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Young v. Ford Motor Co.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

November 21, 2017

RIVONSHICA YOUNG; JOHNNY YOUNG; KIVONSHICA SHAW, Administrator of the Estate of Birdie Marie Shaw, Deceased; JOHNESHA YOUNG, a Minor, By and Through Her Father and Next Friend, Johnny Young; MARTAVIUS YOUNG, a Minor, By and Through His Father and Next Friend Johnny Young; SHANTEQUA MARZETTE; and STEFFOND MARZETTE, Plaintiffs,
v.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY, a Foreign Corporation Licensed to Do Business in the State of Illinois; FORD MOTOR CREDIT COMPANY, LLC; CARMAX INC., as Parent of Carmax Business Services, LLC, d/b/a Carmax Auto Finance; MERIDIAN MANAGEMENT CORPORATION, a Foreign Corporation Licensed to Do Business in the State of Illinois; ZHEJIANG JINFEI KAIDA WHEEL COMPANY, LTD.; JINFEI HOLDING GROUP COMPANY, LTD.; JINFEI HOLDING GROUP SUBSIDIARY NO. 800; ULTIMATE PRODUCT CORPORATION, a Dissolved California Corporation; DIRECT LINE OF NORTH FLORIDA, INC., f/k/a Direct Line Distributors, Inc., a Foreign Corporation Not Currently Registered to Do Business in the State of Illinois; DIRECT LINE OF ILLINOIS, INC., a Voluntarily Dissolved Florida Corporation Never Registered in Illinois; and UNKNOWN OWNERS, All d/b/a Dakar Custom Wheels; and ELIAS CARLOS and UNKNOWN OWNERS, d/b/a/ Carlos Auto Repair, Defendants Rivonshica Young; Johnny Young; Kivonshica Shaw, Administrator of the Estate of Birdie Marie Shaw, Deceased; Johnesha Young, a Minor, By and Through Her Father and Next Friend, Johnny Young; MartaviusYoung, a Minor, By and Through His Father and Next Friend, Johnny Young; Shantequa Marzette; and Steffond Marzette, Plaintiffs-Appellants; Ultimate Product Corporation, Defendant-Appellant; Jinfei Holding Group Company, Ltd. and Zhejiang Jinfei Kaida Wheel Company, Ltd., Defendants-Appellees.

         Appeal from Circuit Court of McLean County No. 14L186, Honorable Rebecca S. Foley, Judge Presiding.

          DeARMOND JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Holder White and Appleton concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          DeARMOND JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 In October and December 2012, plaintiffs, Rivonshica Young; Johnny Young; Kivonshica Shaw, administrator of the Estate of Birdie Marie Shaw, deceased; Johnesha Young; a minor, by and through her father and next friend, Johnny Young; Martavius Young, a minor, by and through his father and next friend, Johnny Young; Shantequa Marzette; and Steffond Marzette filed second amended complaints against various defendants, including Ultimate Product Corporation (UPC), as well as Jinfei Holding Group Company, Ltd., and Zhejiang Jinfei Kaida Wheel Company, Ltd. (the Jinfei defendants). In January 2015, the Jinfei defendants filed a motion to dismiss plaintiffs' second amended complaints for lack of jurisdiction. In September 2016, the trial court granted the motion to dismiss. The court denied UPC's motion to reconsider in January 2017.[1]

         ¶ 2 In these consolidated appeals, plaintiffs and UPC argue the trial court erred in dismissing all claims against the Jinfei defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction. We affirm.

         ¶ 3 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 In February 2009, Rivonshica Young purchased a 2000 Lincoln Navigator from Carmax, Inc., in Schaumburg, Illinois. In March 2010, Young purchased a set of four Dakar Imperial custom wheels at Carlos Auto Repair in Rockford, Illinois, where the wheels were installed on the Navigator.

         ¶ 5 On April 18, 2010, Birdie Marie Shaw was the front passenger of the Navigator driven by Rivonshica Young. Shantequa and Steffond Marzette and Johnny and Martavius Young were rear passengers in the vehicle. While traveling through McLean County, the right rear wheel came off the vehicle, which rolled over and injured passengers. Shaw died in the accident.

         ¶ 6 In October 2012, plaintiffs Rivonshica Young and Johnny Young filed a second amended complaint in Cook County circuit court against various parties, including the Jinfei defendants, seeking recovery for personal injuries allegedly sustained in the accident. The complaint alleged, inter alia, Meridian Management Corporation, together with the Jinfei defendants, UPC, Direct Line of North Florida, Inc. (Direct Line of North Florida), and Direct Line of Illinois, Inc. (Direct Line of Illinois), designed, manufactured, inspected, assembled, marketed, and distributed Dakar custom wheels, and the wheels sold to plaintiffs were in a defective condition because they failed to come with bolts sufficient to properly fasten to the Navigator.

         ¶ 7 In December 2012, plaintiffs Kivonshica Shaw, administrator of the estate of Birdie Marie Shaw, deceased; Johnesha Young, by and through her father, Johnny Young; Martavius Young, by and through his father and next friend Johnny Young; Shantequa Marzette; and Steffond Marzette, filed a second amended complaint, making similar claims against various parties, including the Jinfei defendants. The consolidated cases were transferred to McLean County circuit court based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens in June 2014.

         ¶ 8 In January 2015, the Jinfei defendants filed a motion to dismiss plaintiffs' second amended complaints for lack of jurisdiction pursuant to sections 2-301 and 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Procedure Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-301, 2-619 (West 2014)). The motion stated Jinfei Holding Group Company, Ltd., is the parent company of Zhejiang Jinfei Kaida Wheel Company, Ltd., and both are registered, incorporated, and located in the People's Republic of China.

         ¶ 9 The Jinfei defendants argued they were not subject to general or specific personal jurisdiction and traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice favored their dismissal from the actions. In regard to specific personal jurisdiction, the Jinfei defendants argued they did "not have the sufficient minimum contacts with Illinois that would serve as 'fair warning' to confer specific personal jurisdiction upon them." They claimed they were not registered in Illinois, maintained no offices or employees in Illinois, and had no bank accounts or other assets in Illinois. Moreover, they stated they made no direct product sales with customers based in Illinois and engaged in no business dealings with individuals or companies in Illinois during the previous five years.

         ¶ 10 UPC has its principal place of business in California. Direct Line of Illinois and Direct Line of North Florida (collectively, Direct Line) are dissolved Florida corporations. Articles of incorporation for Direct Line of Illinois indicate it was incorporated in the state of Florida in 2007.

         ¶ 11 The Jinfei defendants and UPC relied on affidavits and depositions of various individuals in this case. In his affidavit, Elias Carlos stated Carlos Auto Repair purchased four Dakar Imperial wheels from Direct Line of Illinois and Direct Line of North Florida, which were sold to Rivonshica Young and installed on the Navigator.

         ¶ 12 Donis Horne, Jr., testified he was general manager of Direct Line. At some point, Direct Line had a warehouse near Chicago, Illinois. When asked about receiving factory tests of wheels, Horne stated Direct Line "never talked directly" with the Jinfei defendants. Instead, the Jinfei defendants would provide test results to UPC, which would then provide the information to Direct Line. Horne stated the Jinfei defendants supplied the wheels to UPC, and Direct Line bought the wheels from UPC. Along with UPC, Horne stated the Dakar wheels were manufactured through a company called Tectran.

         ¶ 13 George Hsu testified he is the chief financial officer of UPC. He stated UPC and Direct Line entered into a manufacturing agreement for UPC to locate an overseas manufacturer for Direct Line's wheels. UPC acted as the facilitator between Direct Line and the Jinfei defendants regarding the design and production of the Dakar wheels. Direct Line would pass a 3-D rendering design to UPC, and UPC would pass it on to the Jinfei defendants. The Jinfei defendants would then send back a 2-D technical drawing, and UPC would pass that along to Direct Line. Once Direct Line approved the product design, it would place its order with UPC, which passed it along to the Jinfei defendants for production. The wheels would be shipped to the location determined by Direct Line, which included ports in Chicago, Illinois; Savannah, Georgia; and Jacksonville, Florida. Hsu stated when UPC orders products F.O.B., i.e., free on board, the Jinfei defendants do not pay for the shipment from the Port of China to the United States. Hsu stated UPC would typically instruct the Jinfei defendants the orders "would need to go to whatever port of destination of [the] customer's choosing." UPC directs what shipper is to transport the products and where the container is to be shipped to the United States. Hsu testified an invoice from the Jinfei defendants indicated 260 cartons of wheels were shipped from Ningbo, China, to the Port of Los Angeles, California, with the place of delivery being Chicago, Illinois.

         ¶ 14 Vincent Huang, vice president of UPC, testified UPC imports and distributes automotive accessories and wheels. He stated the Jinfei defendants shipped the products to the ports arranged by UPC. He stated the Jinfei defendants were responsible for getting the products to the port in China, where ownership and risk of loss would transfer to UPC. The Jinfei defendants had no say as to where the containers were shipped from the port in China to the United States, as that decision was made by UPC or their customers. The Jinfei defendants would know the destination of the port. Huang stated the designation of Chicago in the invoices was a decision made by Direct Line. Huang stated he met with the Jinfei defendants in Nevada, California, and Indiana.

         ¶ 15 Fang Meijuan, a representative of the Jinfei defendants, testified the company ships the wheels to port and "[t]he actual export is done by the people arranged by the customer." She stated an invoice created by the Jinfei defendants reflected a shipment of wheels from China to Chicago in December 2008.

         ¶ 16 Zhang Tao, another representative of the Jinfei defendants, testified to an exhibit indicating four wheels were sold to UPC and shipped from China to Chicago in December 2008. He remembered the sale of another shipment of wheels that traveled to the Port of Chicago on its way to ...


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