Illinois Appellate Court Reverses Order Regarding Specific and General Jurisdiction

Tomas Buron was stuck by a delivery truck driven by Shane M. Lignar, an employee of Lily Transportation Co., on Nov. 27, 2017. The incident occurred in the parking lot of the Whole Foods delivery building in Munster, Ind.

Buron filed a lawsuit against Lignar and Lily in Cook County. Lignar and Lily moved to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the circuit court lacked personal jurisdiction over both. Lignar is an Indiana resident, the crash occurred in Indiana, and Lily is a Massachusetts corporation with “only limited operations in Illinois.”

Discovery was done on the jurisdictional issue and Buron submitted in his reply brief that the court had jurisdiction over Lily based on the company’s operations in Illinois. Buron further replied that Lignar worked out of the facility in Illinois, made pickups and deliveries in Illinois twice weekly and filed Illinois tax returns in 2018 and 2019. The Cook County Circuit Court judge denied the motion to dismiss before an evidentiary hearing or oral argument. Lignar and Lily petitioned for an appeal.

On appeal, Buron argued that the circuit court had correctly found that it had personal jurisdiction under the “long-arm” statute. The appellate court found however, that Buron was conflating specific and general jurisdiction, as Buron asserted in that Cook County had “specific jurisdiction” over the defendants.

The appellate court disagreed. The appeals panel noted that specific jurisdiction requires that the specific incident giving rise to the action “arose out of or was related to any activity within Illinois,” which Buron did not allege or demonstrate with any evidence.  Accordingly, the appellate court found no specific personal jurisdiction.

The appellate court then turned to general jurisdiction. The court first addressed Lignar, who as an individual defendant is subject to general jurisdiction to serve in Illinois, or if he resided in Illinois, or if “doing business within the state.”

Lignar clearly was not served or a resident in Illinois, and the appellate court found “no evidence that Lignar’s work in Illinois was so continuous and systematic as to render him essentially at home in the state.”

The appeals panel then analyzed the issue of jurisdiction over Lily. Lily acknowledged that it operated two locations in Illinois and that a portion of its revenue comes from the state, but emphasized that for general jurisdiction the level of activity must indicate that the state is Lily’s “surrogate home or principal place of business.” The appellate court found that Lily’s activities in Illinois accounted for approximately 10% of its revenue which was not sufficient to grant general jurisdiction.

As neither defendant was subject to either specific or general jurisdiction, the appellate court reversed the circuit court’s order denying the motion to dismiss for one of jurisdiction and sent the case back most likely for dismissal of the Cook County case.

Tomas Z. Buron v. Shane M. Lignar, et al., 2020 IL App (1st) 192152, Aug. 28, 2020.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling car accident lawsuits, truck accident cases, bicycle injury lawsuits, traumatic brain injury cases and nursing home injury cases for individuals, families and loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Elmhurst, Inverness, Rolling Meadows, Hoffman Estates, Barrington, Bensenville, Lake Zurich, Long Grove, Northbrook, Hinsdale, Naperville, South Holland, Blue Island, Chicago (Canaryville, Bridgeport, Bucktown, Rogers Park, Bronzeville, Andersonville, Edgebrook, Albany Park, Jefferson Park, Jackson Park, South Shore, Pilsen), Highwood, Highland Park, Lake Forest, Wheaton, Bridgeview and Bolingbrook, Ill.

Robert D. Kreisman has been an active member of the Illinois and Missouri bars since 1976.

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