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Southern District of Indiana Rules that Property Manager is Subject to Personal Jurisdiction Based on Text Messages Sent to the Forum State

The Southern District of Indiana recently held that it had personal jurisdiction over a company that had sent text messages marketing its Ohio properties to students in Indiana. Weiss v. Grand Campus Living, Inc., No. 18-0434, 2019 WL 1206167 (S.D. Ind. Mar. 14, 2019).

The plaintiff, a student at the University of Akron, alleged that defendants had violated the TCPA by sending text messages promoting student rental properties near the university. Id. Her phone was registered in Indiana where she resided, and she received one of the two texts while in Indiana. Id. Both defendants were incorporated and headquartered in Texas, and neither had offices or employees in Indiana. Id.

The defendants moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, arguing that they had not “purposefully directed” their activities at Indiana. Id. at *2. When considering whether a defendant’s conduct is “purposefully directed,” the Seventh Circuit requires “(1) intentional conduct…; (2) expressly aimed at the forum state; (3) with the defendant’s knowledge that the effects would be felt—that is, the plaintiff would be injured—in the forum state.” Id. The court explained that sending a text message to a forum-state’s phone is a “significant, but not dispositive, factor” in determining if there has been purposeful direction. Id.

The court found that it had personal jurisdiction over one defendant but not the other. Id. at *4. One defendant managed the rental properties and directly engaged with the entity that sent the texts, while the other did not. Id. at *3-4. In light of the managing defendant’s business and the content of the text messages, the court found that its conduct showed an intent to market apartments to out-of-state and prospective students, including those in Indiana. Id. at *3. Importantly, the court noted that “[a]lthough a text message would be a thin reed to lean on for personal jurisdiction in a typical breach-of-contract matter, it constitutes purposeful direction in this TCPA suit, where the text messages are themselves the gravamen of the complaint.” Id. The court therefore denied the managing defendant’s motion to dismiss. Id.

The court dismissed the claims against the non-managing defendant, however. Id. at *4. It found that the non-managing defendant had not “purposefully directed” any conduct at Indiana because it had no control over the rental properties or contact with the entity that sent the text messages. Id at *3-4.

© 2020 Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume IX, Number 86

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About this Author

Natalie DeLave Litigation Attorney
Associate

Natalie K. DeLave assists clients with various aspects of litigation, including legal research and the drafting of motions and other memoranda.

While in law school, Natalie interned for the Honorable Manish S. Shah of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and for the Honorable Robert L. Miller, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana. She was a summer associate at Drinker Biddle in 2017.

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Michael Daly, Drinker Biddle Law Firm, Philadelphia, Litigation and Retail Attorney
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Michael P. Daly defends class actions and other complex litigation matters, handles appeals in state and federal courts across the country, and counsels clients on maximizing the defensibility of their marketing and enforceability of their contracts. A recognized authority on class action and consumer protection litigation, he often speaks, comments, and writes on recent decisions and developments in the class action arena. He is also a founder of the firm’s TCPA Team; the senior editor of the TCPA Blog, which provides important information and insight about the Telephone Consumer Protection Act; and a senior member of the firm's Class Actions Team and interdisciplinary Retail Industry Team.

Committed to civil rights and civic engagement, Michael has spearheaded public interest matters meant to prevent racial discrimination, protect the rights of the disabled and incarcerated, prohibit the use of unverifiable voting systems, and preclude the misuse of our laws and abuse of our civil justice system. One of his most recent public interest matters resulted in a landmark settlement that put an end to decades of discrimination by administrative agencies that had refused to make important information about public benefits programs available in alternative formats that were accessible to the blind and visually impaired. As a result of the settlement, thousands of class members have already requested and received documents in accessible alternative formats.

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