October 2, 2018

Foley & Mansfield’s Edwardsville and St. Louis defense team of Alexa Newton, Carla Storm, and Katie Slaughter succeeded in obtaining a dismissal of the firm’s client, a valve manufacturer (“Defendant”), for lack of personal jurisdiction in an asbestos personal injury action filed in Madison County, Illinois.

Defendant is an out-of-state corporation with its headquarters in Iowa. Plaintiff brought the action on behalf of her deceased husband, who was an Iowa resident. Plaintiff alleged that the decedent was exposed to asbestos-containing components from Defendant’s valves exclusively in Iowa. The allegations against Defendant were based on a negligent failure to warn theory. Plaintiff conceded that there was no general jurisdiction, and her sole argument for jurisdiction was that Defendant acquired component parts alleged to have contained asbestos from a third party manufacturer in Illinois and incorporated the components into its valves.

Defendant argued that the mere act of acquiring a component part from an Illinois manufacturer was insufficient to require Defendant, a non-resident, to defend Plaintiff’s action in Illinois. The Madison County Court agreed, reasoning that the Court must “evaluate the Defendant’s actions . . . not the actions of the component part manufacturer.” The Court concluded that the alleged failure to warn, which was associated with the manufacturing, labeling, and distribution process, occurred in Iowa (where the valves were manufactured), and not Illinois.

Further, the Court noted that Plaintiff did not offer any evidence that Defendant itself manufactured, designed, labeled, or tested its valves in Illinois.

This decision is an important contribution to the continually evolving personal jurisdiction landscape in Illinois and throughout the country. The decision further limits the reach of specific jurisdiction for products liability actions in Illinois brought against non-resident defendants and clarifies that the activities of a third-party in the state are insufficient for specific jurisdiction, where the cause of action arises in another state.

Alexa Newton, Carla Storm, and Katie Slaughter