United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Corpus Christi Division
OPINION AND ORDER OF TRANSFER
B. Libby United States Magistrate Judge
a civil action filed by federal prisoner Robert H.
Gross. He is currently assigned to the Federal
Corrections Institution in Big Spring, Texas (FCI-Big
Spring). Plaintiff filed this civil action on October 16,
2017, asserting that this Court has diversity jurisdiction.
PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND AND PLAINTIFF'S
sues his ex-wife, Jeanine E. Dannatt, who currently resides
in Dartford, England. A Spears hearing was conducted
on November 9, 2017. On November 13, 2017, Plaintiff filed an
amended complaint. (D.E. 7). The following representations
were made either at the Spears hearing or in
Plaintiff's original and amended complaints (D.E. 1, 7):
3, 2005, the parties entered into a prenuptial contract for
marriage. The prenuptial agreement was signed while the
parties were living in Pennsylvania and is governed by the
laws of that state. Plaintiff and Defendant subsequently
married in Los Vegas, Nevada on May 7, 2005.
and Defendant moved to Texas sometime in 2007. Around
November of 2014, Defendant filed for divorce in the
391st District Court of Tom Green County, San
Angelo, Texas. At that time, the parties were living in San
Angelo, Texas. Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel in
the divorce proceeding, appeared mainly by telephone because
he had been taken into pre-trial federal custody.
testified at the Spears hearing that he owned: (1)
vacation property and land upon which to build a retirement
home in Rockport, Texas; and (2) residential property in San
Angelo, Texas. The disposition of these properties was part
of the prenuptial agreement. In accordance with the
settlement agreement entered in the divorce proceeding,
Defendant now owns a 50% portion of the Rockport properties.
Plaintiff testified that, under the prenuptial agreement,
these properties were designated as separate properties and
should not have been equally divided between the parties.
Plaintiff further indicated that he and Defendant have a
ten-year old child and that child custody and support issues
were addressed in both the prenuptial agreement and the
counsel advised Plaintiff that the prenuptial agreement was
not valid, and it was, therefore, not considered in
connection with the divorce proceeding in the Tom Green
County district court. On May 4, 2015, a final divorce
hearing was held in that court without knowledge of the
existence of the prenuptial agreement. Plaintiff indicated
that he never read through or signed the settlement agreement
that was ultimately finalized as part of the divorce decree.
appealed from the final divorce degree to the Texas Third
Court of Appeals in Austin, Texas, which serves numerous
counties including Tom Green County. However, pursuant to a
docket equalization policy, the case was transferred to the
Thirteenth Court of Appeals. Plaintiff contended before the
Texas appellate court that the trial court had improperly
awarded his separate property to Defendant and that his
counsel rendered ineffective assistance. See Gross v.
Dannatt, No. 13-15-00309-CV (Tex. App.- Corpus Christi
Opinion issued on June 22, 2017). The Thirteenth Court of
Appeals affirmed the trial court's judgment, and
Plaintiff has appealed the ruling to the Texas Supreme Court.
Plaintiff's appeal to the Texas Supreme Court remains
complaint as amended, Plaintiff claims that Defendant: (1)
breached the prenuptial agreement by failing in the past and
in the present to fulfill her obligations under the
agreement; (2) breached her fiduciary responsibilities under
the prenuptial agreement in several respects; (3) committed
fraud by misleading the Texas district court into entering
the settlement agreement while knowing about the existence of
the prenuptial agreement; and (4) intentionally and
negligently inflicted emotional distress on Plaintiff. (D.E.
7, pp. 2-6). Plaintiff seeks damages in the amount of $2.3
million as well as punitive damages based on Plaintiff's
willful and wanton conduct. (D.E. 7, pp. 7-8).
to the general venue statute, a civil action may be brought
(1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if
all defendants are residents of the State in which the
district is located;
(2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the
events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a
substantial part of property that is the ...