Residents Suing Nonresidents for Harm in Illinois
Illinois Bar Journal, Vol. 96, p. 318, 2008
4 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2008 Last revised: 13 Feb 2009
Date Written: 2008
In early 2006, two Illinois circuit judges, one in Cook County and one downstate, denied dismissals sought by two nonresidents on personal jurisdiction grounds upon finding there were sufficient contacts between the nonresidents and Illinois to support specific in person am authority. Each losing defendant sought immediate intermediate appellate court review which, though initially denied, was ordered (without a rationale) by the Illinois Supreme Court under its supervisory authority. Both appellate courts then reversed, freeing the nonresidents from suits in Illinois.
Each nonresident had caused significant harm in Illinois to an Illinois resident. In Ploense v. Electrolux Home Products, Inc., a nonresident allegedly harmed an Illinois worker by conspiring outside of Illinois to suppress knowledge of the harmful health effects of chrome used during manufacturing in Illinois and around the country. In Morris v. Halsey Enterprises, Ltd. another nonresident allegedly harmed an Illinois resident at home by placing in the stream of commerce a defective fan which was bought and then malfunctioned in Illinois. While nonresidents surely may not be sued in violation of procedural due process protections, in each case there were adequate bases for authority. Yet each court told an Illinois resident, hurt in Illinois, to take an Illinois state law claim to a court outside of Illinois. Each appellate court found no personal jurisdiction because the nonresident had not intentionally aimed at or targeted Illinoisians. Both courts read far too narrowly the due process requirement that to be amenable to suit, a nonresident must purposefully avail itself of the privilege of conducting activities in the forum. Due process allows suits against nonresidents who act indirectly in the forum. In both cases the nonresidents benefitted from their indirect acts in Illinois and reasonably should have anticipated suits in Illinois. Hopefully, given the Illinois Supreme Courts interest, there will soon emerge a different approach, allowing more Illinoisians to sue nonresidents in Illinois for harms caused in Illinois under Illinois laws through conspiracy or stream of commerce acts.
Keywords: Civil Procedure, Personal Jurisdiction, Stream of Commerce, Conspiricies, Minimum Contacts, Nonresidents
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