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Khan v. Van Remmen

September 18, 2001

LIAQUAT KHAN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT
v.
VAN REMMEN, INC., AND THOMAS HAYNES, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 00-AR-1287 Honorable Richard A. Lucas, Judge, Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Bowman

UNPUBLISHED

Plaintiff, Liaquat Khan, filed suit in the circuit court of Du Page County against defendants, Van Remmen, Inc. (VRI), and Thomas Haynes, alleging that they failed to pay all of the wages due to him pursuant to an employment agreement. Defendants filed special and limited appearances and moved to quash the summons served upon them, arguing lack of in personam jurisdiction. Plaintiff brings this appeal from the trial court's order granting defendants' motion to quash and dismissing plaintiff's action.

The record reveals that VRI was in the business of hiring technically trained individuals to work for its customers on a temporary basis. Haynes was the president of VRI. Plaintiff alleged in his complaint that from 1995 through 1998 he and VRI were parties to an employment agreement (agreement). The agreement provided that plaintiff would work for J.I. Case Corporation in Racine, Wisconsin, at the rate of $28.50 per hour and would receive 1½ times that rate for overtime work. Plaintiff attached an unsigned copy of the agreement to his complaint. Another exhibit to the complaint, a letter on VRI letterhead, indicated that effective June 17, 1996, plaintiff's hourly rate was increased to $29.50 per hour, with an overtime rate of $44.25 per hour.

Plaintiff alleged that VRI did not pay the overtime rate as specified in the agreement and thus owed him $28,823.50. Plaintiff sought recovery under the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (Wage Act or Act) (820 ILCS 115/1 et seq. (West 1998)) and under the theories of breach of contract and promissory estoppel.

Defendants' motion to quash alleged that VRI was a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Racine, Wisconsin, and that Haynes was a Wisconsin resident. Defendants argued that there was no basis for personal jurisdiction over them because (1) they did not have sufficient contacts with Illinois to be deemed "doing business" in Illinois; (2) the "transaction" upon which plaintiff based his complaint, namely, the agreement between plaintiff and VRI, was performed in Wisconsin; and (3) the Wage Act did not confer jurisdiction over them.

In an affidavit in support of the motion to quash, Haynes averred that VRI had no offices in Illinois, had no Illinois telephone number, did not advertise in Illinois, and issued all of its payroll checks in Wisconsin. Further, Haynes stated that plaintiff initiated contact with VRI by calling VRI's personnel manager and asking if he could find plaintiff employment. Plaintiff then sent his resume to VRI. VRI reviewed his resume and informed plaintiff that VRI could place him in a position in Wisconsin. Haynes stated that plaintiff and VRI "discussed the terms of employment, but no written employment agreement was signed." According to Haynes, plaintiff worked for J.I. Case from June 19, 1995, through March 11, 1998, and all of his work was performed in Wisconsin.

The Haynes affidavit further indicated that VRI employed approximately 50 employees from 1995 through the time of the affidavit. From 1995 through 1997, VRI placed one Wisconsin resident with an Illinois corporation. In 1998, VRI placed two Illinois residents with an Illinois company. In 1999, VRI did not recruit any Illinois residents to work in Illinois companies, and in 2000, one Illinois resident was recruited to work for an Illinois company.

Plaintiff filed a counteraffidavit in which he averred that VRI paid for his travel from Chicago to Racine, Wisconsin. Contrary to Haynes, plaintiff stated that the employment agreement was executed and it was executed in Illinois. According to plaintiff, VRI sent him two originals of the agreement, both signed by an agent of VRI. Plaintiff signed both agreements in Illinois and sent one of the agreements back to VRI.

Plaintiff further alleged that VRI advertised in Illinois through a website that solicited resumes from Illinois residents and listed employment available in Illinois. Plaintiff attached to his affidavit printouts of the alleged VRI website pages. The address of the website was "http://vritech.com." However, the pages themselves stated that they were for a company called "JTT Technical Services." Plaintiff averred that "JTT Technical Support" was a division of VRI.

Last, plaintiff stated "upon information and belief" that there were additional VRI employees working in Illinois whom Haynes did not disclose in his affidavit.

After hearing argument, the trial court ruled that plaintiff had failed to demonstrate that defendants had sufficient contacts with Illinois to subject them to personal jurisdiction and granted the motion to quash. Plaintiff's appeal followed.

Plaintiff contends that the trial court had jurisdiction over VRI and Haynes because (1) VRI was doing business in Illinois, (2) the employment agreement was a transaction substantially connected to Illinois, and (3) VRI and Haynes committed tortious acts in Illinois, namely, violations of the Wage Act. The applicable standard of review is de novo where, as here, the trial court did not hold an evidentiary hearing but determined jurisdiction solely on the basis of documentary evidence. Hendry v. Ornda Health Corp., Inc., 318 Ill. App. 3d 851, 852 (2000). The plaintiff bears the burden of showing that a valid basis exists for exercising jurisdiction over a defendant. Mellon First United Leasing v. Hansen, 301 Ill. App. 3d 1041, 1047 (1998).

When determining whether jurisdiction is proper over a nonresident defendant, courts evaluate whether jurisdiction is proper under the long-arm statute and whether jurisdiction would comport with constitutional standards of due process. Mellon, 301 Ill. App. 3d at 1047-48. If the plaintiff fails to show that the long-arm requirements have been met, there is no need to determine whether jurisdiction is permissible under the due process clause. Ideal Insurance Agency, Inc. v. Shipyard Marine, Inc., 213 Ill. App. 3d 675, 678 (1991).

DOING BUSINESS IN ILLINOIS

We first consider plaintiff's contention that the trial court's ruling was in error because VRI was doing business in Illinois. An Illinois court may exercise jurisdiction over any natural person or corporation doing ...


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