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Illinois Has No Jurisdiction Over Company with 3,000 Employees in Illinois and $1 Billion in Revenue from Illinois Sales: Campbell v. ACME Insulations, Inc., 2018 IL App (1st) 173051

October 2018

By Courtney Morso Driscoll

The First District Appellate Court recently held Illinois did not have jurisdiction over General Electric (GE) although GE earned over $1 billion in revenue from its business in Illinois. In Campbell v. ACME Insulations, Inc., 2018 IL App (1st) 173051, the First District reversed the decision of the circuit court, which found Illinois had personal jurisdiction over GE.

The plaintiff, Arlin Campbell, brought suit against various entities, including GE, alleging he was diagnosed with mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos in Illinois through GE products. GE filed a motion to dismiss, claiming plaintiff did not allege sufficient facts to confer personal jurisdiction over GE in Illinois. The circuit court denied GE’s motion to dismiss, which GE appealed. The appellate court reversed the circuit court with direction that GE be dismissed from the lawsuit. It found Illinois neither had general personal jurisdiction over GE nor specific personal jurisdiction over GE.

In order for Illinois to have general personal jurisdiction over GE, the appellate court found GE must have carried on “systemic business activity” with a “fair measure of permanence and continuity.” However, general personal jurisdiction does not automatically arise in every state that a company performs systemic, continuous, and substantial business. Rather, GE must be “at home” in Illinois to be subject to general personal jurisdiction.

In finding that Illinois did not have general personal jurisdiction over GE, it looked at GE’s place of incorporation (New York) and principle place of business (Massachusetts). Further, the court noted GE became licensed to perform work in Illinois in 1987, employed 3,000 in Illinois, and owned, leased or operated 30 facilities in Illinois. GE also earned $1 billion annually in sales from its operations in Illinois.

However, the court found the above business operations did not rise to the level of general personal jurisdiction as it was just a small portion of GE’s total operation. GE operated in 180 countries, earned $117 billion per year globally, and employed 333,000 workers worldwide. Thus, GE could not be found “at home” in Illinois as Illinois sales only accounted for 2% of GE’s income from the United States and its Illinois workforce only 2.4% of its workers in the United States. The appellate court further found Illinois did not have general personal jurisdiction over GE simply because it had a registered agent in Illinois or had defended other lawsuits in Illinois.

Lastly, the appellate court denied plaintiff’s claim that it had specific personal jurisdiction over GE. Specific personal jurisdiction arises from some activity or occurrence in the forum state. Here, plaintiff alleged he was exposed to asbestos from GE products in Illinois. However, plaintiff could not corroborate this fact through his testimony. Instead, his testimony made clear he was not sure whether GE manufactured the products at issue in his case. Thus, plaintiff failed to establish Illinois had specific personal jurisdiction over GE.

This case is important as it limits plaintiffs’ ability to drag large, national or international corporations into lawsuits in Illinois simply because the corporations perform some business here. The First District’s opinion will limit plaintiffs from forum shopping in Cook County when their lawsuits belong in other states.

  • Chicago Bar Association
  • Workers' Compensation Lawyers Association
  • IRTB
  • DRI - The Voice of the Defense Bar
  • The Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel
  • Illinois Self-Insurers' Association
  • Chicago Bar Association
  • Workers' Compensation Lawyers Association
  • IRTB
  • DRI - The Voice of the Defense Bar
  • The Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel
  • Illinois Self-Insurers' Association
10 South LaSalle Street, Suite 900
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: 312-425-3131
211 Landmark Drive, Suite C2
Normal, IL 61761
Phone: 309-862-4914
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