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Bradford Victor-Adams Mutual Insurance Co. v. Electrolux Home Products, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Rock Island Division

August 6, 2019

BRADFORD VICTOR-ADAMS MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, an Illinois corporation, as subrogee of JUDITH and WAYNE ALLEN, Plaintiff,
ELECTROLUX HOME PRODUCTS, INC., an Ohio corporation, and MIDEA USA, INC., a New Jersey corporation, Defendants.



         Before the Court is Defendant Midea USA, Inc.'s (“Midea USA”) motion to dismiss, ECF No. 11, Plaintiff Bradford Victor-Adams Mutual Insurance Company as subrogee of Judith and Wayne Allen's (“Bradford”) Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”), ECF No. 5, and Midea USA's Motion for Leave to File Reply, ECF No. 18. For the reasons that follow, the motions are GRANTED.[1]


         On April 20, 2017, a Frigidaire-branded dehumidifier ignited and burned in Judith and Wayne Allen's home causing significant smoke and fire related property damage. Bradford paid the Waynes more than $75, 000 for the damage caused by the defective humidifier and now seeks reimbursement from the responsible party. Bradford asserts diversity jurisdiction-all parties are citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, see 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)-and alleges strict products liability and negligence counts against Defendant Electrolux Home Products, Inc. and Midea USA. Midea USA now seeks dismissal of Bradford's claims, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, arguing it is not subject to personal jurisdiction-general or specific-in Illinois. Br. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 2, ECF No. 11. Bradford argues the Court has personal jurisdiction over Midea USA, and in the alternative, requests an opportunity to conduct jurisdictional discovery to further bolster its claim. Resp. Mot. Dismiss 11-13, ECF No. 16.


         I. Motion to Dismiss

         a. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) provides for dismissal where a court lacks personal jurisdiction over the defendant. “District courts exercising diversity jurisdiction apply the personal jurisdiction rules of the state in which they are located.” Philos Techs., Inc. v. Philos & D, Inc., 802 F.3d 905, 912 (7th Cir. 2015). The Illinois long-arm statute provides that “[a] court may . . . exercise jurisdiction on any . . . basis now or hereafter permitted by the Illinois Constitution and the Constitution of the United States.” 735 ILCS 5/2-209(c). The parties do not indicate the state's constitutional standards, as applied to this case, differ from federal law so the Court evaluates Midea USA's contacts under the federal due process limitations. See Hyatt Int'l Corp. v. Coco, 302 F.3d 707, 715-16 (7th Cir. 2002); Russell v. SNFA, 987 N.E.2d 778, 785 (Ill. 2013) (“[T]here have been no decisions from th[e] [Illinois Supreme] [C]ourt or the appellate court identifying any substantive difference between Illinois due process and federal due process on the issue of a court's exercising personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant.”).

         The personal jurisdiction inquiry turns on “the defendant's relationship to the forum [s]tate.” Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of Cal., S.F. Cty., 137 S.Ct. 1773, 1779 (2017). “[T]he defendant must have minimum contacts with the forum state such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Hyatt Int'l Corp., 302 F.3d at 716 (quotation marks omitted). “Personal jurisdiction . . . restricts judicial power not as a matter of sovereignty, but as a matter of individual liberty, for due process protects the individual's right to be subject only to lawful power.” J. McIntyre Mach., Ltd. v. Nicastro, 564 U.S. 873, 884 (2011) (quotation marks omitted).

         There are two types of personal jurisdiction, general and specific. Bristol-Myers, 137 S.Ct. at 1780. “A court with general jurisdiction may hear any claim against that defendant, ” id., though “only a limited set of affiliations with a forum” suffice for this “all-purpose” jurisdiction, Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 137 (2014) (indicating that a corporation is subject to general jurisdiction in the state where it is incorporated and where its principal place of business is located). For “foreign (sister-state or foreign country) corporations” to be subject to general jurisdiction, their contacts with the forum state must be “so continuous and systematic as to render them essentially at home in the forum State.” Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (2011) (quotation marks omitted).

         For specific personal jurisdiction to exist, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant purposefully availed itself of the privileges of the forum state by “follow[ing] a course of conduct directed at the society or economy existing within the jurisdiction of a given sovereign, so that the sovereign has the power to subject the defendant to judgment concerning that conduct.” J. McIntyre Mach., Ltd., 564 U.S. at 884. “[S]pecific jurisdiction is confined to adjudication of issues deriving from, or connected with, the very controversy that establishes jurisdiction.” Bristol-Myers, 137 S.Ct. at 1780 (quotation marks omitted). The Seventh Circuit has established the following requirements:

(1) the defendant must have purposefully availed himself of the privilege of conducting business in the forum state or purposefully directed his activities at the state; (2) the alleged injury must have arisen from the defendant's forum-related activities; and (3) the exercise of jurisdiction must comport with traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.

Felland v. Clifton, 682 F.3d 665, 673 (7th Cir. 2012) (citations omitted).

         A complaint need not recite facts alleging personal jurisdiction. Sanofi-Synthelabo, S.A., 338 F.3d at 782. “However, once the defendant moves to dismiss the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating the existence of jurisdiction.” Id. A defendant may support his motion with affidavits. Nelson by Carson v. Park Indus., Inc., 717 F.2d 1120, 1123 (7th Cir. 1983). If he does so, the plaintiff “must similarly submit affirmative evidence.” Matlin v. Spin Master Corp., 921 F.3d 701, 705 (7th Cir. 2019). When the court relies only on the written submissions, a plaintiff “need only make out a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction.” Sanofi-Synthelabo,S.A., 338 F.3d at 782 (quotation marks omitted). Under this standard, all conflicts in the affidavits or supporting ...

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