United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Honorable Thomas M. Durkin United States District Judge.
Price, a Kentucky resident, brings this Fair Debt Collection
Practices Act (“FDCPA”) suit against the
Maryland-based debt collection firm of Schlee & Stillman
LLC. The defendant moves to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2)
for lack of personal jurisdiction. In the alternative, the
defendant seeks dismissal or transfer pursuant to Rule
12(b)(3), arguing that venue in this district is improper.
For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted in
part and denied as moot in part. The case is dismissed
without prejudice to being refiled in the proper district.
facts relevant to this motion are as follows. Plaintiff, a
senior citizen, resides in Kentucky. R. 1 (Compl.) ¶ 3.
The defendant is a Maryland limited liability company and
debt collector. Id. ¶ 4. Its headquarters are
in Maryland, and it has satellite offices in Massachusetts
and Michigan. See R. 20 (Response), Ex. A. The
defendant has no offices in Illinois, but it does collect
debts here, and is registered as a foreign corporation with
the Illinois Secretary of State. R. 1 ¶ 5, Ex. A.
Further to its business in Illinois, the defendant has a
registered agent in Springfield, the state's capital,
which sits in the federal jurisdiction of the Central
District of Illinois. Id.
fall of 2015, Plaintiff received two letters from the
defendant attempting to collect a debt she allegedly owed to
Citizen's Bank. R. 1 ¶ 6, Ex. B. Plaintiff sought
assistance responding to the letters from the Legal Advocates
for Seniors and People with Disabilities (LASPD), a
Chicago-based not-for-profit legal aid provider. Id.
On November 19, 2015, an attorney from LASPD informed the
defendant by letter (via facsimile) that Plaintiff was
represented by counsel, that she refused to pay any unsecured
debts on account of her financial circumstances, and that the
defendant should cease all communications with Plaintiff.
Id. ¶ 7, Ex. C. Several months later, however,
the defendant sent another collection letter to
Plaintiff's home in Kentucky from its office in
Massachusetts. Id. ¶ 8, Ex. D. This letter,
which Plaintiff alleges caused her confusion and distress, is
the basis of her two-count lawsuit. Id. ¶ 11.
defendant moves to dismiss a complaint for lack of personal
jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2),
the plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating that
jurisdiction exists. See Tile Unlimited, Inc. v.
Blanke Corp., 47 F.Supp.3d 750, 755 (N.D. Ill.
2014) (citing Purdue Res. Found. v. Sanofi- Synthelabo,
S.A., 338 F.3d 773, 782 (7th Cir. 2003)). While
ultimately a plaintiff must carry that burden by a
preponderance of the evidence, at this stage, she is only
required to make a prima facie showing. See
Strabala v. Zhang, 318 F.R.D. 81, 108 (N.D. Ill. 2016)
(citing Durukan Am., LLC v. Rain Trading, Inc., 787
F.3d 1161, 1163-64 (7th Cir. 2015); Felland v.
Clifton, 682 F.3d 665, 672 (7th Cir. 2012)). To do so,
the plaintiff must allege facts supporting the reasonable
inference that an out-of-state defendant has “certain
minimum contacts with [the forum] such that the maintenance
of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play
and substantial justice.” Int'l Shoe Co. v.
State of Washington, Office of Unemployment Comp. &
Placement, 326 U.S. 310, 319 (1945). Courts have
interpreted this standard to mean that “‘[t]he
defendant's conduct and connection with the forum State
[must be] such that [it] should reasonably anticipate being
haled into court there.'” Burger King Corp. v.
Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 474 (1985) (quoting World-
Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297
(1980)). As with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court must
“accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations
and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the
plaintiff” when evaluating personal jurisdiction.
St. John's United Church of Christ v. City of
Chicago, 502 F.3d 616, 625 (7th Cir. 2007).
are two types of personal jurisdiction-general and specific.
See Strabala, 318 F.R.D. at 108 (citing authority).
General personal jurisdiction exists “[i]f the
defendant has ‘continuous and systematic' contacts
with a state. . . even if the action is unrelated to those
contacts.” N. Grain Mktg., LLC v. Greving, 743
F.3d 487, 492 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Helicopteros
Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 416
(1984)). A corporation's contacts with a state are
‘continuous and systematic' if it is incorporated
or headquartered there or if its “affiliations with the
State . . . render it essentially at home.” Daimler
AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 761 (2014) (citations and
internal punctuation omitted). The Seventh Circuit
has cautioned that general jurisdiction “should not
lightly be found.” Kipp v. Ski Enter. Corp. of
Wisc., 783 F.3d 695, 698 (7th Cir. 2015). Specific
jurisdiction is likewise narrowly defined. “To support
an exercise of specific personal jurisdiction, the
defendant's contacts with the forum state must directly
relate to the challenged conduct or transaction.”
Bauman, 134 S.Ct. at 761. In other words,
“[s]pecific personal jurisdiction is appropriate where
(1) the defendant has purposefully directed his activities at
the forum state or purposefully availed himself of the
privilege of conducting business in that state, and (2) the
alleged injury arises out of the defendant's
forum-related activities.” Id. (citing
Burger King, 471 U.S. at 472).
neither jurisdictional test is satisfied. There is no general
jurisdiction because the defendant is not incorporated or
headquartered in Illinois, and it does not have any other
operations within the state that are so substantial as to
render it essentially at home here. See Kipp, 783 F.3d
at 698. That the defendant is registered as a foreign
corporation and has a designated registered agent in the
state is, without more, insufficient to put the defendant on
notice that it could be haled into court here. See Perez
v. Air & Liquid Sys. Corp., 2016 WL 7049153, at *6-7
(S.D. Ill.Dec. 2, 2016) (collecting circuit authority for the
proposition that “registering to do business or
maintaining a registered agent is not enough to confer
general jurisdiction over a foreign corporation”).
Indeed, after a search of the federal docketing system, the
Court was unable to find a single case in the Northern
District of Illinois other than this one where the defendant
has been named as a party. While it may be true that the defendant
transacts some business in Illinois, R. 22 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 5,
2011); Barksdale v. GC Services Ltd. P'ship, 09
C 7309, R. 24 (N.D. Ill. May 6, 2010); Garrigan v.
Midland Credit Mgmt., Inc., 09 C 3110, R. 39 (N.D. Ill.
Mar. 9, 2010). The Seventh Circuit has recognized that
Daimler “raised the bar for this type of
jurisdiction, ” explaining that since Daimler,
“more than the ‘substantial, continuous, and
systematic course of business' that was once thought to
suffice” is required. Kipp, 783 F.3d at 698
(citing Daimler, 134 S.Ct. at 760-61). Now, courts
may “exercise general jurisdiction only when ‘the
continuous corporate operations within a state [are] so
substantial and of such a nature as to justify suit ...
on causes of action arising from dealings entirely
distinct from those activities.'” Id.
(quoting Diamler, 134 S.Ct. at 761) (emphasis in
original). Because the cases on which Plaintiff relies do not
apply this standard, and also because they are
distinguishable on their facts, they are not persuasive
support for Plaintiff's argument that general
jurisdiction exists. See Lefler, 13 C 2242, R. 34
(the defendants had been named in nearly 20 earlier-filed
lawsuits in this district for their debt collection
practices); Brennon, 11 C 4309, R. 22 (at the time
the suit was filed the defendant was attempting to collect
debts from hundreds of thousands of Illinois consumers,
including consumers residing this district);
Barksdale, 09 C 7309, R. 24 (the defendant had an
office in this district); Garrigan, 09 C 3110, R. 39
(the defendant had been named in approximately 45
earlier-filed lawsuits in this district). it has no offices
or employees here, and Plaintiff, whose debt the defendant is
attempting to collect in Kentucky, has not alleged any other
systematic or continuous affiliation with the state such that
the exercise of jurisdiction would comport with traditional
notions of fair play and substantial justice. See
Daimler, 134 S.Ct. at 761-62; see also Perez,
2016 WL 7049153, at *8 (“it is inconsistent with
principles of due process for a corporation to be subject to
general jurisdiction in every place it does business”
(quoting Genuine Parts Co. v. Cepec, 137 A.3d 123,
137 (Del. 2016))). Accordingly, general jurisdiction over the
defendant is lacking.
the plaintiff made a prima facie showing that there
is specific jurisdiction in this case. As the defendant
correctly states, “[t]hat Plaintiff sought the
assistance of legal aid attorneys located in Chicago . . . is
the only alleged connection to the chosen forum.” R. 17
at 1. Plaintiff argues that this connection is enough to
establish specific jurisdiction because, “for the
purposes of this lawsuit, Ms. Price effectively moved-telling
Defendant that she could only be contacted through the
Chicago Legal Clinic's LASPD program.” R. 20 at 11.
This fiction will not suffice to permit the case to proceed
in this district. As previously noted, specific jurisdiction
exists when the defendant has purposefully directed its
activities toward the forum state and the alleged injury
arises from those activities. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. at
761. Thus, the operative facts for determining specific
jurisdiction in an FDCPA case like this one are the states to
and from which the allegedly 883, 885 n. 2 (7th Cir. 2016)
(noting that on a motion to dismiss, courts may consider
public court documents, among other materials, if they are
within the offending debt collection letter was sent. The
letter in this case was sent to Kentucky from Massachusetts.
Plaintiff's attorney's office in Illinois is entirely
irrelevant to where the alleged statutory violation took
place and where the alleged injury was suffered. Other courts
considering precisely analogous facts have reached the same
conclusion. See, e.g., Stewart v. Brachfeld Law
Group, 2010 WL 4683530, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 16, 2010)
(finding in an FDCPA case involving out-of-state parties that
where the only connection to this district was the location
of LASPD, “no part of the acts and transactions
occurred here in any real-world sense”); Randolph
v. North Star Capital Acquisition, LLC, 2010 WL 5418923,
at * 1 (N.D. Ill.Dec. 2010) (also on similar facts finding
that the location of counsel was a “venue irrelevant
fact” and refusing to permit jurisdiction
“created by such artificiality”). Because the
cause of action, in actuality, arises from activities
entirely outside the state of Illinois, specific jurisdiction
in this district is also lacking.
Plaintiff also seems to argue that because she and the
defendant engaged in settlement discussions for several
months before this motion was filed, the defendant waived its
right to object to personal jurisdiction. See R. 20
at 6 (“[I]n its motion to dismiss, Defendant oddly
neglects to acknowledge the inconvenient fact that it
litigated this case-including entering into a settlement
agreement-in Illinois, for three months, before it decided to
move to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and/or improper
venue.”). She cites no authority for this argument,
however, and therefore waives it. See United States v.
Hassebrock, 663 F.3d 906, 914 (7th Cir. 2011)
(explaining that “perfunctory and undeveloped
arguments, and arguments that are unsupported by pertinent
authority, are waived”) (quoting United States v.
Berkowitz, 927 F.2d 1376, 1384 (7th Cir. 1991)). Even if
the Court were to consider the waiver argument, it is without
merit and thus would not carry the day. “As long as
defendants comply with the rules by raising their defenses in
their first responsive pleading or consolidate their defenses
in a pre-pleading motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b), they do
not waive their Rule 12(b) defenses.” Swanson v.
City of Hammond, 411 Fed.Appx. 913, 915-16 (7th Cir.
2011) (finding that “[p]reliminary litigation actions .
. . do not waive or forfeit personal-jurisdiction
defenses” provided the defendant does not “create
the expectation that [it] will defend the suit on the
merits”); see also Mobile Anesthesiologists
Chicago, LLC v. Anesthesia Assocs. of Houston Metroplex,
P.A., 623 F.3d 440, 443 (7th Cir. 2010) (finding no
waiver after the defendant filed a motion to continue a
preliminary injunction hearing and requested expedited
discovery to prepare for that hearing when, thirteen days
later, the defendant filed its motion to dismiss for lack of
found no personal jurisdiction, the question of whether venue
is proper in this district is moot. The Court therefore
grants the motion to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction, and dismisses the case ...