March 18, 2020

Seventh Circuit rules that Bristol-Myers decision does not apply to TCPA class action

On March 11, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that the U.S. Supreme Court’s personal jurisdiction decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court does not prohibit a plaintiff from filing a nationwide class action in federal court pursuant to a federal statute against a defendant over whom the particular federal court does not have general jurisdiction.  Mussat v. IQVIA, Inc., et al., No. 17-C-8841 (7th Cir. Mar. 11, 2020).  The Seventh Circuit’s decision reverses a judgment by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in a class action brought by an Illinois plaintiff physician for alleged violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (the “TCPA”).  Plaintiff alleges that the defendant, IQVIA, sent unsolicited faxes that did not include the opt-out notice required under the TCPA.  The District Court granted IQVIA’s motion to strike the proposed class definition finding that the Bristol-Myers decision prevented Plaintiff from asserting claims on behalf of other nationwide class members with no contacts with Illinois.  In Bristol-Myers, the Supreme Court had held that every individual plaintiff in a particular state action was required to show minimum contacts between the individual plaintiff’s claims and the forum state.  Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court (137 S. Ct. 1773 (2017).

In Mussat v. IQVIA, the Seventh Circuit disagreed with the District Court’s reasoning and explained that the Bristol-Myers plaintiffs were distinguishable because they asserted state-law claims in an action where each plaintiff was a named party who was required to prove personal jurisdiction.  Mussat, by contrast, was a lead plaintiff who alleged a nationwide class pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 23 and had requested relief for violations of the TCPA, a federal statute.  The Seventh Circuit explained that, under Rule 23, a lead plaintiff can earn the right to represent the interests of absent class members by satisfying the criteria of Rule 23(a) and one branch of Rule 23(b), and that Rule 23(b)’s analysis focuses on the lead plaintiff.  The Seventh Circuit also explained that the Supreme Court did not reach the question of whether its holding in Bristol-Myers applied to class actions.  For these reasons, the Seventh Circuit reversed the District Court’s judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Seventh Circuit Opinion