United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MICHAEL W. KINCAID, DDS, INC. d/b/a RIVERSIDE FAMILY DENTLAL GROUP, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
SYNCHRONY FINANCIAL, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Johnson Coleman United States District Judge
Michael W. Kincaid, DDS, Inc., d/b/a Riverside Family Dental
Group (“Kincaid”) filed a putative class action
against Synchrony Financial (“Synchrony”)
alleging Synchrony violated the Telephone Consumer Protection
Act (“TCPA”) by sending unsolicited fax
advertisements. Synchrony filed two motions to dismiss. The
first asserts that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction
over it and that venue is not proper in this district. (Dkt.
16.) The second argues that Kincaid has failed to state a
claim under the TCPA. (Dkt. 19.) The court agrees that it
lacks personal jurisdiction over Synchrony and therefore
grants the first motion, rendering the second motion moot.
following facts are taken from the complaint. Synchrony
offers consumers a credit card called CareCredit that is
designed to be used for charging health care expenses. (Dkt.
1 ¶¶ 13-14.) Synchrony markets this product by
getting healthcare providers to recommend CareCredit to their
patients and as part of its marketing strategy it sends those
providers fax advertisements. (Id. ¶¶
15-30, 39.) In an attempt to get Kincaid to encourage the
patients of his dental practice to apply for CareCredit,
Synchrony sent Kincaid six fax advertisements throughout
June, July, and August 2015. (Id. ¶ 30.)
Kincaid did not consent to receive fax advertisements from
Synchrony and the advertisements did not contain a notice
informing him how to opt-out of receiving additional faxes.
(Id. ¶¶ 36-37.)
presented by affidavits the following facts in opposition to
jurisdiction. Kincaid enrolled with Synchrony as a provider
who accepts CareCredit using a Columbus, Ohio address. (Dkt.
17-1 ¶¶ 2-3.) Synchrony’s place of
incorporation is Delaware and its principal place of business
is Connecticut. (Dkt. 17-4 ¶ 2.) CareCredit is a product
offered by Synchrony’s wholly-owned subsidiary,
Synchrony Bank, a federally-chartered savings bank
headquartered in Utah. (Dkt. 17-1 ¶ 2; Dkt. 17-4 ¶
2.) The only office and employees related to Synchrony in
Illinois are those of Synchrony Bank, and those
Illinois’ employees make up 2.8% of Synchrony
Bank’s total employees nationwide. (Dkt. 17-4
¶¶ 4-6; Dkt. 17-5 ¶¶ 2-3.) Loan
receivables from credit card accounts are Synchrony’s
largest category of assets and its primary source of revenue,
and Illinois cardholders’ accounts constitute
approximately 3.7% of Synchrony’s total loan
receivables. (Dkt. 17-6 ¶¶ 2-3.) Kincaid submitted
printouts from Synchrony’s website as evidence in
support of jurisdiction; those printouts demonstrate the
following. Synchrony’s Chicago, Illinois office is one
three “Innovation Stations, ” meaning it houses a
team of employees focused on product development. (Dkt. 28-2
at 3.) The Chicago office has more job listings than any
other office except for its Stamford, Connecticut office.
(Dkt. 28-4.) The Chicago office is one of the 22 “key
Synchrony Financial sites” where Synchrony’s
“Business Leadership Program” is held. (Dkt.
28-3.) Kincaid also submitted a printout from the website of
the Circuit Court of Cook County, indicating that Synchrony
Bank has filed hundreds of lawsuits there in the past year.
plaintiff bears the burden of establishing a prima facie case
that personal jurisdiction over the defendant exists.
Purdue Research Found. v. Sanofi-Synthelabo, S.A.,
338 F.3d 773, 782 (7th Cir. 2003). If the defendant has
submitted evidence in opposition to the exercise of
jurisdiction, “the plaintiff must go beyond the
pleadings and submit affirmative evidence” in support
of jurisdiction. Id. at 783. Any conflict in the
supporting materials submitted by the parties is resolved in
favor of the plaintiff. Id. But “any facts in
the defendant’s affidavits that remain unrefuted by the
plaintiff” are accepted as true. GCIU-Employer Ret.
Fund v. Goldfarb Corp., 565 F.3d 1018, 1020 n.1 (7th
this Court is exercising federal question jurisdiction, it
has personal jurisdiction over Synchrony if either federal
law or Illinois law (the state in which this Court sits)
authorizes service of process. Mobile Anesthesiologists
Chicago, LLC v. Anesthesia Associates of Houston Metroplex,
P.A., 623 F.3d 440, 443 (7th Cir. 2010). The TCPA does
not authorize nationwide service of process. 42 U.S.C.
§227. Therefore this Court has personal jurisdiction
only if Synchrony could be served under Illinois law.
Mobile Anesthesiologists, 623 F.3d at 443. The reach
of Illinois’ long-arm statute is coextensive with what
the Fourteenth Amendment permits. 735 ILCS 5/2-209. Thus the
question of personal jurisdiction is resolved in accordance
with federal due process jurisprudence. Mobile
Anesthesiologists, 623 F.3d at 443.
court to exercise personal jurisdiction consistent with due
process the defendant must have sufficient contacts with the
forum state “such that the maintenance of the suit does
not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial
justice.” International Shoe Co. v.
Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945). Personal
jurisdiction may be either “general” or
“specific.” Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations,
S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (U.S. 2011). Specific
jurisdiction requires that the defendant’s contacts
with the forum state are what “give rise to the
liabilities sued on” and are “continuous and
systematic”. International Shoe, 326 U.S. at
317. See also Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746,
761 (2014) (confirming that the “continuous and
systematic” standard relates to specific jurisdiction).
The contacts relevant to specific jurisdiction are those
contacts with the forum state that are both related to the
lawsuit and created by the defendant. Walden v.
Fiore, 134 S.Ct. 1115, 1121-22 (2014). General
jurisdiction over a corporation requires “continuous
corporate operations within a state . . . so substantial and
of such a nature as to justify suit…on causes of
action arising from dealings entirely distinct from those
activities.” Daimler, 124 S.Ct. at 761
(quoting International Shoe, 326 U.S. at 318). A
sufficiently substantial corporate presence is per se found
at the defendant’s place of incorporation and its
principle place of business. To find general jurisdiction
elsewhere, the court must find the corporation’s
activities in a state are so substantial that the corporation
“is fairly regarded as at home.”
Goodyear, 564 U.S. at 924 (U.S. 2011).
has failed to meet his burden of showing that personal
jurisdiction over Synchrony- either specific or
general-exists. The parties’ dispute regarding specific
jurisdiction centers on whether faxes allegedly sent to
putative class members in Illinois constitute suit-related
contacts that are continuous and systematic. Synchrony argues
that actions towards putative class members cannot support
personal jurisdiction, whereas Kincaid asserts that a court
can consider a defendant’s actions directed at
non-parties. Neither party points to any case in the Seventh
Circuit or in this district addressing whether a
defendant’s conduct directed towards putative class
members is relevant to specific jurisdiction, nor could this
Court could find any. However, even if this Court could
consider such contacts, Kincaid has submitted no affirmative
evidence regarding faxes sent into Illinois and thus has
failed to meet his burden.
the evidence submitted by Kincaid in support of general
jurisdiction falls short. Kincaid has failed to demonstrate
that Synchrony’s corporate operations in Illinois
comprise an outsized proportion of its operations nationwide.
Because “[a] corporation that operates in many places
can scarcely be deemed at home in all of them”, the
Court cannot find general jurisdiction based solely on the
“magnitude of the defendant’s in-state
contacts.” Daimler, 124 S.Ct. at 762 n.20. Rather the
court must assess those contacts in light of the
“corporation’s activities in their entirety,
nationwide and worldwide” Id. Here, Kincaid
presents insufficient evidence to put Synchrony’s
purported contacts with Illinois into a nationwide context.
That Synchrony’s Chicago office has posted several
positions tells the Court nothing about the proportion of
Synchrony’s total employees currently working there. In
contrast, Synchrony has averred that only 2.8% of the
employees of its subsidiary are in Chicago.
Similarly, the filing of hundreds of lawsuits in Cook County
is meaningless if those lawsuits represent only a sliver of
Synchrony’s total corporate activity. And although the
website describes Synchrony’s Chicago office as a
“key” site, that distinction is shared with 21
other offices. Under Daimler, Synchrony cannot be
deemed “at home” in all of them. Finally, the
website’s description of “Innovation
Stations” is too vague to draw any conclusion about the
proportion of corporate activity that occurs there. In sum,
Synchrony website’s does not compel the conclusion that
the Chicago office is such a major component of the
corporation’s operations as a whole that Chicago should
be considered the company’s third home (in addition to
their place of incorporation and their principal place of
Kincaid has failed to meet his burden of showing jurisdiction
over Synchrony exists, Synchrony’s motion to dismiss
 is granted. Given that the events giving rise to this
lawsuit occurred in 2015, and in light of the TCPA’s
generous four-year statute of limitations, there is no need
to transfer rather than dismiss this case in the interest ...