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Spartan Motors, Inc. v. Lube Power

March 10, 2003

SPARTAN MOTORS, INC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
LUBE POWER, INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT (MONARCH HYDRAULICS, INC.), DEFENDANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County. No. 00--L--523 Honorable Gene L. Nottolini, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Byrne

Released for publication March 13, 2003.

SPARTAN MOTORS, INC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
LUBE POWER, INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT (MONARCH HYDRAULICS, INC.), DEFENDANT.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County. No. 00--L--523 Honorable Gene L. Nottolini, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Byrne

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Defendant Lube Power, Inc. (defendant or Lube Power), appeals from the circuit court's order that denied its motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction a complaint filed against it by plaintiff, Spartan Motors, Inc. (plaintiff or Spartan). Defendant contends that it is not subject to personal jurisdiction in Illinois under the Illinois long-arm statute, section 2--209 of the Code of Civil Procedure (the Code) (735 ILCS 5/2--209 (West 2000)) and federal due process standards.

The facts are not disputed. Plaintiff and defendant are Michigan corporations with their principal places of business in Michigan. Defendant sold plaintiff hydraulic pump assemblies. It manufactured the pump assemblies at its facility in Michigan and delivered them to plaintiff at its facility in Michigan. Plaintiff incorporated the pump assemblies into, among other things, fire truck chassis that it sold to customers throughout the United States and abroad.

In 1995, a fire engine chassis that plaintiff had sold to the Elgin fire department malfunctioned, injuring firefighter Wayne Sabatino. Sabatino sued Spartan and another defendant that was apparently Spartan's local distributor. Spartan, in turn, filed third-party actions against other parties, including Lube Power. Sabatino v. Spartan Motors, Inc., No. 97--L--221 (Cir. Ct. Kane County).

After investigating the Elgin incident, Spartan decided that the cause of the accident was a defective solenoid in the pump assembly that Lube Power sold. Spartan believed that the same defect was present in other products Lube Power provided and initiated a recall to replace the allegedly defective parts. The recall was not limited to Spartan customers in Illinois.

Spartan then filed the present action against Lube Power in the circuit court of Kane County. On Spartan's motion, the trial court consolidated the action with cause No. 97--L--221 (Sabatino). That case was later settled. In the present case, Lube Power filed a special and limited appearance and moved to dismiss the action for lack of personal jurisdiction. Spartan responded and the trial court denied the motion to dismiss without conducting an evidentiary hearing. Lube Power filed a petition for leave to appeal, which this court granted. See 166 Ill. 2d R. 306(a)(3).

On appeal, Lube Power argues that it has done nothing to submit itself to the jurisdiction of Illinois courts in connection with this case and that requiring it to litigate in Illinois violates federal due process standards. Spartan responds that Lube Power (1) transacted business, (2) committed two tortious acts, and (3) is "doing business" in Illinois, thus subjecting itself to personal jurisdiction here.

A plaintiff asking a court to assert jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant must demonstrate a prima facie case for jurisdiction. Zazove v. Pelikan, Inc., 326 Ill. App. 3d 798, 801-02 (2001); Kalata v. Healy, 312 Ill. App. 3d 761, 765 (2000). Where, as here, the trial court decides the jurisdictional issue solely on the basis of documentary evidence, appellate review is de novo. See Khan v. Van Remmen, Inc., 325 Ill. App. 3d 49, 53 (2001); Hendry v. Ornda Health Corp., 318 Ill. App. 3d 851, 852 (2000). In deciding whether jurisdiction may be asserted over a nonresident defendant, courts evaluate whether jurisdiction is proper under the Illinois long-arm statute and whether jurisdiction would comport with constitutional due process standards. Khan, 325 Ill. App. 3d at 53-54.

The long-arm statute permits an Illinois court to assert jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant who performs one of several enumerated acts in Illinois. 735 ILCS 5/2--209 (West ...


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