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Johnston v. United Presbyterian Church





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. MYRON T. GOMBERG, Judge, presiding.


Plaintiff appeals the granting of defendants' motion to quash service of process for lack of in personam jurisdiction and the dismissal of his action without leave to amend. On appeal, he contends that his action was improperly dismissed because the evidence established that defendants transacted business in the State within the meaning of the Illinois long-arm statute.

It is alleged in plaintiff's complaint *fn1 that defendant United Presbyterian Church (Church) operates under the law of New York, and defendant William P. Thompson (Thompson) does business from the Office of the General Assembly of the Church in New York City; that both defendants submitted to jurisdiction under section 17(1)(a) of the Civil Practice Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 110, par. 17(1)(a)) by virtue of transacting business in the State through five subordinate units of the Church judiciary, called judicatories, by which the actions of each lower judicatory are approved and adopted by those successively higher; that a contract, referred to as a "call" and establishing a "pastoral relationship" between plaintiff and the First Presbyterian Church of Geneseo, Illinois (congregation), commenced on November 1, 1953, and was approved and adopted by the Presbytery of Rock River (presbytery), a district organization with jurisdiction over the congregation; that the parties performed under the contract until 1971, with periodic salary changes being approved by the presbytery having jurisdiction; that the pastoral relationship was terminated "without reasonable cause" in 1971 by the congregation and with approval of the presbytery, which constituted breach of contract; and that plaintiff brought the present action after exhausting all remedies within the Church over an 8-year period.

Defendants were served with process in New York and filed a special appearance objecting to in personam jurisdiction (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 110, par. 20(1)) and moved to quash service. In support thereof, defendants attached an affidavit of Thompson which stated in substance that, except between 1939 and 1942, he was never a resident of the State; that he did not participate in any manner in the termination of plaintiff at the congregation; that the Church is a Pennsylvania corporation and neither owns property nor maintains an office in the State; that neither he nor the Church had any contact with plaintiff in the State regarding plaintiff's termination nor availed themselves of State law as to the actions attributed to them in the complaint. Also, in their supporting memorandum defendants asserted that, based on the Thompson affidavit, the Church does not transact business in the State.

Plaintiff filed an objection to the motion to quash and a supporting affidavit and memorandum. Defendants' motion was granted on October 27, 1980, and the action dismissed. Plaintiff then presented his "Objection to the Order of October 27, 1980," which was overruled, and his motion to amend the complaint was denied.


Plaintiff initially contends that the trial court erred in granting defendants' motion to quash service of process and in dismissing the cause of action for lack of personal jurisdiction because defendants' contacts with the State, in the form of the transaction of business, were sufficient to subject it to the jurisdiction of the circuit court. Personal jurisdiction over nonresidents is acquired by means of section 17 of the Civil Practice Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 110, par. 17), the so-called "long-arm" statute, which provides in relevant part:

"(1) Any person, whether or not a citizen or resident of the State, who in person or through an agent does any of the acts hereinafter enumerated, thereby submits such 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 such acts:

(a) The transaction of any business within this State;

(3) Only causes of action arising from acts enumerated herein may be asserted against a defendant in an action in which jurisdiction over him is based upon this Section."

The legislative intent of section 17 is to provide the means for asserting personal jurisdiction over nonresident defendants consistent with Federal due process requirements. (Nelson v. Miller (1957), 11 Ill.2d 378, 143 N.E.2d 673.) To satisfy such requirements and thereby to bind defendant to an adverse judgment, it is necessary that defendant have certain minimum contacts with the forum State, so that requiring him to defend therein is reasonable and does not offend the "`traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice'" (International Shoe Co. v. Washington (1945), 326 U.S. 310, 316, 90 L.Ed. 95, 102, 66 S.Ct. 154, 158, quoting Milliken v. Meyer (1940), 311 U.S. 457, 463, 85 L.Ed. 278, 283, 61 S.Ct. 339, 343), and, as further defined, the minimal contacts concept requires a showing that through some act "defendant purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws" (Hanson v. Denckla (1958), 357 U.S. 235, 253, 2 L.Ed.2d 1283, 1298, 78 S.Ct. 1228, 1240). The standard set forth in International Shoe continues to be the test for determining if nonresident defendants are subject to the jurisdiction of a State's courts> (Shaffer v. Heitner (1977), 433 U.S. 186, 53 L.Ed.2d 683, 97 S.Ct. 2569), and those requirements "must be met as to each defendant over whom a state court exercises jurisdiction" (Rush v. Savchuk (1980), 444 U.S. 320, 332, 62 L.Ed.2d 516, 527, 100 S.Ct. 571, 579).

• 1 The principles of International Shoe are applied on a case-by-case basis (Gray v. American Radiator & Standard Sanitary Corp. (1961), 22 Ill.2d 432, 176 N.E.2d 761), and thus the quality of the defendant's activities are evaluated in the full context of the circumstances presented (Braband v. Beech Aircraft Corp. (1978), 72 Ill.2d 548, 382 N.E.2d 252, cert. denied (1979), 442 U.S. 928, 61 L.Ed.2d 296, 99 S.Ct. 2857), in order to determine what is fair and reasonable (Mergenthaler Linotype Co. v. Leonard Storch Enterprises, Inc. (1978), 66 Ill. App.3d 789, 383 N.E.2d 1379). Moreover, the phrase "arising from" in sections 17(1) and 17(3) has been construed as requiring that there be a sufficiently close relationship between the defendant's business activities in the State and the litigation against him. As stated in Volkswagen Insurance Co. v. Whittington (1978), 58 Ill. App.3d 621, 625, 374 N.E.2d 954, 957:

"The foreign corporation's business within Illinois must be related to the cause of action in question before section 17(1)(a) will confer personal jurisdiction. If none of this business gives rise, at least in part, to the cause of action in question, then no such jurisdiction exists."

In each case of contested jurisdiction, the burden of proving its existence rests upon the party asserting it. (Stephens v. Northern Indiana Public Service Co. (1980), 87 Ill. App.3d 961, 409 N.E.2d 423.) In essence, therefore, a plaintiff asserting the presence of in personam jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant must, first of all, satisfy the minimum contacts requirement of section 17 and of due process; and, secondly, must demonstrate that the cause of action arose from the jurisdictional acts of defendant, as required by section 17. (See Morton v. Environmental Land ...

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