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Kropp Forge Co. v. Jawitz

OCTOBER 29, 1962.




Appeal from the Superior Court of Cook County; the Hon. JAMES L. McDERMOTT, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.


This is an action for contract damages. Defendant, Harry Jawitz, a nonresident, appeals from a $2600 judgment entered against him in a non-jury trial in the Superior Court of Cook County, Illinois.

Two principal questions are presented: (1) whether the nonresident defendant transacted "any business" within the State of Illinois sufficient to submit defendant "to the jurisdiction of the courts of this state"; and (2) whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain plaintiff's judgment.

Personal service of summons was made on defendant outside of the State of Illinois (§ 16, Civil Practice Act). Defendant filed a special appearance and then moved to quash service of process for lack of jurisdiction over the person of defendant. The motion, supported by an affidavit setting forth the reasons (§ 20, Civil Practice Act), was overruled. Defendant answered, denying the material allegations of plaintiff's complaint and the existence of a contract between the parties, and again denied jurisdiction of the court over the person of defendant.

The evidence shows that plaintiff, in Chicago, and defendant, in New York, by correspondence commencing December 6, 1957, conducted negotiations for the purchase by defendant, from plaintiff, of turbines and generators located in plaintiff's plant at Cicero, Illinois. It is undisputed that defendant, after the exchange of correspondence, visited plaintiff's premises in Cicero, Illinois, on January 15, 1958, where he conversed with plaintiff's employees, inspected the powerhouse in which the turbines and generators were located, and took measurements of the equipment and the powerhouse doorway. A witness for plaintiff, A.F. Tydeman, an employee, testified that after the inspection was completed, defendant left with the "parting statement that he was going to have lunch with his riggers at the Palmer House and make final arrangements for the removal of the equipment."

Defendant, by deposition, testified that at the time of his visit to plaintiff's premises on January 15, 1958, he examined the equipment and found that the turbines were of a condensing type and were therefore unacceptable; that he left the premises and later that day, while at the airport, unsuccessfully tried to reach Tydeman by telephone; and that in Tydeman's absence, he left the message that "I had to leave and there was nothing I could do about the steam turbines."

Tydeman testified he was never informed of defendant's telephone call from the airport, and that on January 16, 1958, by letter to defendant in New York (in evidence), he confirmed the meeting and asked for information as to "the arrangements which have been made for the removal of the equipment." The foregoing, in substance, is the basis on which the trial court found for plaintiff and that defendant was subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of Illinois.

On the question of jurisdiction, defendant contends that he never transacted business in Illinois within the meaning of Section 17 of the Civil Practice Act. Of the various forms of activity set forth in Section 17(1), by which defendant might be held to have submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the Illinois courts, only subsection (1)(a) is relevant here. This provides:

"(1) Any person, whether or not a citizen or resident of this State, who in person or through an agent does any of the acts hereinafter enumerated, thereby submits said person, and, if an individual, his personal representative, to the jurisdiction of the courts of this State as to any cause of action arising from the doing of any of said acts:

"(a) The transaction of any business within this State."

Defendant's affidavit in support of his motion to quash the summons states, and it is not controverted, that: he is a resident of the State of New York; never maintained any office, telephone, situs or location in Illinois, nor employed any help of any kind in the state; and that during the years 1957 and 1958, other than the correspondence in this suit and the trip to Chicago in January, 1958, he was not present in Illinois and transacted no business in Illinois.

As pointed out by defendant, the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235 (1958), stated:

"The unilateral activity of those who claim some relationship with a nonresident defendant cannot satisfy the requirement of contact with the forum State. The application of that rule will vary with the quality and nature of the defendant's activity, but it is essential in each case that there be some act by which the defendant purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws."

The landmark case of International Shoe Co. v. State of Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945), pronounced the requirement of "minimum contacts" with the forum state as a necessary precondition to the assertion of jurisdiction over a nonresident ...

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