Madison County Associate Judge Stephen Stobbs denied a
motion to dismiss an asbestos case filed by Ford Motor Company, relying on a
statement made by Ford to the Illinois Supreme Court expressing its substantial
contacts with the state.
Stobbs, who presides over the Madison County asbestos
docket, filed the order denying Ford’s motion to dismiss for lack of personam
jurisdiction on Nov. 6.
In his order, Stobbs noted a recently filed brief with the
Illinois Supreme Court in Folta v Ferro Engineering, which stated:
“Ford is one of the world’s leading
automotive manufacturers. Ford manufactures and assembles automobiles across
six continents and provides related products and services. Ford conducts
substantial business in Illinois and operates as assembly plant in Chicago that
manufactures several vehicles, including the Taurus, MKS, Police Interceptor,
and Explorer. Ford employs over 4,000 people at the Chicago Assembly Plant. In
the past five years, Ford has invested over half a billion dollars in its
business operations in Illinois.”
As a result, Stobbs concluded that Ford “has availed itself
of the protection of the Illinois Courts and the benefits of Illinois law and
by its own admission conducts substantial, not de minimus, business in
“Ford’s contacts with the State of Illinois are substantial,
therefore significantly more than the minimum contacts required by federal due
In fact, Ford has a town, Ford Heights, named after it in
Irene Jeffs, individually and as special administrator of
the estate of Dale Jeffs, filed the lawsuit. He alleges the decedent was exposed to various
asbestos-containing products while working as a union insulator for various
contractors at various sites from 1968-1995.
During the course of his employment, Jeffs alleges the
decedent worked at Ford’s plant in Michigan, where he was allegedly exposed to
As a result, the decedent eventually developed mesothelioma
and other asbestos-related diseases.
Ford filed its motion to dismiss, arguing that there is no
alleged Illinois exposure occurring during the decedent’s time working for
Ford cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Daimler
case, arguing that there is no basis to exercise general personal jurisdiction
in Illinois for the case at hand.
In Daimler, the court held that “’a court may assert
jurisdiction over a foreign corporation to hear any and all claims against [it]
only when the corporation’s affiliations with the State in which suit is
brought are so constant and pervasive as to render [it] essentially ‘at home’
in that forum State.’”
Ford’s principal place of business is in Michigan and its State
of incorporation is Delaware.
Ford also argues that the plaintiff’s reliance on personal
jurisdiction by consent, pursuant to the Illinois Business Corporation Act, is
“The Defendant argues that the Act’s requirement that
foreign corporations doing business in this State, register with the Secretary
of State and appoint a resident agent for service of process cannot be
construed as imposing consent to general personal jurisdiction in this State
over a foreign corporation,” the order explains.
Stobbs was unconvinced.
He held that while Ford’s corporate offices are in Michigan,
it has a certificate of authority to conduct business in Illinois, owns
property in Illinois, has authorized dealers in Illinois, employs people in
Illinois and maintains a registered agent to accept service of process in
He wrote that Ford voluntarily conducts regular business in
Illinois and has done so since 1922. The defendant has also litigated numerous
cases in this state, including other asbestos cases in Madison County, without
objecting to personal jurisdiction.
“Considering all the factors, the Court finds that Plaintiff
has met her burden of establishing jurisdiction over this Defendant and that
the exercise of jurisdiction, in this case, is not inconsistent with notions of
fair play and substantial justice, the fundamental consideration in finding
constitutional jurisdiction,” Stobbs concluded.
Madison County Circuit
Court case number 15-L-533