SNFA, a manufacturer of custom aerospace ball bearings based in France, has asked the Supreme Court of the United States to review the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling that SNFA is amenable to suit in Illinois for damages arising out of a helicopter crash there. Along with Todd A. Smith and Brian LaCien of Powers, Rogers & Smith, P.C. in Chicago, CCL’s Andre Mura, assisted by CCL’s Robert S. Peck, drafted the brief in opposition on behalf of the plaintiff.

In this case, Michael Russell, then living in Illinois, died when the air ambulance he was piloting, an Agusta 109C helicopter, crashed in the greater Chicago area. The helicopter, manufactured in Italy by Agusta S.p.A., utilized seven tail rotor bearings custom made for that aircraft by SNFA.  Russell’s estate sued the helicopter owner, the helicopter’s manufacturer and distributor, and SNFA, the manufacturer of the custom bearings which were allegedly defective and responsible for the accident. SNFA challenged the Illinois court’s personal jurisdiction. The Illinois Supreme Court, however, concluded that the “plaintiff [in this case] has presented sufficient evidence to establish that [SNFA] engaged in Illinois-specific activity to establish minimum contacts with Illinois under [Justice O’Connor’s] more demanding standard,”—a standard Justice O’Connor described in her plurality opinion in Asahi Metal Industry Co. v. Superior Court of California, Solano County, 480 U.S. 102, 110-12 (1987).

The petition seeks review on the theory that the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling is inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent. The brief in opposition, however, explains that the court’s ruling is consistent with the Court’s precedent, that the record in the case established that SNFA conducted business in Illinois, that Agusta served as an agent for SNFA in Illinois, providing replacement parts to aircraft needing SNFA’s custom bearings, and that further review is unwarranted.

The case is currently set for the Supreme Court’s September 30th conference, when the Court is scheduled to review petitions filed over the summer and determine which cases to add to the upcoming term.