Matushek LLC initially won a highly contested motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction before Judge Clare McWilliams in Cook County Circuit Court on November 26, 2019.
The plaintiff’s decedent, Fred Riebel, was an Illinois resident who was a member of Local 17 International Union of Heat & Frost Insulators. He was hired by an Illinois insulation contractor to perform work at U. S. Steel’s Gary Works in Indiana. Mr. Riebel died from mesothelioma and the plaintiff brought premises claims for wrongful death against numerous defendants, including U. S. Steel’s Indiana premises, in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. We moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction on the basis that none of Mr. Riebel’s exposure occurred at a U. S. Steel facility in Illinois.
The plaintiff, represented by the Clifford Law Offices, asserted that the Illinois court had jurisdiction over U. S. Steel, a Delaware corporation headquartered in Pittsburgh, for her premises liability claim involving U. S. Steel’s Gary Works in Indiana. Plaintiff argued that 1) U. S. Steel “purposely directed its activities” at Illinois because it hired an Illinois subcontractor that employed the plaintiff’s decedent who resided in Illinois, and 2) the plaintiff’s decedent returned home with dust and dirt on his clothes and was somehow exposed to asbestos in Illinois from U. S. Steel. We refuted the evidence presented by the plaintiff and argued that these circumstances were far too attenuated and speculative to establish a connection between the defendant’s alleged negligent maintenance of its Indiana premises and its purposeful affiliations with the state of Illinois and therefore haling U. S. Steel into an Illinois court for an Indiana premises claim violated its right to due process. The court first agreed with our position, and granted our motion to dismiss.
More than 60 days later, on a motion to reconsider, the court reversed course and denied the motion on January 29, 2020. The court applied a “but-for” analysis, and ruled that because our client contracted with an Illinois employer of the plaintiff, the court has personal jurisdiction over an Indiana premises owner in a tort action. This appears to follow the “sliding scale” approach to specific personal jurisdiction that was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Bristol-Myers Squibb case.
A copy of the court’s initial 13 page Memorandum Opinion and Order is available here: Riebel Order 15L2124 . The January 29, 2020 order on reconsideration is here: Riebel 15L2124 Opinion and Order on Motion to Reconsider 1-29-20.