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Crisler v. Matthews Richards Healthcare Management, LLC

United States District Court, D. Kansas

August 28, 2014

REENA CRISLER, Plaintiff,
v.
MATTHEWS RICHARDS HEALTHCARE MANAGEMENT, LLC, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

CARLOS MURGUIA, District Judge.

Plaintiff Reena Crisler filed suit against defendant Matthews Richards Healthcare Management, LLC, seeking a declaratory judgment; damages under the Kansas Consumer Protection Act ("KCPA") and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"); and rescission of her contract with defendant. This matter is before the court on defendant's Motion to Dismiss for Improper Venue and Lack of Personal Jurisdiction, or in the alternative, Motion to Transfer Venue to the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri (Doc. 6). For the following reasons, the court denies defendant's request to dismiss the case, but grants the alternative request to transfer the case to the Western District of Missouri.

I. Background

In November 2010, plaintiff Reena Crisler suffered injuries following an auto accident in Wichita, Kansas. In January 2011, plaintiff-who was concerned about rising health care costs associated with her injuries-spoke with an attorney about filing a lawsuit regarding the accident. Plaintiff's attorney connected plaintiff with defendant, hoping defendant could assist with plaintiff's health care costs. Defendant's business involves advancing health care expenses on behalf of an injured plaintiff while the plaintiff pursues separate personal-injury claims. The parties entered an agreement obligating defendant to perform such services while plaintiff pursued her personal-injury claim.

Plaintiff signed the contract from her residence in Wichita, Kansas. Defendant signed the contract at its office in Missouri. Plaintiff received benefits pursuant to the contract; received a call at her Wichita residence from defendant to discuss medical care; attended medical appointments arranged by defendant; and incurred health care related expenses as a result. On multiple occasions, defendant sent communications to plaintiff in Wichita or to health care providers in Wichita.

In May 2011, plaintiff received her first bill from defendant and decided to cancel the arrangement. Plaintiff asserts that defendant continued to submit payments to health care providers through October 2011. And plaintiff received demands for payments that she believes are excessive. Additionally, defendant intervened in plaintiff's personal-injury lawsuit in an attempt to collect payment from plaintiff. As a result, plaintiff filed this action in Sedgwick County, Kansas. Defendant removed the case to federal court and filed the instant motion.

II. Personal Jurisdiction

A. Legal Standard

A plaintiff opposing a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing that exercise of personal jurisdiction over the defendant is proper. Kuenzle v. HTM Sport-Und Freizeitgerate AG, 102 F.3d 453, 456 (10th Cir. 1996). If the motion to dismiss is submitted before trial on the basis of affidavits and other written materials, the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing. Id. Ultimately, the plaintiff must prove the factual basis for jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence at trial. Id. But on a pre-trial motion to dismiss, the court resolves all factual disputes in favor of the plaintiff. Id. If the plaintiff makes the required prima facie showing, "a defendant must present a compelling case demonstrating that the presence of some other considerations would render jurisdiction unreasonable.'" OMI Holdings, Inc. v. Royal Ins. Co. of Can., 149 F.3d 1086, 1091 (10th Cir. 1998) (quoting Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 477 (1985)).

B. Kansas Long-Arm Statute

The court evaluates whether it has personal jurisdiction under the forum state's long-arm statute and constitutional due process requirements. Capitol Fed. Sav. Bank v. E. Bank Corp., 493 F.Supp.2d 1150, 1158 (D. Kan. 2007). At times, Kansas courts have employed a two-step analysis to determine personal jurisdiction-looking first to the Kansas long-arm statute, Kan. Stat. Ann. § 60-308(b), and then to the United States Constitution. Travel Mktg. Assocs. v. Theatre Direct Int'l, No. 01-2579-CM, 2002 WL 31527737, at *2 (D. Kan. Oct. 8, 2002) (citations omitted). But "[t]he Kansas long arm statute is liberally construed to assert personal jurisdiction over nonresident defendants to the full extent permitted by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution." Volt Delta Res., Inc. v. Devine, 740 P.2d 1089, 1092 (Kan. 1987) (citations omitted). Many courts therefore proceed directly to the constitutional due process question. See, e.g., OMI Holdings, 149 F.3d at 1090; Federated Rural Elec. Ins. Corp. v. Kootenai Elec. Coop., 17 F.3d 1302, 1305 (10th Cir. 1994); Volt Delta Res., Inc., 740 P.2d at 1092. Here, because the parties have addressed both Kansas and federal law, the court will discuss both.

A Kansas court may exercise jurisdiction over a person who enters "into an express or implied contract, by mail or otherwise, with a resident of this state to be performed in whole or in part by either party in this state." Kan. Stat. Ann. § 60-308(b)(E); Universal Premium Acceptance Corp. v. Oxford Bank & Trust, 277 F.Supp.2d 1120, 1126 (D. Kan. 2003). Either the actual or anticipated state of residence from which payment pursuant to a contract originates can be evidence that one party expected a contract to be performed as least in part within that state. Universal Premium Acceptance Corp., 277 F.Supp.2d at 1126.

Here, the Kansas long-arm statue subjects defendant to the court's jurisdiction. Partial performance of the contract within Kansas is implied by the contract. Plaintiff resided in Wichita, Kansas, when she signed the contract. The contract required plaintiff to provide defendant with plaintiff's insurance information and all correspondence relating to her injury and subsequent claims. It is reasonable to assume that plaintiff would perform these contractual obligations from her residence in Kansas. Furthermore, it is apparent that both parties expected medical care and payments to defendant from plaintiff and plaintiff's medical providers to originate within Kansas. Given the liberal construction of the Kansas long-arm statute, the court finds that it has statutory long-arm jurisdiction over defendant.

C. Constitutional "Minimum Contacts" Analysis

The second question in determining whether defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction is whether the defendant has sufficient "minimum contacts" with the state of Kansas to satisfy the constitutional guarantee of due process. Equifax Servs., Inc. v. Hitz, 905 F.2d 1355, 1357 (10th Cir. 1990). Sufficient "minimum contacts" can be established in one of two ways. Topliff v. Atlas Air, Inc., 60 F.Supp.2d 1175, 1178 (D. Kan. 1999). First, "[g]eneral jurisdiction lies when the defendant's contacts with the forum state are so continuous and systematic that the state may exercise personal jurisdiction over the defendant, even if the suit is unrelated to the defendant's contacts with the state." Trierweiler v. Croxton & Trench Holding Corp., 90 F.3d 1523, 1533 (10th Cir. 1996). Second, "[s]pecific jurisdiction exists when a defendant purposely avails himself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum state, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws, and the claims against him arise out of those contacts." Topliff, 60 F.Supp.2d at 1178 (citing Kuenzle, 102 F.3d at 455). Only the specific jurisdiction inquiry is relevant here.

In specific jurisdiction analysis, the court must evaluate the quality and quantity of defendant's contacts with the forum state to determine whether defendant purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conducting business in the forum state. OMI Holdings, 149 F.3d at 1092. Although agreements alone may not establish minimum contacts, "parties who reach out beyond one state and create continuing relationships and obligations with citizens of another state are subject to regulation and sanctions in the other state for the consequences of their activities." TH Agric. & Nutrition, LLC v. Ace Eur. Grp. Ltd., 488 F.3d 1282, 1287-88 (10th Cir. 2007) (quoting Burger King, 471 U.S. at 473). The court must examine the parties' "prior negotiations and contemplated future consequences, along with the terms of the contract and the parties' actual course of dealing." Id. at 1288 (quoting Burger King, 471 U.S. at 479) (additional quotation marks omitted).

The quality and quantity of defendant's contacts establish sufficient minimum contacts with Kansas:

• Defendant reached into Kansas to establish a continuing business relationship with plaintiff, in which defendant paid for plaintiff's medical care.
• Defendant knew that plaintiff was a Kansas resident when the parties entered the contract.
• Defendant arranged medical care for plaintiff in Kansas and advanced payments to ...

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