A United States district court in Illinois recently granted a non-resident defendant’s motion to strike the class definition in a putative nationwide TCPA class action, pursuant to Bristol-Myers Squibb, broadly holding that due process “bars nationwide class actions in fora where the defendant is not subject to general jurisdiction.”  The case is Mussat v. IQVIA Inc., Case No. 17-cv-8841 (N.D. Illinois), and a copy of the order can be accessed here.     

This case joins the growing list of district courts that continue to wrestle with the question of whether they can exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant with respect to the claims of out-of-state putative class members.  In Bristol-Myers – a mass tort action, not a class action – the Supreme Court determined that exercise of personal jurisdiction over claims asserted by non-residents violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  

Following the trend in the Northern District of Illinois, the Mussat court extended the Bristol-Myers reasoning to the consumer class action context.  Specifically, the case involved an Illinois-resident plaintiff, Florence Mussat, M.D., S.C., who allegedly received two unsolicited advertisements via fax in Illinois from the outofstate defendant.  Mussat sought to represent the claims of nonresident and unnamed putative class members to whom IQVIA Inc. allegedly sent faxes outside of Illinois.  IQVIA moved to strike the class definition, arguing that the Court lacked personal jurisdiction over it with respect to the unnamed putative class members who had no connection with Illinois.  IQVIA argued that because those individuals did not receive the alleged faxes in Illinois, their claims did not relate to IQVIA’s contacts with Illinois, and the Court lacked specific jurisdiction over it. 

The Court agreed with IQVIA, explaining that there was no reason to distinguish between class actions and mass torts under the Bristol-Myers due process analysis.  The Court stated that it was following the Supreme Court’s lead in Bristol-Myers and that due process, as an instrument of interstate federalism, requires a connection between the forum and the specific claims at issue.  Filing a class action under Rule 23 does not change the scope of personal jurisdiction.  According to the Court, the exercise of specific jurisdiction over nonresidents’ claims, with respect to faxes received outside of Illinois, would violate IQVIA’s due process rights because the absent class members’ claims do not relate to the corporation’s contacts with the forum.  Therefore, the Court struck the class definition to the extent it purported to assert claims on behalf of nonresidents.   

After the decision was issued, Mussat filed a motion for certification of interlocutory appeal, which will be fully briefed in mid-December.  Troutman Sanders will continue to monitor this case, as well as how district courts, more broadly, continue to apply Bristol-Myers in the class action context.