Illinois Supreme Court Reaffirms New Due Process Limitations for Personal Jurisdiction Over Nonresidents
Madison County, Ill. (June 12, 2020) - On June 4, 2020, the Illinois Supreme Court handed down an opinion in the joint actions Christy Rios et al., Appellees, v. Bayer Corporation et al., Appellants and Nichole Hamby et al., Appellees, v. Bayer Corporation et al., Appellants (Docket Nos. 125020, 125021), which again recognized new U.S. Supreme Court due process limitations for personal jurisdiction over nonresident defendants. This opinion specifically addressed the “arising out of” and “reasonableness” prongs of specific jurisdiction in Illinois and follows the precedents set forth in Bristol Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, 582 U.S. ___, 137 S. Ct. 1773 (2017) and Walden v. Fiore, 571 U.S. 277, 284 (2014)
Plaintiffs Rios and Hamby were residents of Madison County, Illinois and filed two separate actions in Madison County, Illinois, which were joined by 179 other plaintiffs from around the country. Together, the plaintiffs alleged that Bayer “used Illinois to develop, label, or work on the regulatory approval for Essure,” a type of permanent birth control for women, and that Bayer created a training program for physicians in Illinois, a marketing strategy for Essure in Illinois, and contracted with physicians in Illinois to conduct clinical trials. The defendant did not dispute these directed activities in Illinois. The plaintiffs asserted that these actions alone permitted Illinois courts to exercise specific personal jurisdiction over the out-of-state defendant, as to the claims of the nonresident plaintiffs in the suit, for injuries suffered outside of Illinois, by a device manufactured and purchased outside of Illinois.
The Illinois Supreme Court held that “Bristol-Myers foreclose[d] plaintiffs’ theory of specific personal jurisdiction.” The court found that the fact pattern was remarkably similar to the Bristol-Myers fact pattern and, like Bristol-Myers, that the Illinois state court could not exercise specific personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant as to the claims of nonresident plaintiffs when the conduct giving rise to the claims did not occur in the forum state. That is, the defendant’s directed activity to a state (the “purposeful availment” prong) was not enough by itself to establish specific personal jurisdiction. Indeed, all of the plaintiffs’ claims must also “arise out of,” or “relate to,” the directed activities in a “meaningful sense of the terms.” The Illinois Supreme Court did not find an adequate link between Illinois and the nonresident plaintiff’s claims to show that their claims arose from or were related to Bayer’s clinical trials in Illinois, a physician training program for Essure in Illinois, or the coordinated marketing strategy for Illinois. The court was also quick to point out in a footnote that the plaintiffs’ argument in this case were also being made in several other states, citing cases in Missouri, New Mexico, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, and further noting that many of the nonresident plaintiffs had initiated duplicate actions in California.
The Illinois Supreme Court also found that the nonresident claims failed the reasonableness test of World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 291-92 (1980). Specifically, the court noted that Illinois has no particular interest in resolving claims where the injuries did not arise out of activities in Illinois, where Illinois could not reasonably be a convenient location as the nonresident plaintiffs were not in Illinois, or where the plaintiffs' duplicate lawsuits were still pending in California (showing that judicial economy is not furthered by allowing the nonresident Plaintiffs to sue in Illinois).
Last, the Illinois Supreme Court addressed M.M. v. GlaxoSmithKline LLC, 2016 IL App (1st) 151909, a case relied on heavily in the lower courts. The court stated that “[w]e note that M.M. was decided nearly one year before Bristol-Myers. As such, the appellate court did not have the benefit of the Supreme Court’s additional guidance on the propriety of exercising specific personal jurisdiction under similar circumstances . . . We therefore hold that M.M. does not reflect the law in Illinois and should no longer be relied upon.”
While the Illinois Supreme Court’s holding in this case is not particularly surprising in light of recent U.S. Supreme Court opinions, the decision does reinforce the difficulty nonresident plaintiffs will face in Illinois bringing claims against out-of-state defendants for conduct that takes place outside of Illinois, especially in multi-plaintiff suits.
For more information on claims that may be affected by this decision, contact Madison County Managing Partner Jeffrey Bash.
Grace E. Shemwell, Associate
Jeffrey Bash, Managing Partner - Madison County, IL
Charles S. Anderson, Partner