Fourth District Illinois Appellate Court Reviews Jurisdiction Issue Despite Trial Court Failure To Do So

Lee Isringhausen, an Illinois resident, contracted with APM Custom Homes, a Florida corporation, to build a home in Marco Island, Florida. Lee died before the house was built. APM returned most of the $100,000 deposit to Lee’s estate, but kept $42,500 of it as a construction-management fee.

Susan Isringhausen, executor of Lee’s estate, sued APM for the $42,500, in an Illinois court. The trial court dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction over APM. Susan appealed, but the Fourth District Illinois Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of her case.

The trial court ruled that it did not have “general jurisdiction” over APM because APM did not have continuous and systematic business contacts in Illinois. Susan argued that the trial court had “specific jurisdiction” over APM − i.e. the case arose “from ‘the making or performance’ of a contract that is ‘substantially connected’ to Illinois.”

Even though the trial court did not consider “specific jurisdiction,” the appellate court stated it could review the question. “[W]e must make our determination of jurisdiction based on a de novo review of the documents on record … Therefore, any apparent failure on the part of the trial court to consider the question of specific jurisdiction in its written memorandum of opinion does not mandate a reversal. Rather, we must take it upon ourselves to examine the question of specific jurisdiction.”

The appellate court sided with APM and ruled that the trial court did not have jurisdiction. Get the whole case, Estate of Isringhausen v. Prime Contractors and Associates, No. 4-07-0345 (1/29/08), by clicking here.