A. Personal Jurisdiction
In deciding a Motion to dismiss for want of personal jurisdiction in a
diversity case, a federal district court looks to the law of the state in
which it sits. Dehmlow v. Austin Fireworks, Inc., 963 F.2d 941, 945 (7th
Cir. 1992). If personal jurisdiction is found under Illinois law, the
next step is to determine whether asserting jurisdiction is a violation
of due process. Burnham v. Super. Ct. of California, County of Marin,
495 U.S. 604, 110 S.Ct. 2105, 109 L.Ed.2d 631 (1990).
The Illinois Long-arm statute, 735 ILCS 5/2-209, however, was amended
in 1989 to make Illinois law coextensive with minimum due process
requirements. Brandt Consol. Inc. v. Agrimar Corp., 801 F. Supp. 164,
168-169 (C.D.Ill. 1992). Thus, analysis can be limited to whether
asserting jurisdiction over Mr. Read satisfies due process requirements
under the Illinois and United States Constitututions.*fn1 Pilipauskas
v. Yakel, 258 Ill. App.3d 47, 629 N.E.2d 733, 739, 196 Ill.Dec. 188, 194
(1st Dist.), appeal denied, 156 Ill.2d 566, 638 N.E.2d 1124, 202
Ill.Dec. 930 (1994).
1. FEDERAL DUE PROCESS
As noted by Judge Tinder of the Southern District of Indiana, "[the]
search for the outer limits of what due process permits may be singular,
but it is not simple." Simpson v. Quality Oil Co., 723 F. Supp. 382, 386
(S.D.Ind.1989). "[The] determination is one in which few answers will be
written `in black and white. The greys are dominant and even among them
the shades are innumerable." Kulko v. California Super. Ct., 436 U.S. 84,
92, 98 S.Ct. 1690, 1696, 56 L.Ed.2d 132 (1978). (quoting Estin v. Estin,
334 U.S. 541, 545, 68 S.Ct. 1213, 1216, 92 L.Ed. 1561 (1948)).
According to the Supreme Court, due process requires that a nonresident
defendant have "minimum contacts with [the forum] such that the
maintenance of the suit does not offend "traditional notions of fair play
and substantial justice.'" International Shoe Co. v. Washington,
326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S.Ct. 154, 158, 90 L.Ed. 95 (1945) (quoting
Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463, 61 S.Ct. 339, 342, 85 L.Ed. 278
Minimum contacts have been defined as "some act by which the defendant
purposely avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities within
the forum state, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws."
Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253, 78 S.Ct. 1228, 1240, 2 L.Ed.2d 1283
(1958). The due process clause enables "potential defendants to structure
their primary conduct with some minimum assurance as to where that
conduct will and will not render them liable to suit." World-Wide
Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297, 100 S.Ct. 559, 567, 62
L.Ed.2d 490 (1980).
Whether it is reasonable to require a defendant to defend a suit is
determined by examining the relationship between the defendant, the
forum, and the litigation. Shaffer v. Heitner, 433 U.S. 186, 97 S.Ct.
2569, 53 L.Ed.2d 683 (1977). However, "[the] sufficiency of minimum
contacts cannot be determined by any set formula or rule of thumb, but
"must rest on a consideration of what is fair and reasonable in the
circumstances of each particular case.'" Deluxe Ice Cream Co. v. R.C.H.
Tool Corp., 726 F.2d 1209, 1213 (7th Cir. 1984) (quoting Telco Leasing,
Inc. v. Marshall County Hosp., 586 F.2d 49, 50 (7th Cir. 1978)). See
Kulko v. California Super. Ct., 436 U.S. 84, 92, 98 S.Ct. 1690, 1696, 56
L.Ed.2d 132 (1978).
Because there are two kinds of personal jurisdiction—specific and
general—whether Robert Read's contacts with Illinois justify
hauling him before this Court depends on two separate tests. In order for
specific jurisdiction to apply, the controversy must arise from or be
related to the defendant's contacts with the forum state.*fn2
Nacionales de Colombia v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414, 104 S.Ct. 1868, 1872,
80 L.Ed.2d 404 (1984). Conversely, general jurisdiction applies when the
underlying cause of action does not arise from the defendant's contacts
but the defendant has "continuous and systematic" contacts with the
forum. Id. at 416, 104 S.Ct. at 1872.
a. Robert Read's Contacts With Illinois
According to his affidavit, Robert Read driving the truck leased to Ro
Mar in 1990 and his regular duty involved driving between Grand Rapids
and Chicago. At the time of the accident, Mr. Read was enroute to
Chicago. The record, however, does not state exactly how often Mr. Read
made the trip between 1990 and the date of the accident, July 22, 1992,
or if he continues to make the trip. Mr. Read was paid by Mr. but
apparently always drove on behalf of Ro Mar. Robert Read did not pay
Illinois taxes nor have an Illinois drivers license.
b. Specific Jurisdiction
Regardless of the terminology of the test—"arose out of,"
"related to," or "substantive relevance," whether there was a sufficient
nexus between Robert Read's contacts with Illinois and the accident is a
close question. Most courts, however, in deciding cases involving truck
drivers or others travelling on business to or from a forum state who are
involved in accidents outside the forum state have held that there is not
a sufficient nexus between the drive to or from the forum state and the
controversy. Saylor v. Dyniewski, 836 F.2d 341 (7th Cir. 1988) (Illinois
court does not have jurisdiction over a defendant returning from a
business trip in Illinois who subsequently is involved in an accident in
Indiana); Amos v. Pendry, 810 F. Supp. 146 (M.D.Pa. 1992) (Pennsylvania
court does not have jurisdiction over a truck driver who travelled
through Pennsylvania before becoming involved in an accident in New
Jersey); Simpson v. Quality Oil Co., 723 F. Supp. 382 (S.D.Ind. 1989)
(Indiana court does not have jurisdiction over a truck driver who was
filling his tanker for transport to Indiana when accident occurred in
Kentucky); Whitaker v. Krestmark of Alabama, Inc., 157 Ga. App. 536,
78 S.E.2d 116 (1981) (Alabama driver enroute to Georgia to make a
delivery who had n accident in Alabama not subject to long-arm
jurisdiction of Georgia); Volkswagen Insurance Co. v. Whittington,
58 Ill. App.3d 62, 374 N.E.2d 954, 16 Ill.Dec. 179 (1st Dist.1978)
(Illinois court does not have jurisdiction over a Kentucky truck driver
allegedly involved in an accident in Indiana despite the fact that the
trucker was going to pass through Illinois enroute to Wisconsin). See 2
ROBERT C. CASAD, JURISDICTION IN CIVIL ACTIONS § 7.02[e][i] (2d
ed. 1991). Contra Cornelison v. Chaney, 16 Cal.3d 143, 127 Cal.Rptr. 352,
545 P.2d 264 (1976) (California courts have personal jurisdiction over an
interstate trucker from Nebraska enroute to California who struck a
California resident in Nevada because contact with California
"substantially related" to controversy).
In accordance with the majority or courts deciding the issue, this
Court holds that the mere fact Robert Read was enroute to Illinois at the
time of the accident does not constitute a sufficient nexus between the
accident and the destination to support specific jurisdiction.
c. General Jurisdiction
Despite the lack of specific jurisdiction, it is possible that Robert
Read's contacts with Illinois were sufficiently "continuous and systematic"
to warrant the imposition of general jurisdiction. Helicopteros
Nacionales de Colombia v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 416,
104 S.Ct. 1868, 1872, 80 L.Ed.2d 404 (1984). In fact, in a case very
similar to the instant one, United States District Judge James Miller of
the District of Maryland held that he could assert personal jurisdiction
over an out-of-state truck driver who drove a truck in Maryland because
the driver "personally fravel[ed] in Maryland frequently, on a regular
basis, in a purposeful way, and in a manner integral to
. . . [his] business . . . of truck driver." Cartsr v. Massey,
436 F. Supp. 29, 34 (D.Md. 1977).
On the other hand, in Cornelison v. Chaney, 16 Cal.3d 143,
127 Cal.Rptr. 352, 545 P.2d 264 (1976), the California Supreme Court
concluded that the defendant truck driver who had hauled loads to
California at least 20 times and was licensed by the State of California
did not have sufficient contacts with California to "justify general
jurisdiction over him to adjudicate all matters regardless of their
relevance to the cause of action alleged by plaintiff." Id. Likewise,
Judge Tinder in Simpson v. Quality Oil Co., 723 F. Supp. 382 (S.D.Ind.
1989), concluded that he did not have general jurisdiction over a trucker
who on "numerous occasions" delivered fuel to Indiana locations. Id. at
387 n. 3.
This Court finds no meaningful way to distinguish the Carter,
Cornelison, and Simpson cases. Moreover, the Seventh Circuit and the
Supreme Court have not addressed the specific issue. The Supreme Court,
however, has held "that mere purchases, even occurring at regular
intervals, are not enough to warrant a State's assertion of in personam
jurisdiction over a nonresident corporation in a cause of action not
related to those purchase transactions." Helicopteros Nacionales de
Colombia v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 418, 104 S.Ct. 1868, 1874, 80 L.Ed.2d 404
(1984). Additionally, an employee's contacts with the forum are not to be
judged according to his employer's contacts. Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783,
104 S.Ct. 1482, 79 L.Ed.2d 804 (1984).
Thus, the Court is left with little clear guidance as to whether Robert
Read's contacts with Illinois are sufficient to warrant general
Jurisdiction. Nevertheless, the Court holds that fundamental fairness
mandates that the mere fact Robert Read, as part of his job, frequently
drives into Illinois is not sufficient to justify subjugating him to the
power of Illinois Courts for suits not arising from his work in Illinois.
Hauling him into court in Illinois for his involvement in a Michigan
accident would not be foreseeable, fair or reasonable.
2. ILLINOIS DUE PROCESS
Defendant Read also claims the Illinois Constitution prohibits this
Court from exercising jurisdiction over him. More specifically, he
contends that the "fiduciary shield doctrine" applies. This Court,
however, will not address the issue because asserting jurisdiction in
this case violates the United States Constitution.
B. Failure to State a Claim Under Michigan Law
Defendant Read also contends that the Complaint should be dismissed for
failure to state a claim under Michigan law.*fn3 However, for the same
reason discussed above in regards to the Illinois Constitution, this
Court will not address the merits of this contention.
C. Improper Venue
Because Defendant Read is not subject to the jurisdiction of this
Court, venue is improper. 28 U.S.C. § 1391 (a)(3). This Court,
however, has the discretion to transfer the case to a district in which
venue is proper, if transfer is "in the interest of justice."
28 U.S.C. § 1406 (a). A district court's determination under
28 U.S.C. § 1406 (a) will only be reversed upon a showing of a clear
abuse of discretion. Saylor v. Dyniewski, 836 F.2d 341, 345 (7th Cir.
Defendant Read argues that this Court should dismiss rather than
transfer the case. In support, he cites Cote v. Wadel, 796 F.2d 981 (7th
Cir. 1986). In Cote, the Seventh Circuit affirmed a district court's
decision to dismiss rather than transfer because plaintiff chose to rely
on the "slight probability" of obtaining personal jurisdiction in
Wisconsin instead of filing a protective suit in Michigan. Id. at 985.
Cots, however, is distinguishable from the instant case. Specifically,
Plaintiffs in this case had more than a slight probability of obtaining
personal jurisdiction in Illinois. In fact, as previously discussed, there
are two cases with very similar facts, Carter v. Massey, 436 F. Supp. 29
(D.Md. 1977) and Cornelison v. Chaney, 16 Cal.3d 143, 127 Cal.Rptr. 352,
545 P.2d 264 (1976), in which jurisdiction was held to be proper. Thus,
although the better course would have been to file a protective suit,
justice is best served if this case is transferred to the Western
District of Michigan for further proceedings.
Ergo, Defendants' motion to dismiss (d/e 6) is ALLOWED.
This case is transferred to the Western District of Michigan.