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McMullen v. Synchrony Bank

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

September 8, 2015

VALERIE MCMULLEN, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
SYNCHRONY BANK, et al., Defendants

          For VALERIE MCMULLEN, Plaintiff: Brendan James Klaproth, LEAD ATTORNEY, KLAPROTH LAW PLLC, Washington, DC.

         For SYNCHRONY BANK, formerly known as GE CAPITAL RETAIL BANK, doing business as CARECREDIT, Defendant: Gregory Thomas Jaeger, LEAD ATTORNEY, STROOCK & STROOCK & LAVAN, Washington, DC; Julia B. Strickland, Marcos D. Sasso, PRO HAC VICE, STROOCK & STROOCK & LAVAN LLP, Los Angeles, CA.

         For JPMORGAN CHASE & CO., doing business as CHASE HEALTH ADVANCE, Defendant: Eric C. Bosset, Robert D. Wick, LEAD ATTORNEYS, COVINGTON & BURLING, LLP, Washington, DC.


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         JOHN D. BATES, United States District Judge.

         After a period of Court-ordered jurisdictional discovery, plaintiff Valerie McMullen's renewed motion for remand hinges upon the answer to one question: were more than two-thirds of her proposed class citizens of the District of Columbia at the time this case became removable to federal court? If the answer is yes, then her action is a local controversy that must be litigated in the District of Columbia Superior Court, where it was originally filed. McMullen urges the Court to find this standard met and remand her case or, in the alternative, prolong the period for jurisdictional discovery. But the Court will do neither. McMullen has failed to show that more than two-thirds of the proposed class were citizens of the District of Columbia at the relevant time and, in the Court's view, additional discovery would likely be unhelpful. McMullen's renewed motion for remand will therefore be denied.


         McMullen brought this action in Superior Court against two individuals (Wayne Bullen and Karim Steward), three of their companies (Bullen Wellness, Washington Chiropractic, and One World Fitness), and two banks (Synchrony Bank and JP Morgan Chase) for their alleged participation in a fraudulent scheme involving lines of healthcare-related credit. See Compl. [ECF No. 1-1] at 2-3. After McMullen amended her initial complaint to add class allegations, see Am. Compl. [ECF No. 1-2] at 14-15, Chase removed the case to this Court, see Notice of Removal [ECF No. 1]. McMullen responded with a motion to remand, arguing that the Court lacked jurisdiction and that, even if it had jurisdiction, it would be barred from exercising jurisdiction by the local controversy exception to the Class Action Fairness Act. See Pl.'s Mot. for Remand [ECF No. 12-1]. In a prior Memorandum Opinion, the Court concluded that CAFA affords it jurisdiction over this case and that all but one of the local controversy elements is satisfied. See McMullen v. Synchrony Bank, 82 F.Supp.3d 133, 2015 WL 632212 (D.D.C. Feb. 13, 2015). But because the Court was unable to discern whether two-thirds of the putative class members were District of Columbia citizens, it reserved final judgment on whether the local controversy exception applies and ordered limited jurisdictional discovery focused on that issue. See Id. at *2.

         The Court's discovery Order instructed Synchrony and Chase to submit declarations to McMullen indicating the total number of accounts opened through Bullen, Steward, and their affiliated companies; the date each account was opened; and the name and last known address associated with each. See Mar. 18, 2015 Order [ECF No. 35] at 2. They were also ordered to produce a copy of each named individual's driver's license " to the extent

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such documents [were] already in their possession." Id. The Order required the rest of the defendants to produce a copy of the driver's license for each customer who had received healthcare financing from the banks, and " [a]ny other document" relating to those customers' last known addresses. See id. at 1-2. In the intervening months, Synchrony and Chase have provided declarations identifying the last known addresses for 892 putative class members. See Pl.'s Renewed Mot. for Remand [ECF No. 52-1] (Pl.'s Renewed Mot.) at 6. Wayne Bullen, Bullen Wellness, and Washington Chiropractic (the Bullen defendants) have produced the " patient records for ninety-three . . . putative class members," all of whom were included in the banks' declarations. Id. at 5-6. But Karim Steward and One World Fitness (the Steward defendants) have " failed to produce a single document." Id. at 7. None of the defendants have produced driver's licenses.

         In her renewed motion, McMullen argues that the evidence produced so far weighs in favor of remand to Superior Court under the local controversy exception. See Pl.'s Renewed Mot. at 5. But in the event the Court disagrees, McMullen asks it to reserve judgment on her motion ...

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