United States District Court, D. New Jersey
GAR Disability Advocates, LLC ("GAR") sues
defendants Miranda Deem, Erica Dougherty, and Pamela Hofer.
GAR alleges that defendants have engaged in conversion and
tortious interference with existing business relationships.
GAR seeks temporary restraints, a permanent injunction, and
damages. Defendant Pamela Hofer moves to dismiss the
complaint for improper service of process, lack of personal
jurisdiction, improper venue, and failure to state a claim. I
find that the District of New Jersey is not a proper venue
and I order that the case be transferred to the Eastern
District of Kentucky.
GAR is a Delaware limited liability company with its
principal place of business in New Jersey. (Compl. ¶ 1).
GAR's parent company is Asta Funding, Inc. ("Asta
Funding") (Compl. ¶ 3).
an organization that assists individuals applying for and
receiving Social Security Disability benefits or Supplemental
Security Income. (Compl. ¶ 6). Non-attorney advocates
and case managers assist GAR clients at all stages throughout
the disability application process. (Compl. ¶ 24).
formerly maintained a satellite office in Morehead, Kentucky
("Kentucky Office"). (Compl. ¶ 14). Defendants
Ms. Deem, Ms. Doherty, and Ms. Hofer, former employees of
GAR's Kentucky Office, are all residents of Kentucky.
(Compl. ¶¶ 3, 8). Ms. Hofer was hired as manager of
the Kentucky Office and a non-attorney advocate on August 3,
2015. (Compl. ¶¶ 15-17). As a non-attorney
advocate, Ms. Hofer provided direct representation to clients
before Administrative Law Judges. (Compl. ¶ 17). Ms.
Dougherty was hired as a case manager on August 3, 2015.
(Compl. ¶ 18}. Ms. Deem was hired as a case manager on
March 17, 2016. (Compl. ¶ 19).
Deem, Ms, Dougherty, and Ms. Hofer were provided with GAR
properly, including laptop computers, for work purposes.
(Compl. ¶ 25). They were also afforded access to
GAR's Customer Relationship Management Software, known as
"Sales Force." (Compl. ¶ 26). Sales Force can
generate confidential reports, including a list of a case
manager's active client roster. (Compl. ¶ 27). A
client roster contains personal information such as an
applicant's name, telephone number, state of residence,
and alleged disabilities. (Compl. ¶ 28).
the confidential nature of the information that GAR employees
encounter, all GAR employees must agree to be bound by the
terms of the Employee Code of Conduct and the Employee
Handbook. (Compl. ¶ 29). The Code of Conduct stipulates
that an individual may not directly or indirectly disclose
any confidential information to any third person or use any
such information for the benefit of anyone other than GAR
without the explicit prior written consent of GAR. (Compl.
¶ 31). The Employee Handbook states that "when an
Employee's employment with Asta Funding terminates, for
whatever reason, the Employee is required to immediately
return all Company-owned property used during his/her
employment, and all documents, disks, and other materials
containing proprietary or confidential information belonging
to the Company." (Compl. ¶ 32). The Employee
Handbook includes a list of company-owned property (such as
keys, credit cards, computers, etc.). (Compl. ¶ 33). The
Employee Handbook also states that employees must return all
originals or duplicates of any written or other tangible
items, in whatever form, including trade secrets and
confidential information. (Compl. ¶ 34). Ms. Dougherty,
Ms. Hofer, and Ms. Deem all agreed to be bound by the terms
of the Employee Code of Conduct. (Compl. ¶¶ 35, 36,
Dougherty was terminated on July 14, 2016 by Ms. Hofer.
(Compl. ¶ 39). On March 3, 2017, the GAR Kentucky Office
was officially closed and all employees were terminated.
(Compl. ¶ 40). On March 9, 2017, Ms. Hofer was provided
with pre-printed FedEx labels to facilitate her return of GAR
property that was in her custody. (Compl. ¶ 41).
around March 16, 2017, Ms. Hofer or someone acting on her
behalf hung a sign in the window of the former GAR Kentucky
Office advising clients to contact Ms. Hofer on her personal
cell phone. (Compl. ¶ 43). Following her termination,
Ms. Hofer continued to travel to hearings and conduct them,
advising GAR clients that she was authorized to do so.
received communication from clients about continued contact
from the defendants. (Compl. ¶ 47). GAR then sent
cease-and-desist letters to Ms. Deem. (Compl. ¶ 47). The
defendants have allegedly failed to return GAR's property
in accordance witti the Employee Code of Conduct and the
Employee Handbook. (Compl. ¶ 48). Defendants have
allegedly continued to use GAR's property in an effort to
contact GAR clients for the purpose of inducing them to
terminate their relationship with GAR. (Compl. ¶ 49).
Defendants have purportedly attempted to have clients begin
working with Ms. Hofer or with another organization,
People's Disability Advocates. (Compl. ¶ 49).
GAR asserts three causes of action. First, GAR alleges
conversion. GAR claims that Ms. Dougherty, Ms. Hofer, and Ms.
Deem have failed to return GAR property, including client
lists and computers. (Compl. ¶¶ 50-54). Second, GAR
alleges tortious interference with existing business
relationships. Third, GAR seeks temporary restraints and a
permanent injunction. GAR claims that defendants are causing
irreparable harm as a result of "ongoing conduct damage
to GAR's business reputation, Defendants' improper
communications with GAR's clients, misuse of GAR's
confidential information including clients lists and client
information, and/or to contact GAR's clients for purposes
of inducing them to move their cases from GAR to
Defendants." (Compl. ¶¶ 64-68).
seeks injunctive relief barring defendants from contacting
any active client of GAR, disparaging GAR to clients or
employees of GAR, or disparaging GAR to staff members of the
Social Security Administration. (Compl.). GAR also demands
that defendants immediately return all GAR property, direct
all inquiries received from GAR clients to GAR's
corporate headquarters, immediately place in escrow (or,
alternatively, surrender to the court) all fees paid by any
clients of GAR to defendants, and other appropriate relief.
before the court is Ms. Hofer's motion to dismiss for
improper service of process, lack of personal jurisdiction,