District Court Finds No Personal Jurisdiction Over German Corporations That Were Aware Their Products Were Being Sold Into the Forum State, but had not Targeted That Jurisdiction for Sales

The World in U.S. Courts: Summer 2014 - Personal Jurisdiction

Tile Unlimited, Inc. v. Blanke Corp., United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, June 9, 2014

In a products liability suit with multiple cross-claims among the parties related to an allegedly faulty “tile underlayment” product purchased by Plaintiffs and manufactured by the Defendants, Defendants Blanke Germany and Interplast, both German corporations, moved to dismiss the claims against them for lack of personal jurisdiction. Plaintiffs purchased and installed Defendants’ product, which allegedly made an “audible crunching sound” when walked upon.

Plaintiff alleged the Defendants placed their product into the “stream of commerce,” which under J. McIntyre Mach., Ltd. v. Nicastro can form the basis for personal jurisdiction if “the defendant’s activities manifest an intention to submit to the power of a sovereign.” Physical entry by the Defendant into the United States is a relevant but not dispositive factor in the jurisdictional analysis. Plaintiffs did not dispute that Blanke Germany had never sold or shipped the product directly to the United States. However, Blanke Germany was aware that its products were being sold throughout the United States (including in the forum state of Illinois). The Court found this knowledge inadequate to find personal jurisdiction. Instead, it determined that a corporation must have actually targeted the forum jurisdiction for sale or distribution. Plaintiffs filed numerous spreadsheets showing sales in Illinois, but the Court found the volume was not sufficient to demonstrate any specific targeting of Illinois over other states and countries where the product was sold. The Court also rejected Plaintiff’s arguments that Blanke Germany’s website or the CEO’s ten meetings in the United States over ten years exhibited the contact necessary to find jurisdiction. As to Interplast, the Court similarly held the company did not ship, sell, or manufacture any products in Illinois. Although Plaintiff’s pointed to a 2006 state court case in Colorado finding jurisdiction over Interplast, the Court rejected jurisdiction here because personal jurisdiction law has evolved significantly since 2006 and contacts with Colorado are irrelevant to contacts with Illinois.

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