ILLINOIS v. HEMI GROUP (September 14, 2010)

Hemi Group is located in New Mexico but sells cigarettes throughout the United States (except New York - maybe this is why) through several interactive websites as well as by phone, mail, and fax. Hemi pays the federal tax on the cigarettes it sells but it directs its customers to investigate their own state tax liability. Hemi is not registered to do business in Illinois, has no offices or employees in Illinois, and does not advertise in print media in Illinois. An Illinois Department of Revenue agent purchased hundreds of packs of cigarettes from Hemi in 2005 and 2007. Illinois brought suit in state court against Hemi, alleging numerous violations of law. After removing the case to federal court, Hemi moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Judge Scott (C.D. Ill.) denied the motion. Hemi appeals.

In their opinion, Judges Bauer, Kanne, and Evans affirmed. The Court briefly considered, but rejected, the argument that the Illinois Constitution is more restrictive than the federal constitution in its personal jurisdiction requirements. The Court therefore conducted its analysis with respect to the due process clause of the federal constitution. Since Hemi does not have general, systematic business contacts in Illinois, the Court considered only specific jurisdiction and found that it existed. First, Hemi's contacts with Illinois satisfy due process: a) Illinois customers could buy cigarettes on their many interactive websites, b) they held themselves out as ready to do business in Illinois , c) their refusal to sell to New York residents showed that they were aware of the ramifications of selling into a particular state, and d) they shipped cigarettes into Illinois. The Court emphasized that it was not using the Zippo sliding scale approach that other circuits have adopted for Internet jurisdiction cases. Second, the relatedness requirement for specific jurisdiction is satisfied -- the claims arise out of Hemi's contacts. Finally, the exercise of jurisdiction here "does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." Hemi set up a nationwide, online commercial venture. It wanted to do business nationwide and has customers throughout the nation. The Court cautioned against exercising jurisdiction over a company simply because it has an interactive website accessible in the forum state. Here, additional voluntary contacts with the state make the exercise of jurisdiction permissible.