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Jurisdiction Over Out-of-State Defendants Unconstitutional in Illinois

The Illinois Supreme Court recently unanimously held that an out-of-state manufacturer defendant’s constitutional rights were violated by exercising jurisdiction over the manufacturer. Rios et al., v. Bayer Corporation et al., and Hamby et al., v. Bayer Corporation et al., 2020 IL 125020. The Court, relying on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2017 decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, held that Illinois may not exercise specific jurisdiction “over an out-of-state defendant as to the claims of out-of-state plaintiffs when the conduct giving rise to the claims did not occur in the forum state.”

The Court held that a non-resident plaintiff must show a “meaningful connection” between the claim and the defendant’s activity in Illinois to justify the exercise of specific jurisdiction by Illinois courts. A defendant’s general activity in the state, unrelated to the plaintiff’s claim, provides no basis for exercising specific personal jurisdiction over that defendant.

Here, the nonresident plaintiffs had argued that Illinois’ exercise of specific jurisdiction was proper because Bayer 1) sought regulatory approval of the product, 2) created a physician accreditation program and conducted physician training, and 3) conducted clinical trials in Illinois. The Court disagreed and pointed to the lack of allegations that 1) the product was manufactured in Illinois, 2) the nonresident plaintiffs or their medical providers had received false information in Illinois, 3) the nonresident Plaintiffs’ physicians were inadequately trained in Illinois, nor 4) the nonresident Plaintiffs’ devices were implanted in Illinois.

A nonresident plaintiff’s argument that they sustained the same injury as an in-state co-plaintiff does not suffice to establish specific jurisdiction. The Court further highlighted the Bristol-Myers observations that the out-of-state plaintiffs could pursue their claims elsewhere, including by joining in a consolidated action in states that had general jurisdiction over defendant.

With this decision, the Illinois Supreme Court slammed the door on plaintiff’s argument that Illinois could exercise specific personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant as to the claims of out-of-state plaintiffs for personal injuries suffered outside of Illinois from a device manufactured outside of Illinois. Timely motions to dismiss must be filed to preserve this defense and the issue should be raised it at the earliest possible time. Polsinelli attorneys have the expertise to analyze issues of personal jurisdiction and advise clients on whether motions to dismiss are appropriate under the facts of the individual case.

© Polsinelli PC, Polsinelli LLP in CaliforniaNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 168
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About this Author

Dennis Dobbels, Polsinelli Law Firm, Toxic and Mass Tort Attorney
Shareholder, Practice Chair

With his 25 years of trial and appellate experience, Dennis J. Dobbels offers clients an extensive background in all aspects of product liability, toxic tort and legacy liability, tax litigation, and insurance and complex commercial litigation.

In state and federal courtrooms around the nation, Mr. Dobbels has handled single plaintiff cases and consolidated cases involving more than 100 plaintiffs.  Mr. Dobbels also serves as regional trial counsel, assisting clients with complex litigation issues and managing the administrative and trial...

816-360-4312
Nicole Behnen, Polsinelli Law Firm, Product Liability Litigation Attorney
Shareholder, Practice Vice-Chair

Nicole Behnen takes pride in helping clients in the defense of lawsuits involving products liability, premises liability and toxic torts. Nicole serves as Vice Chair of the firm’s national Products Liability and Toxic Tort practice. She serves as regional and local counsel for several major asbestos defendants. Nicole also represents clients in state and federal courts in Missouri and Illinois. She has been involved in asbestos litigation since 1996 and has extensive litigation experience in cases involving benzene, perchloroethylene, chrome, and other industry exposures...

314-552-6825
Brandy R. Harty, Polsinelli PC, automotive products lawyer, electrical equipment attorney, Toxic Tort
Counsel

Cultivating valuable professional relationships from the initial complaint through an optimal resolution, Brandy Harty takes pride in successfully guiding clients through the defense of lawsuits.

As a member of Polsinelli’s Toxic Tort team, Brandy represents a wide variety of defendants, from small companies to the largest corporate entities, including product manufacturers and suppliers (automotive products, electrical equipment and industrial equipment); contractors (design, engineering and construction firms); and premise owners (...

618.692.2605
Allison K. Sonneveld, Polsinelli PC, Products Liability matters Lawyer, Toxic Tort Attorney,
Attorney

Allison Sonneveld has focused her entire career on the defending companies in litigation matters with an emphasis on toxic tort and products liability matters. Allison has handled claims involving alleged exposures to asbestos, benzene, diacetyl, and welding rods, as well as other commercial litigation matters. Allison has managed all aspects of litigation including conducting discovery, taking numerous depositions, preparing and arguing motions, and drafting appellate briefs

618.692.2622
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