Illinois Appellate Court Rejects “Sliding Scale” Approach For Determination Of Personal Jurisdiction Over Web Site Owner:

Alert Category: Illinois

Alert Type: Business

In the recent case Howard v. Missouri Bone and Joint Center, Inc., 2007 WL 1217855 (Ill.App. 5 Dist. 2007), the Illinois Appellate Court, Fifth District, affirmed the dismissal of a personal injury action against an out-of-state Web site owner for lack of personal jurisdiction. The plaintiff filed a complaint in Illinois against a fitness center located in Missouri for personal injuries arising out of the center’s negligence in providing athletic training services to him at the center’s facility in Missouri. Because the center transacted no business in Illinois and the suit did not arise from activities in Illinois, the plaintiff argued that Illinois courts had general jurisdiction because the defendant maintained an interactive Web site that was accessible to residents of Illinois and allowed users to make appointments, fill out surveys, and ask the defendant questions. The Fifth District rejected the “sliding scale” approach used in Zippo Manufacturing Co. v. Zippo Dot Com, Inc., 952 F.Supp. 1119 (W.D.Pa. 1997), and adopted by the Illinois Appellate Court, Second District, which considers a Web site’s level of interactivity in determining whether sufficient minimum contacts have been established to support jurisdiction. Finding the degree of interactivity on a Web site to be irrelevant, the court held that general jurisdiction over any out-of-state defendant, even when the defendant has an interactive Web site, is properly determined by the traditional method of considering whether the defendant had “continuous and systematic general business contacts with the forum.” The court denied the need for a different standard for establishing personal jurisdiction over companies with an Internet presence, analogizing interactive Web sites to telephone or mail communications and passive Web sites to radio or magazine advertising.