Nicholas Malfitano Feb. 24, 2016, 12:44pm


PHILADELPHIA – A Florida resident’s suit alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by an Oklahoma-based lending company has been dismissed from a Pennsylvania federal court, due to lack of jurisdiction.

Judge Anita B. Brody of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled Keith Finn’s litigation against Great Plains Lending, LLC was dismissed for lack of personal/general jurisdiction.

Finn is a resident of Longwood, Fla., while Great Plains Lending is “a wholly owned corporate entity of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and an arm of the Tribe engaged in the business of consumer financial services," headquartered in Red Rock, Okla.

Around November 2014, Finn said Great Plains Lending began calling him on his cell phone for non-emergency purposes, using an automatic telephone dialing system and/or pre-recorded messages.

At the end of that month, Finn told Great Plains Lending to stop calling him on his cell phone, revoking any consent for them to contact him. However, despite this refusal for further contact, Finn said Great Plains continued to call him on his cell phone.

On Aug. 17, Finn filed this action against Great Plains Lending, alleging violations of the TCPA.

Though Great Plains Lending is headquartered in Oklahoma, a P.O. Box where loan payments may be sent to them is registered for the company in Philadelphia, leading Finn to file his suit here. However, court records indicated the P.O. Box is owned and utilized by a third-party vendor, and Great Plains Lending does not maintain it.

Great Plains Lending further maintained they conduct business from Tribe lands in Oklahoma and do not do so in Pennsylvania, or maintain any presence in the state.

Brody said under the law, “When a defendant moves to dismiss a lawsuit for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating the facts that establish jurisdiction.”

Finn sought to cite Pennsylvania’s long-arm statute to establish personal/general jurisdiction over Great Plains Lending, which requires minimum contact under the U.S. Constitution. Finn believed the aforementioned P.O. Box satisfied the constitutional criterion of minimum contact, but the Court disagreed.

“The paradigm forums, in which a corporation is reasonably regarded as at home, are the place of incorporation and the principal place of business,” Brody said. “Pennsylvania is neither Great Plains’ place of incorporation nor its principal place of business.”

Brody explained the only connection that Great Plains Lending had to Pennsylvania was the P.O. Box, which was “insufficient to warrant this Court’s exercise of general jurisdiction over Great Plains, because it does not render Great Plains essentially at home in Pennsylvania.”

Prior to a dismissal verdict, Finn requested “limited discovery” on the nature of the P.O. Box from the Court, but Brody found such discovery would not alter the conclusion that Great Plains Lending is not at home in Pennsylvania, and found such discovery as being “unwarranted”.

“I will grant Great Plains’ motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction,” Brody concluded.

The plaintiff is represented by Craig Thor Kimmel of Kimmel & Silverman, in Ambler.

The defendant is represented by Joel L. Frank and Mary-Ellen H. Allen of Lamb McErlane in West Chester, plus Robert A. Rosette and Saba Bazzazieh of Rosette Law in Chandler, Ariz. and Washington, D.C., respectively.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:15-cv-04658

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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