MacNeil v. Trambert, 401 Ill.App.3d 1077, 342 Ill.Dec. 314, 932 N.E.2d 441 (2010) (full-text).
Defendant Trambert, a resident of California, listed a Toyota SUV for sale to the highest bidder on eBay in November of 2008. Defendant was later notified that Plaintiff MacNeil, a resident of Illinois, was the winning bidder, and the two made arrangements for payment and delivery. As part of the eBay Terms and Conditions, MacNeil was responsible for pick-up or shipping of the vehicle. In December, Plaintiff’s agent in California inspected the vehicle and accepted title and possession, and delivered Plaintiff's cashier's check, which was drawn on an Illinois bank. After personally inspecting the vehicle Plaintiff discovered that there was no satellite radio and no DVD screens in the headrest, as had been indicated in the eBay listing. In February of 2009, Plaintiff filed an Illinois small claims court action for $2,546 and Defendant moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The trial court granted defendant's motion and the plaintiff appealed.
Appellate Court Proceedings
A plaintiff has the burden of establishing a prima facie case for jurisdiction when seeking jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant. Illinois has a long-arm statute that permits jurisdiction over foreign defendants that comports with the due process requirements of the Constitution. To satisfy federal due process, a defendant must have minimum contacts with the forum state such that defending a lawsuit there would not offend "traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." In deciding the question of jurisdiction a court will determine whether there was purposeful availment of the benefits and protections of the forum state.
Plaintiff's complaint averred that the had only seen Defendant's ads for the vehicle on eBay and that was insufficient to establish general jurisdiction. Plaintiff argued, however, that the court had personal jurisdiction over Defendant because, after listing the car on eBay, which is accessible worldwide, Defendant should have anticipated being brought to court in Illinois if the winning bidder was a resident of Illinois. The court rejected this argument and cited the case of Foley v. Yacht Management Group, Inc., which also dealt with a failed eBay sale. In Foley, the Defendant refused to accept payment from the winning bidder and the Plaintiff brought suit. In determining whether the court had jurisdiction, the court ruled that Defendant had no ties to the forum state other than the fact that the winning bidder lived there. The Foley court held the Defendant, as an eBay seller, had no control over where the buyer of its item would live and therefore there was no purposeful availment.
While Plaintiff argued that the various telephone calls and emails that occurred between the parties was enough to establish minimum contacts, the court disagreed. Plaintiff also sought to establish jurisdiction based on precedent involving the use of "interactive websites." Not only does Defendant not run the eBay site, nothing in the record indicated that Defendant's listings or personal eBay pages were interactive enough to trigger jurisdiction. Plaintiff's final argument for jurisdiction, that Defendant committed tortious conduct in the forum, was similarly rejected by the appellate court; the so-called "effects doctrine" applies only to intentional torts, and not to breach of contract claims.
Ultimately Defendant's business contacts with Illinois were nothing more than random and attenuated and therefore the court was unable to assert jurisdiction in this case.
- Bolger v. Nautica Int'l, Inc., 269 Ill. App. 3d 947, 949, 308 Ill. Dec. 335, 861 N.E.2d 666 (2007) (full-text).
- Spartan Motors, Inc. v. Lube Power, Inc., 337 Ill. App. 3d 556, 560, 786 N.E.2d 613 (2003) (full-text), quoting International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (full-text), quoting Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463 (1940) (full-text).
- No. 08C7254 (N.D. Ill. July 9, 2009) (full-text).