The Illinois Appellate Court has ruled that Illinois courts have jurisdiction over a Japanese parent corporation in a case alleging negligent design.
Plaintiff alleged that her daughter died as a result of a fire started with a Aim ‘n Flame II lighting rod. The lighting rod was designed by Tokai Corporatin in Japan and distributed by its wholly-owned subsidiary, Scripto-Tokai. The subsidiary admitted that Illinois courts had personal jurisdiction over it but the parent contested jurisdiction.
The Court put the issue and holding this way: “This case presents the question of whether a foreign corporation that designs a product can immunize itself from liability for negligent design by marketing the product through a subsidiary. We hold that it cannot. We find that the use of a subsidiary to introduce the product it designed to Illinois markets suffices for the exercise of personal jurisdiction over the foreign corporation for an action for negligent design.”
The opinion does a great job summarizing the law in this area and collects cases from across the country. The decision is a great place to start your research if you face this question in your practice.
The case is SAIA v. SCRIPTO-TOKAI CORPORATION, Nos. 1-04-2609 and 1-04-2736 (Illinois App. Ct. May 26, 2006). Read the opinion here. I have occasionally had trouble getting good links to these opinions so if the link breaks here is a list of the May decisions of the court that you can use to find the opinion.