's entry of default, the Court will not, prior to February 13, 2017, rule on any motion for default judgment.” Id.

         On February 10, 2017, Singh filed a Motion for Default Judgment. Doc #: 14. On February 13, HDB sent a letter to Court requesting additional time to oppose the Motion for Default Judgment. Doc #: 15. On February 14, 2017, by non-document order, the Court granted the extension until March 13, 2017. On February 21, Singh filed a Motion to Oppose Extension of Time. Doc #: 16. The Court scheduled a teleconference for February 24, 2017.

         During the teleconference, the Court denied the Motion for Default Judgment, because HDB had appeared. Teleconference Minutes, Doc #: 20. The Court directed the parties to exchange certain documents related to the transfer of the apartment and scheduled a follow-up teleconference, noting explicitly that through this participation, “HDB is not waiving any jurisdictional defenses.” Id. 2. HDB's counsel, but not Signh, attended the follow-up teleconference on March 14, 2017, at which the Court set a briefing schedule for HDB's responsive pleading.

         On April 10, 2017, HDB filed a Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(1), (2), and under the Doctrine of Forum non Conveniens. Doc #: 23. This Motion is now fully briefed.[1]

         II. Legal Standard

         Pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court may dismiss claims filed in a complaint for “lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Lack of subject matter jurisdiction is a non-waivable, fatal defect. Watson v. Cartee, 817 F.3d 299, 302-03 (6th Cir. 2016). “Where subject matter jurisdiction is challenged pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff has the burden of proving jurisdiction in order to survive the motion.” Moir v. Greater Cleveland Reg'l Transit Auth., 895 F.2d 266, 269 (6th Cir.1990) (citing Rogers v. Stratton Industries, Inc., 798 F.2d 913, 915 (6th Cir.1986)).

         Rule 12(b)(1) motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction generally fall under one of two categories: facial attacks or factual attacks. Ohio Nat'l Life Ins. Co. v. United States, 922 F.2d 320, 325 (6th Cir.1990). A facial attack tests the sufficiency of the pleading. Id. When reviewing a facial attack, the court must take the material allegations of the pleading as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. United States v. Ritchie, 15 F.3d 592, 598 (6th Cir. 1994). In contrast, a factual attack is a challenge to the factual existence of subject matter jurisdiction. Ohio Nat'l, 922 F.2d at 325. If a Rule 12(b)(1) motion makes a factual attack, a court is free to consider and weigh extrinsic evidence of its own jurisdiction, without granting the plaintiff's allegations any presumption of truthfulness, until the court is satisfied of the existence of its power to hear the case. Id.

         “Pro se complaints are to be held ‘to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, ' and should therefore be liberally construed.” Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Martin v. Overton, 391 F.3d 710, 712 (6th Cir.2004)). However, pro se plaintiffs must still satisfy basic pleading requirements. Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir.1989).

         III. Discussion

         HDB moves to dismiss for three reasons: lack of subject matter jurisdiction, lack of personal jurisdiction, and forum non conveniens.[2] Each of these arguments raises a separate-and typically independent-requirement for the Court to consider a case. For example, it is possible that a court may have subject matter jurisdiction but lack of personal jurisdiction and consequently be required to dismiss the case; or a court may have subject matter and personal jurisdiction but dismiss on the basis of forum non conveniens. Put another way, the failure to meet any one of these requirements results in dismissal no matter how strongly or weakly one or two of the other requirements may be met. Accordingly, because the above-captioned case is subject to dismissal on the basis of subject matter jurisdiction, the Court need not and does not address personal jurisdiction or forum non conveniens.

         A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction Law

         The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”), “is the ‘sole basis for obtaining jurisdiction over a foreign sovereign state in federal court.'” Samantar v. Yousuf, 560 U.S. 305, 314 (2010) (quoting Argentine Republic v. Amerada Hess Shipping Corp., 488 U.S. 428, 439 (1989)).

         The FSIA provides that “a foreign state shall be immune from the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States and of the States” except as otherwise provided. 28 U.S.C. § 1604. “Foreign state, ” for purposes of the FSIA, is defined in 28 U.S.C. § 1603. In relevant part, a foreign state “includes a political subdivision of a foreign state or an agency or instrumentality of a foreign ...

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