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Clarenson v. Dep't of Veterans Affairs

June 6, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael M. Mihm United States District Judge


This matter is now before the Court on Defendant Ocwen Financial Corporation's ("Ocwen Financial") Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2). For the reasons set forth below, Ocwen Financial's Motion to Dismiss [#5] is GRANTED.

Factual Background

In August 2007, Plaintiff, Andrew Clarenson, Sr. ("Clarenson"), attempted to purchase a foreclosed property at 109 Urban St., #7, Bloomington, Illinois.*fn1 His offer for to purchase the property was accepted. However, Ocwen informed him that his income was insufficient to qualify for the loan and declined to finance the purchase. He alleges that "Defendants have violated the public trust by not selling a government owned property to a qualified disabled veteran at the full price yet selling it for a discounted price to a non-veteran." (Complaint at ¶ 6)

On November 28, 2007, Clarenson filed the present Complaint against Ocwen Financial and the Department of Veterans Affairs claiming that they wrongfully refused to finance his purchase. Ocwen Financial has moved to dismiss the Complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. The matter is now fully briefed, and this Order follows.


Courts have traditionally held that a complaint should not be dismissed unless it appears from the pleadings that the plaintiff could prove no set of facts in support of her claim which would entitle her to relief. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957); Gould v. Artisoft, Inc., 1 F.3d 544, 548 (7th Cir. 1993). Rather, a complaint should be construed broadly and liberally in conformity with the mandate in Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(f). More recently, the Supreme Court has phrased this standard as requiring a showing sufficient "to raise a right to relief beyond a speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007).

For purposes of a motion to dismiss, the complaint is construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff; its well-pleaded factual allegations are taken as true, and all reasonably-drawn inferences are drawn in favor of the plaintiff. See Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69 (1984); Lanigan v. Village of East Hazel Crest, 110 F.3d 467 (7th Cir. 1997); M.C.M. Partners, Inc. V. Andrews-Bartlett & Assoc., Inc., 62 F.3d 967, 969 (7th Cir. 1995); Early v. Bankers Life & Cas. Co., 959 F.2d 75 (7th Cir. 1992).

Here, Ocwen's Motion is based on a claimed lack of personal jurisdiction. The Court has jurisdiction over a defendant "who could be subjected to the jurisdiction of a court of general jurisdiction in the state in which the district court is located." Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(k)(1)(A). Thus, in the present case, this Court can exercise jurisdiction over Ocwen only if an Illinois court could exercise jurisdiction. FMC Corp. v. Continental Illinois National Bank, 892 F.2d 1308, 1310 (7th Cir. 1990). The statutory basis for jurisdiction is clear, since the reach of Illinois' long-arm statute, 735 ILCS 5/2-209, was amended to equate with the minimum contact requirements of federal due process in 1989. Id. at 1310-11, n.5. Thus, the inquiry is really whether the exercise of jurisdiction is within constitutional parameters. Dehmlow v. Austin Fireworks, 963 F.2d 941, 945 (7th Cir. 1992); RAR, Inc. V. Turner Diesel Ltd., 107 F.3d 1272, 1275-77 (7th Cir. 1997).

The Due Process Clause protects an individual's liberty interest in not being subject to the binding judgments of a forum with which he has established no meaningful contacts, ties or relations. By requiring that individuals have fair warning that a particular activity may subject [them] to the jurisdiction of a foreign sovereign, the Due Process Clause gives a degree of predictability to the legal system that allows potential defendants to structure their primary conduct with some minimum assurance as to where that conduct will and will not render them liable to suit.

Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 105 S.Ct. 2174, 2181-82 (1985) (internal citations and punctuation omitted).

A court must consider whether the assertion of personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant would comport with "traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 66 S.Ct. 154, 158 (1945). Factors that may be considered include the burden on the defendant, the forum's interest in adjudicating the dispute, plaintiff's interest in obtaining convenient relief, the interstate system's interest in efficient resolution of controversy, and the interest of the states in furthering substantive social policies. Burger King, 105 S.Ct. at 2184.

In determining whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction is proper, the relationship between the defendant and the forum state must also be considered. Where a forum seeks to assert jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant who has not consented to suit in the forum, this requirement is satisfied if the defendant has "purposely directed his activities at residents of the forum," and the litigation results from injuries related to such activities. Burger King, 105 S.Ct. at 2181-82. "[T]he constitutional touchstone remains whether the defendant purposefully established 'minimum contacts' in the forum state." Id. at 2183. The Supreme Court has held that federal courts may properly exercise jurisdiction over a manufacturer or distributor that makes efforts "to serve directly or indirectly, the market for its product in other states." World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 100 S.Ct. 559, 567 (1980). If the corporation "delivers its products [or services] into the stream of commerce with the expectation that they will be purchased by consumers in the forum State," the due process requirements are satisfied and personal jurisdiction is proper. Id.

The Supreme Court's analysis of the minimum contacts required in a stream of commerce scenario was refined in Asahi Metal Industry Co., Ltd. v. Superior Court of California, Solano County, 480 U.S. 102, 107 S.Ct. 1026 (1987). Although unanimous in outcome, the justices were evenly divided on the proper scope of the minimum contacts rationale. Four justices, led by Justice O'Connor, employed a strict view of the minimum contacts analysis, finding that placing a product or service into the stream of commerce, without additional conduct indicating an intent or purpose to serve the market in the forum state, is not activity "purposefully directed toward the forum State." Id. at 1032. Writing for another group of four justices, ...

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