Pretzel & Stouffer

Illinois Appellate Court, First District, reverses decision finding personal jurisdiction obtained by fraudulent means

Robert Marc Chemers and Philip G. Brandt secured a victory in the Illinois Appellate Court when the Court reversed the circuit court’s finding of personal jurisdiction against a Tennessee volunteer fire department. The department’s board treasurer had sold a fire tanker truck that he owned to an Illinois leasing company, and then purchased it on behalf of the volunteer fire department. Upon failure to pay the lease installments, the leasing company brought a breach of contract claim against the treasurer in his personal capacity and the volunteer fire department. The treasurer hid notice of the lawsuit from the department’s other board members. They eventually learned of the lawsuit after a default judgment was entered against the department in excess of $92,000 for failure to pay on the lease.

Pretzel & Stouffer filed a petition to vacate the default judgment arguing, in part, that the default judgment should be vacated for lack of personal jurisdiction. The trial court vacated the default judgment, but found that Illinois had personal jurisdiction over the volunteer fire department. Pretzel & Stouffer petitioned the Court for leave to appeal and, once accepted, stood on its petition in lieu of a Brief of Appellant. On January 21, 2014, the appellate court issued its 13-page published opinion finding personal jurisdiction lacking, requiring the plaintiff to challenge the validity of the contract in Tennessee. Graver v. Pinecrest Volunteer Fire Department, 2014 IL App (1st) 123006.

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