United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS
TANYA WALTON PRATT, District Judge.
This matter is before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) by Defendant Clark County Collection Service, LLC ("CCCS") (Filing No. 17). After Plaintiff Sandra Howell ("Ms. Howell") failed to pay a medical bill, CCCS assumed the responsibility of collecting payment for the medical services. CCCS reported the debt to a credit reporting agency but failed to report that the debt was disputed. Based on this failure, Ms. Howell filed a Complaint against CCCS, alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. CCCS has moved to dismiss the Complaint based on a lack of personal jurisdiction. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS the Motion to Dismiss.
I. LEGAL STANDARD
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) allows a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint where there is a "lack of personal jurisdiction" over the defendant. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). When deciding a 12(b)(2) motion, the Court accepts the factual allegations in the complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff if they weigh on the issue of personal jurisdiction. Int'l Medical Group, Inc. v. American Arbitration Ass'n, 149 F.Supp.2d 615, 623 (S.D. Ind. 2001). But where a complaint consists of conclusory allegations unsupported by factual assertions, the complaint fails even under the liberal standard of Rule 12(b). Id.
When considering a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the Court examines the sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of the lawsuit. Id. The complaint does not need to include factual allegations concerning personal jurisdiction, but if the defendant moves to dismiss the action under Rule 12(b)(2), the plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating the existence of personal jurisdiction. Purdue Research Found. v. Sanofi-Synthelabo, S.A., 338 F.3d 773, 782 (7th Cir. 2003). The Court may consider affidavits and all other documentary evidence which have been filed, and any conflicts must be resolved in favor of the plaintiff as the non-moving party. Int'l Medical Group, 149 F.Supp.2d at 623.
The level of the plaintiff's burden to show personal jurisdiction depends on whether an evidentiary hearing has been held. Purdue Research, 338 F.3d at 782. Where a hearing has been conducted, the plaintiff must show by a preponderance of the evidence that personal jurisdiction exists. Id. Where no hearing is conducted and the motion to dismiss is decided solely on written materials, the plaintiff must establish a prima facie case that personal jurisdiction exists. Id.
"If jurisdiction is exercised on the basis of a federal statute that does not authorize nationwide service of process, the law requires a federal district court to determine if a court of the state in which it sits would have personal jurisdiction." Annie Oakley Enters. v. Sunset Tan Corporate & Consulting, LLC, 703 F.Supp.2d 881, 886 (N.D. Ind. 2010) (citing United States v. Martinez De Ortiz, 910 F.2d 376, 381 (7th Cir. 1990)). Indiana Trial Rule 4.4(A), Indiana's longarm statute, governs personal jurisdiction in Indiana. "Although Rule 4.4(A) enumerates eight bases for the assertion of jurisdiction on the basis of a defendant's actions, the rule also includes a provision that a court of this state may exercise jurisdiction on any basis not inconsistent with the Constitutions of this state or the United States.'" Id. (internal citation omitted). Thus, a court has personal jurisdiction to the limit allowed by the Federal Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. LinkAmerica Corp. v. Cox, 857 N.E.2d 961, 966-67 (Ind. 2006).
For a court to have personal jurisdiction over a defendant, the Due Process Clause requires that the defendant have "certain minimum contacts with [the 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) (quoting Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463 (1940)).
Under federal due process standards, personal jurisdiction can be either specific or general. Wilson v. Humphreys (Cayman) Ltd., 916 F.2d 1239, 1244 (7th Cir. 1990). "If the defendant's contacts with the state are so continuous and systematic' that the defendant should reasonably anticipate being haled into the courts of that state for any matter, then the defendant is subject to general jurisdiction." LinkAmerica, 857 N.E.2d at 967. "If the defendant's contacts with the forum state are not continuous and systematic, ' specific jurisdiction may be asserted if the controversy is related to or arises out of the defendant's contacts with the forum state." Id. "Specific jurisdiction requires that the defendant purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum state so that the defendant reasonably anticipates being haled into court there." Id.
In other words, specific jurisdiction exists when a defendant has deliberately directed its activities toward the forum's residents, and the cause of action results from alleged injuries that arise out of or relate to those activities. See Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 472 (1985). In Burger King, the Supreme Court explained the "constitutional touchstone" of "minimum contacts" for personal jurisdiction:
The unilateral activity of those who claim some relationship with a nonresident defendant cannot satisfy the requirement of contact with the forum State.... [I]t is essential in each case that there be some act by which the defendant purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws.
This "purposeful availment" requirement ensures that a defendant will not be haled into a jurisdiction solely as a result of "random, " "fortuitous, " or "attenuated" contacts, or of the unilateral activity of another party or a third person. Jurisdiction is proper, however, where the contacts proximately result from actions by the defendant himself that create a "substantial connection" with the forum State. Thus where the defendant deliberately has engaged in significant activities within a State, or has created continuing obligations between himself and residents of the forum he manifestly has availed himself of the privilege of conducting business there, and because his activities are shielded by the benefits and protections of the forum's laws it is presumptively not unreasonable to require him to submit to the burdens of litigation in that forum as well.
Burger King, 471 U.S. at 474-76 (internal citations, quotation marks, ...