College Diver Loses Jurisdiction in 7th Circuit Ruling

Jul 2, 2004

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a holding by a federal court in Illinois that that court does not have jurisdiction in a case where a former student-athlete sued her coach and Miami University of Ohio for negligence associated with an injury she suffered.
The key determination by the panel of judges was that the defendant “must transact business” in that district to connote jurisdiction.
The facts leading to the litigation had a significant bearing on the panel’s decision.
The plaintiff’s high school coach initially contacted the defendant coach, Todd Spohn. Spohn then contacted the plaintiff, Jessica Vilchis, over the phone and exchanged e-mails with her. The plaintiff and her mother traveled to the university and ultimately decided to attend the school.
The plaintiff’s injury occurred during a diving practice in the fall of 2000. She tried to come back, but ultimately had to retire from diving. She, along with her mother, initially sued Spohn and the University in the Circuit Court for Cook County, Illinois, for negligence in responding to her injury.
The defendants, however, removed the case to a federal court, where they moved to dismiss the Vilchis’ complaint for, among other things, lack of personal jurisdiction. The district court concluded there was not personal jurisdiction because the defendants telephone and e-mail contacts with Vilchis in Illinois did not constitute the transaction of business sufficient to confer personal jurisdiction under Illinois’ long-arm statute, 735 ILCS 5/2-209.
The plaintiffs appealed.
In its review, the panel took issue with the plaintiff’s argument that “Spohn induced Jessica to attend the University with false promises of a four-year full scholarship.” The plaintiffs further charged “that these promises amount to a tortuous act sufficient to invoke jurisdiction of the district court pursuant to the long arm statute. 735 ILC 5/2-209(a)(2).
“This contention has no merit. The act complained of by the Vilchis’es in their suit, negligence in response to Jessica’s diving injury, has nothing to do with Spohn’s alleged promises to Jessica. In fact, the Vilchis’es specifically disclaimed in their brief any attempt to sue Spohn or the University for these alleged false promises.”
Where a plaintiff asserts that a court has specific personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, the cause of action asserted by the plaintiff must arise out of the contacts that occurred in the forum state, Illinois. Alderson v. Southern Co., 321 Ill. App. 3d 832, 747 N.E.2d 926, 939, 254 Ill. Dec. 514 (III. App. Ct. 2001).
Vilchis et al. v. Miami University of Ohio et al., 7th Cir., No. 03-3845, 5/19/04
Attorneys of Record: (for plaintiffs) Lawrence P. Washington in Flossmoor, IL. (for defendants) Jason G. Winchester of Jones Day in Chicago, IL


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