An Illinois company’s lawsuits against Philadelphia-based Shein Law Center and Dallas-based Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett will not be going forward in Illinois federal court, following an appellate decision filed Monday.
But that doesn’t mean the firms are entirely off the hook.
Illinois-based manufacturing company John Crane Inc. sued the two law firms in the Northern District of Illinois, alleging fraud, conspiracy and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act violations. On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of the cases for lack of personal jurisdiction, finding that the cases were only tenuously connected to Illinois.
“All contacts the defendants had with JCI in Illinois were incidental to the litigation proceeding elsewhere,” Circuit Judge Michael S. Kanne wrote in a seven-page opinion. “It would be unfair to require the defendants to appear in Illinois because of these limited contacts.”
JCI, which makes seals and gaskets, claimed that the law firms fabricated and concealed information about its clients’ exposure to asbestos to obtain multimillion-dollar recoveries in lawsuits against JCI and other manufacturers. In each case, Shein Law and Simon Greenstone sought to have the claims dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction and lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Each case was dismissed in Illinois for lack of personal jurisdiction. JCI appealed, while Shein Law and Simon Greenstone filed cross-appeals, arguing that the cases should also have been dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
But the cross-appeal was not successful. The Seventh Circuit panel noted that it made no ruling based on the merits of JCI’s allegations.
“The claims JCI levies are serious and ought to be examined. The Northern District of Illinois is simply the wrong jurisdiction,” Kanne wrote.
JCI has already filed suit against Shein Law in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. That case was stayed in September while the Seventh Circuit appeal was pending. JCI has yet to file a similar case against Simon Greenstone outside of Illinois.
Another manufacturer, Garlock Sealing Technologies, brought similar claims against Shein Law, Simon Greenstone and other law firms in 2014. Garlock ultimately dropped those cases.
Mark Ferguson of Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott, who represents JCI, said in a statement Tuesday that his client “will move forward and continue with its efforts” despite the Seventh Circuit ruling. He noted that the opinion made no ruling based on the merits of the case.
“Part of the reason that John Crane filed these lawsuits has been to bring to light the kinds of practices alleged in the complaint and put a stop to them,” Ferguson said. “These lawsuits address issues of national importance that remain unresolved despite the efforts of John Crane and others.”
Michael Magner of Jones Walker, who represents Simon Greenstone, said in a statement that he is pleased with the decision, and called JCI’s appeal “nothing more than the most recent attempt by John Crane to find a jurisdiction most favorable to its cause.”
“It is important to note that the court specifically pointed out it did not address the merits of the claims. However, should John Crane decide to refile this case in an appropriate jurisdiction, we are quite confident we will ultimately prevail on the merits as well,” Magner said.
“The Seventh Circuit affirmance of the trial court’s dismissal of the case concludes John Crane’s failed effort to pursue this matter in its own backyard,” Shein Law’s lawyer, Daniel Brier of Myers Brier & Kelly, said Tuesday. “This effort to relitigate the same cases that Shein successfully tried to verdict against John Crane in Philadelphia more than eight years ago lacks both factual and legal merit.”