United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Aimee L. Smith, Plaintiff,
Maryville University of Saint Louis, Defendant.
D. Van Nurden, Esq. and Van Nurden Law, PLLC, counsel for
Michael Thomas Raupp, Esq. and Husch Blackwell, LLP, and
Peter D. Stiteler and Fox Rothschild LLP, counsel for
S. Doty, Judge
matter is before the court upon the motion to dismiss by
defendant Maryville University of Saint Louis (Maryville).
Based on a review of the file, record, and proceedings
herein, and for the following reasons, the motion is granted.
dispute arises out of an alleged breach of contract between
Maryville and plaintiff Aimee L. Smith. Maryville is a
Missouri non-profit corporation with its registered offices
and campus located in St. Louis, Missouri. Compl. ¶ 2;
see Smith Decl. ¶ 6. Maryville provides a 100%
online nursing program for off- campus students, which it
advertises via both Google and its website. Smith Decl. Exs.
1, 2. The four-year course is conducted through the Canvas
Learning Management Platform (Canvas), an online platform
where professors and students communicate and engage in
real-time learning sessions. Smith Decl. ¶ 8. Maryville
provides its online students with a unique password and
username to access information on Canvas. Id. ¶
2014 or early 2015, Smith, a Minnesota resident, contacted
Maryville via its website to inquire about its Master of
Nursing Program. Id. ¶ 2. Smith subsequently
enrolled in the program, and successfully completed the first
five semesters of the six-semester program. Compl.
¶¶ 4-5. In her final semester, Smith was required
to take a practicum so she could gain hands-on experience and
for which she would log her hours via Canvas. See
id. ¶¶ 6-9. At the end of the practicum, the
supervising practitioner would validate Smith's hours and
provide Maryville with an evaluation of her work.
Id. ¶ 9.
April 2018, on finishing the semester, Smith sent the
practitioner a link to approve her hours and provide an
evaluation. Id. ¶¶ 12-13. Although it
appears the practitioner approved some of Smith's hours,
he did not provide an evaluation of her work. Id.
¶¶ 14-17. Shortly thereafter, Smith held a Skype
meeting with two of her professors to discuss alleged
discrepancies between the hours approved by the practitioner
and those Smith logged via Canvas. Id. ¶ 18.
After the meeting, Smith received a letter from one of
Maryville's academic deans informing her that she would
receive a failing grade for her practicum. Id.
¶ 19. The letter informed Smith that she could appeal
the failing grade, which she promptly did. Id.
May 2018, the academic dean emailed Smith to inform her that
her appeal was denied and instructed her to contact
Maryville's associate academic vice president if she
believed she had evidence to support her appeal. Id.
¶ 21. Smith contacted the vice president to request an
appeal, and received a letter back affirming the failing
grade for her practicum. Id. ¶¶ 22-23.
That same day, Smith received a letter from the director of
her program informing her that she was dismissed from the
program for falsifying her hours in violation of
Maryville's academic integrity policy. Id.
¶ 24. Though ultimately unsuccessful, Smith communicated
via email with various Maryville staff members in order to
challenge her dismissal. Id. ¶ 25.
website, Maryville provides a student handbook that contains
a policy regarding academic integrity. Id. ¶
33; Smith Decl. ¶ 9. The handbook provides procedures
for both students and Maryville to follow in the event a
student is accused of violating the academic integrity
policy. Compl. ¶ 33. In June 2019, Smith filed suit
against Maryville in Minnesota state court, alleging that the
handbook forms a contract between Maryville and its students,
and that Maryville breached the contract by not following the
procedures laid out in the handbook when it dismissed her for
violating the academic integrity policy. Id.
¶¶ 34-38. Maryville timely removed to federal
court, and now moves to dismiss for lack of personal
survive a motion to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction, a plaintiff must establish a prima facie case
that the forum state has personal jurisdiction over the
defendant. See Stevens v. Redwing, 146 F.3d 538, 543
(8th Cir. 1998). In the absence of an evidentiary hearing, a
court “must look at the facts in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party and resolve all factual
conflicts in favor of that party.” Dakota Indus.,
Inc. v. Dakota Sportswear, Inc., 946 F.2d 1384, 1387
(8th Cir. 1991) (citations omitted). The court may look to
affidavits, declarations, and exhibits to determine whether
personal jurisdiction exists. Romak USA, Inc. v.
Rich, 384 F.3d 979, 983 (8th Cir. 2004).
federal court may assume jurisdiction over a nonresident
defendant “only to the extent permitted by the long-arm
statute of the forum state and by the Due Process
Clause.” Romak, 384 F.3d at 984 (citation and
internal quotation marks omitted). Because the Minnesota
long-arm statute “confers jurisdiction to the fullest
extent permitted by the Due Process Clause, ” the court