Defense Win In Squabble Over Personal Jurisdiction

December 19, 2017

Patton & Ryan associates Cara Rafanelli and Hayley Ryan, under the supervision of Partner Paul D. Motz, won a significant victory in an eight-month long fight over the personal jurisdiction of the Circuit Court of Cook County in a catastrophic product liability case. On July 15, 2014, a Putzmeister Mack chassis truck-mounted telescopic belt conveyor for concrete called a Telebelt TB105 was stuck in a pile of spoils on Matthew Schoenbeck’s farm in Beecher, Will County, Illinois. Matthew was acting as his own general contractor in the construction of his home. A pintle hook was attached by some unknown entity to the TB105 via a bracket and bolts. Matthew hooked a tow belt onto the pintle hook and then attached the tow belt to the back of his farm tractor. He then attempted to dislodge the TB105 from the spoils pile utilizing his farm tractor. The entire apparatus detached from the TB105, flew through the back window of the farm tractor and into the side of Matthew’s head causing severe injury which ultimately resulted in his death two years later. No representative from Putzmeister was present at Matthew’s farm in Beecher, Illinois at the time of Matthew’s accident nor did Putzmeister add the tow apparatus to the TB105. Plaintiff’s estate sued our client, Putzmeister America, Inc., in the Circuit Court of Cook county which has a history of large verdicts in such cases notwithstanding the facts of the case. Putzmeister, a manufacturing company specializing in concrete and material placing equipment for the construction industry, is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Wisconsin. Patton & Ryan filed a motion to dismiss the suit for lack of personal jurisdiction.

On June 19, 2017, a nearly unanimously Supreme Court of the United States issued its ruling in Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court of California, 582 U.S. ____, 137 S. Ct. 1773, (2017) solidifying the trend in case law concerning personal jurisdiction and establishing the law of the land in specific personal jurisdiction. Associate Rafanelli researched the case on the day it was issued and presented this newly minted holding to the court in oral argument on August 7, 2017. Ms. Rafanelli successfully won the motion to dismiss before the Honorable Patricia O’Brien Sheahan with the additional victory in having the ruling made final and appealable. Associate Hayley Ryan assisted Ms. Rafanelli in the preparation of the briefs.

Patton & Ryan replaced previous counsel in the case who refused to consider the potential of a motion to dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction due to its unlikely success in Cook County. However, Patton & Ryan focuses its impressive advocacy skills in motion practice as well as at trial. Defying the odds, our firm was successful in winning the case at the pre-trial motion level. Please consider our impressive trial attorneys for all your defense needs as we are more than willing to think outside the box and tackle difficult issues with expertise and daring.