Recent Ruling Affects Product Liability Cases In Illinois

The Illinois Supreme Court recently ruled that Illinois has jurisdiction to hear a products liability case involving a French manufacturer that did business with a Rockford company and made tail-rotor bearings for a helicopter that crashed after being sold by an American distributor.

The court was asked to rule on whether the defendant, known as SNFA, could be subject to personal jurisdiction in Illinois if SNFA was not licensed or required to be licensed in the state and was not accused of any specific wrongdoing that was committed in Illinois.

Writing a majority opinion for the state’s high court, Judge Kilbride stated that Illinois could not exercise general jurisdiction over SNFA, which would be based on doing business in the state, but explained that Illinois does have specific jurisdiction. Under the test for specific jurisdiction, the state can reach a nonresident defendant based on certain “single or occasional acts” in the state when that person places a defective product in the marketplace that has harmed an Illinois resident.

In the case in question, Georgia resident Michael Russell had died when his helicopter crashed in Illinois, allegedly because the helicopter’s tail-rotor bearing caused it to spin out of control and crash.

The court rested its decision, in part, on the fact that one of the defendants operated as an American distributor for SNFA products, and that SNFA did business with a Rockford company as well. Kilbride added that “the incident occurred in Illinois, and involved an individual living and working in Illinois for an Illinois-based employer” giving the state a “substantial interest” in the dispute.

The case can now move forward under the application of Illinois product liability law, which pertains to accidents involving dangerous or defective products.

Basically, there are three types of liability that can apply to a manufacturer in a product liability case:

  1. Strict liability, which applies to a limited number of cases and types of products based on public policy, and which imposes liability if the product sold was defective and did in fact harm the person bringing the suit, regardless of whether the defendant was negligent in making the product.
  2. Liability for negligence, which requires proof that the manufacturer breached a duty of safety owed to the consumer by using faulty design or production methods, that the consumer was injured and suffered damages, and that the injury was proximately caused by the manufacturer’s failure to take reasonable safety measures in manufacturing the product.
  3. Breach of warranty, which is based on an implied or express representation that the product was fit for a particular purpose for which it was used when the plaintiff was injured.

If you have been harmed by a product, a good lawyer can help you determine whether you might recover damages under a theory of strict liability, negligence or breach of warranty, but you must see a lawyer quickly because Illinois has a statute of limitations for products liability, meaning that such claims must be brought within a specified time after injury or discovery of injury to avoid being dismissed by the court.

So, if you believe that you or a loved one has been harmed by a defective or inherently dangerous product, please do not hesitate to contact our office at (312) 477-2500 to speak with one of our qualified product liability attorneys. We can help you determine if and how you might have been harmed, and what damages and remedies you can pursue. You can also check out our Website for more information about our law firm, Cogan & Power, P.C.