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Hamstra v. Hamstra

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

September 19, 2018

JODI HAMSTRA, Plaintiff,
GREG HAMSTRA, Defendant.



         This matter is before the court on defendant Greg Hamstra's motion to dismiss. (DE # 6.) For the reasons identified below, defendant's motion will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Jodi Hamstra brought the present suit against her ex-husband, defendant Greg Hamstra, for actions he allegedly took during the course of the parties' dissolution of marriage proceedings before the Jasper County Superior Court. (DE # 1 at 1.) According to Jodi, during the course of these proceedings Greg intentionally misled her regarding his ownership of a certain marital asset, leading to her acceptance of an unfavorable property settlement agreement.

         Jodi's complaint alleges the following facts, which this court accepts as true for purposes of the pending motion to dismiss. At the time of the dissolution proceedings, Greg and a third party, Mitchell Van Kley, were members and managers of GJMS, LLC, an entity that owned various parcels of real estate. (Id. at 2.) Jodi argues that Greg's membership interest in GJMS was a marital asset. (Id.) During the course of discovery, Greg provided Jodi with a GJMS Financial Summary report which showed that GJMS owned four properties, including a property known as “French Lick.” (Id.) On March 16, 2016, GJMS sold the French Lick property for $630, 000 - yet Greg never disclosed the sale of the property during the course of discovery. (Id.) Jodi alleges that Greg intentionally withheld this information. (Id.) Jodi also alleges that Kley conspired with Greg to conceal the sale of the property by testifying at his deposition on May 2 and 3, 2016, that the French Lick property was an asset of GJMS. (Id.)

         On May 20, 2016, Jodi and Greg participated in a mediation that resulted in a settlement agreement regarding the marital assets. (Id. at 3.) As part of the settlement, Jodi received 100% of Greg's membership interest in GJMS. (Id.) The settlement agreement also stated that Greg would obtain the agreement of the other members of GJMS to transfer their interests to Jodi. This was later accomplished through a separate, out-of-court agreement. (DE # 1-1 at 7; DE # 9 at 2.) Jodi alleges that she agreed to the settlement based on her understanding that GJMS owned four properties, including French Lick, and claims that she would not have agreed to the terms of the settlement if she had known GJMS no longer owned French Lick. (Id.) In her complaint, Jodi argues that Greg's intentional omission and misrepresentation constitutes fraud. (Id. at 4.)

         Greg now moves to dismiss the claims against him on the basis that this court lacks jurisdiction to consider Jodi's claims. (DE # 6 at 1.) He argues that the complaint poses an impermissible collateral attack on the Jasper County Superior Court's dissolution decree, which incorporated the property settlement agreement. (DE # 6-1 at 4.) Though he does not identify them as such, Greg's motion raises two issues: (1) whether this court is deprived of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine; and (2) whether Jodi's claims are barred by the collateral estoppel doctrine. Jodi responded to both of these arguments. Greg failed to file a reply brief and the time to do so has passed. This matter is now ripe for resolution.


         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) asserts that the court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter. A Rule 12(b)(1) motion can present either a facial or factual challenge to subject matter jurisdiction. Apex Digital, Inc. V. Sears, Roebucks & Co., 572 F.3d 440, 443-44 (7th Cir. 2009). A facial attack is a challenge to the sufficiency of the pleading itself. Id. When such a challenge has been presented, the court takes all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Id. at 444. “In contrast, a factual challenge lies where ‘the complaint is formally sufficient but the contention is that there is in fact no subject matter jurisdiction.'” Id. (quoting United Phosphorus, Ltd. v. Angus Chem. Co., 322 F.3d 942, 946 (7th Cir.2003)) (emphasis in original). Where there is a factual challenge to subject matter jurisdiction, “the district court may properly look beyond the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint . . . to determine whether in fact subject matter jurisdiction exists.” Sapperstein v. Hager, 188 F.3d 852, 855 (7th Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Here, Greg presents a facial challenge to this court's subject matter jurisdiction.

         A judge reviewing a complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) must construe the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, accept all well-pleaded facts as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-movant. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007); Reger Dev., LLC v. Nat'l City Bank, 595 F.3d 759, 763 (7th Cir. 2010). Under the liberal notice-pleading requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the complaint need only contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A plaintiff must plead “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         Greg argues that the only court that may exercise jurisdiction over this matter is the court that entered the dissolution decree. Greg's argument appears to be rooted in the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Jodi contends that this doctrine is inapplicable because she does not seek to overturn the state court judgment, but seeks damages for fraud that imposed an extrajudicial injury, citing Iqbal v. Patel, 780 F.3d 728 (7th Cir. 2015).

         The Rooker-Feldman doctrine deprives federal district courts of subject matter jurisdiction over “cases brought by state-court losers complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of ...

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