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Court Lacks Personal Jurisdiction Over Lawyers in Racketeering Lawsuit Filed by Asbestos Manufacturer

John Crane, Inc. (JCI) was a manufacturer of asbestos. It sued plaintiff lawyers who had filed asbestos-related cases against it. JCI was a citizen of Illinois. One of the defendant law firms was located in Texas; the other in Pennsylvania. JCI argued that the law firms established sufficient contacts with Illinois when they instituted fraudulent litigation against JCI, an Illinois company. The law firms responded that the lawsuits were filed in Pennsylvania and Texas, not in Illinois. Therefore, there were insufficient contacts with Illinois. Although the lawyers directed document requests, interrogatories against JCI and sent those requests to Illinois, that was not sufficient to allow Illinois to assert jurisdiction over the lawyers. Thus, there was no personal jurisdiction over the defendants and the case was dismissed. The Seventh Circuit agreed with this holding and affirmed the dismissal.

The legal standard used in personal jurisdiction cases is legal boilerplate that adds little to the discussion of whether or not there is jurisdiction.

“Federal courts ordinarily follow state law in determining the bounds of their jurisdiction over persons.”Walden v. Fiore, 134  S.  Ct.  1115,  1121  (2014)  (quoting  Daimler  AG  v.  Bauman, 134  S.  Ct.  746,  753  (2014)). The  Illinois  long-arm  statute  requires  nothing  more  than  the  standard  for  federal  due  process: that the defendant have sufficient contacts with the forum state “such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend  traditional  notions  of  fair  play  and  substantial  justice.” Brook v. McCormley, 873 F.3d 549, 552 (7th Cir. 2017).  This vague formulation means that the party being sued has to have taken some action in the state where the lawsuit is brought. Here, suing an Illinois corporation in Texas or Pennsylvania was not sufficient to give Illinois jurisdiction.

Of course, JCI is free to refile these cases in another state (or federal court in a state) where there is personal jurisdiction over the lawyers.

Ed Clinton, Jr.


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