A federal judge will not allow an Ohio dentist to use
Chicago’s federal courtrooms to sue the Connecticut-based lender behind
CareCredit for allegedly sending unsolicited faxes and making unwanted phone
calls advertising the medical bill consumer credit product.
On Aug. 11, U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman
dismissed the potential class action lawsuit brought by dentist Michael W.
Kincaid against Stamford, Conn.-based Synchrony Financial.
Judge Coleman said the dentist failed in his attempts to connect
Synchrony to northern Illinois to justify bringing the lawsuit in Chicago
versus other venues where Synchrony has a more robust physical presence.
While Synchrony may do business in Illinois, the judge said
none of the evidence supplied by Kincaid would “compel the conclusion that
(Synchrony’s) Chicago office is such a major component of the corporation’s
operations as a whole that Chicago should be considered the company’s third
Kincaid, who operates Riverside Family Dental Group in
Colmbus, Ohio, filed suit against Synchrony in January, alleging Synchrony
violated the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act by inundating his office
with unsolicited ads for CareCredit, a consumer credit product marketed to
various medical service providers, ostensibly to help patients pay for their services.
Kincaid’s complaint alleged Synchrony sent a representative
to visit the dental office on numerous occasions, urging the dentist and his
staff to push CareCredit packages to patients, to sell more expensive
procedures and care packages. He said amid those in-person visits, Synchrony
representatives would call the office several times each day, and allegedly
sent advertisements by fax on at least six dates. The faxes allegedly did not
contain an opt-out note as required by the TCPA.
Kincaid’s lawsuit sought to expand the lawsuit to include a
class of other potential plaintiffs, including others from Illinois who Kincaid
argued were likely to have received similar faxed ads for CareCredit.
Kincaid was represented in the action by attorneys Brian K.
Murphy, of Murphy Murphy Moul and Basil, of Columbus, Ohio; Lauren E. Snyder, of Chicago; Matthew P.
McCue, of Natick, Mass.; and Edward A. Broderick and Anthony Paronich, of
Broderick & Paronich, of Boston.
In that lawsuit, Kincaid’s attorneys argued Chicago was the
appropriate location to bring his complaint because Synchrony “does extensive
business” in Illinois and “has numerous employees and customers” in and around
Coleman noted Kincaid’s team, in support of their arguments
to keep the lawsuit alive in Chicago federal court, pointed to company
documents identifying Synchrony’s Chicago office as one of three “Innovation
Stations” housing “a team of employees focused on product development;” job
listings indicating Synchrony hired for more positions in Chicago than any
location other than its Stamford headquarters; Synchrony’s designation of its
Chicago office as “one of the 22 ‘key Synchrony Financial sites’ where
Synchrony’s ‘Business Leadership Program’ is held;” and court records purporting
to show Synchrony has “filed hundreds of lawsuits” in Cook County in the
Coleman, however, said none of those demonstrate sufficient
connections to Chicago or northern Illinois to allow the dentist to pursue a
class action against the lender in Chicago federal court.
She also rejected Kincaid’s attempt to argue other potential
plaintiffs in Illinois were likely to have received similar marketing
communications from Synchrony.
“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 … find
any,” the judge wrote. “Kincaid has
submitted no affirmative evidence regarding faxes sent into Illinois and thus
has failed to meet his burden.”
Synchrony was defended in the action by attorneys with the
firm of Reed Smith LLP, of Chicago.