U.S. Court of Appeals Finds No Personal Jurisdiction in Illinois Under the Minimum State Contacts Analysis

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago has found an Illinois resident did not establish the minimum state contacts for a case to be heard in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago.

William Kipp purchased a ski ticket at Devil’s Head Ski Resort in Merrimac, Wis., on Jan. 6, 2012. As Kipp was attempting to board the ski lift, the speed of the lift caused him to be thrown from the chair. He suffered a left clavicle, collar bone fracture.

Kipp sued Ski Enterprise, the lift operator, claiming that the lift’s operating speed was the too fast and that the operator was negligent, causing his injuries.

Kipp brought his lawsuit in Chicago’s federal court, the Northern District of Illinois. Kipp was an Illinois citizen while Ski Enterprise was both incorporated and had its principal place of business in Wisconsin. Ski Enterprise filed a motion to dismiss based on the court’s lack of personal jurisdiction.

The district court judge allowed limited discovery, during which it was revealed that Ski Enterprise owned and operated the ski slopes at Devil’s Head. Ski Enterprise’s only office is in Wisconsin, and the company did not engage in print or broadcast advertising in the State of Illinois.

The only contact Ski Enterprise had with Illinois was its attendance at a trade show in Chicago every year. Ski Enterprise meets with potential customers at the trade show and obtains their e-mail addresses later sending out by e-mail newsletters touting its services and sales. After discovery, the district court judge granted the motion to dismiss. Kipp appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, also in Chicago.

The appellate panel noted that once a defendant moves to dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating the existence of jurisdiction.

The appeals panel also found that the Illinois statutes on personal jurisdiction authorized the panel to consider only federal due process limitations on personal jurisdiction.

Kipp argued that the district court had personal jurisdiction over Ski Enterprise under the general jurisdiction theory. The panel noted that general jurisdiction exists only when the organization is essentially at home in the forum state.

The panel then turned to Ski Enterprise’s contacts with Illinois. Citing Roiser v. Cascade Mountain Inc., the panel stated that advertising within Illinois and attendance at a trade show was not enough to support a finding of general jurisdiction but can be considered only as mere solicitation and is inadequate for the purposes of a contacts analysis.

The appeals panel also found that Ski Enterprise lacked other contacts that normally would be required for such a finding. The panel noted that the company has no offices in Illinois, no employees in Illinois, is not registered to do business in Illinois, and does not advertise within it borders.

The panel noted that while the percentage of customers at Devil’s Head from Illinois was substantial, it was unclear whether that was a result of Ski Enterprise’s Illinois solicitations or merely a result of the proximity to Illinois to the resort and the high population density of Chicago.

Finally, the panel rejected Kipp’s argument that Ski Enterprise’s website authorized a finding of jurisdiction. The court cited Tamburo v. Dworkin, where the panel stated that to maintain a public website is insufficient, by itself, to establish general jurisdiction.

In conclusion, the U.S. Court of Appeals stated that Kipp had failed to make a prima facie case of jurisdiction, and therefore affirmed the district court’s decision dismissing Kipp’s personal injury lawsuit.

William R. Kipp v. Ski Enterprise Corporation of Wisconsin, Inc., No. 14-2527 (U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, April 15, 2015).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling nursing home abuse cases, automobile accident cases, truck accident cases and catastrophic injury cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Cicero, Des Plaines, Evergreen Park, Fox River Grove, Lincolnwood, Lincolnshire, Oak Park, Oak Lawn, St. Charles, Mundelein, Lockport, Lemont Chicago 9Old Town Triangle, Pill Hill, Pilsen, Princeton Park, Printer’s Row, Rogers Park, Roscoe Village, Sheffield, Sauganash, South Loop), Rosemont, Prospect Heights and Northfield, Ill.

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