Anytime we can get a case transferred out of Cook County Circuit Court it’s a good day – for many reasons. We were able to do so for a client, having the case transferred to Grundy County based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens.
The doctrine of forum non conveniens presupposes the existence of more than one proper venue and permits the court in which the action is filed to decline jurisdiction and direct the lawsuit to an alternative forum which it determines can better serve the convenience of the parties and the ends of justice. Furthermore, the doctrine of forum non conveniens “is based on considerations of fundamental fairness and sensible and effective judicial administration.” Dawdy v. Union Pacific R.R. Co., 207 Ill.2d 167, 171 (2003); Kahn v. Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co., 355 Ill.App.3d 13, 19 (1st Dist. 2004); Allee v. Myers, 349 Ill.App.3d 596, 599 (1st Dist. 2004); Botello v. Illinois Central R.R. Co., 348 Ill.App.3d 445, 455 (1st Dist. 2004). The doctrine of forum non conveniens is a flexible one that requires evaluation of the total circumstances rather than concentration on any single factor. Peile v. Skelgas, 163 Ill.2d 323, 337-38 (1994); Allee, 349 Ill.App.3d at 598.
The Illinois Supreme Court has held that where the plaintiff elects to sue outside her home forum, or outside the forum where the alleged injury took place, a court may readily decline to exercise jurisdiction. Griffith v. Mitsubishi Aircraft Int’l, Inc., 136 Ill. 2d 101, 104, 106 (1990). Our case involved a slip and fall incident inside a store located in Minooka, Illinois (Grundy County). At the time of her incident and filing of the complaint, the plaintiff lived in Channahon, Illinois (Will County – just near the border of Grundy County). Since neither the plaintiff nor the incident were located in Cook County, the court did not give the plaintiff’s choice of forum significant weight.
The Illinois Supreme Court has established the necessity for both public and private factors to be considered when determining whether to grant a motion to transfer venue based on forum non conveniens. Dawdy, 207 Ill.2d at 172; First Nat’l Bank v. Guerine, 198 Ill.2d 511, 516 (2002). In our case, we argued the following public and private factors warranted transfer to Grundy County:
• Grundy County had a community interest in deciding the controversy because the case involved a store located within the county and the allegations were specific to the store location. Grundy County was responsible for all store health inspections and collected taxes from the store.
- Cook County should not be burdened with the cost of a trial where it has no connection to the case.
- The Cook County docket is significantly more overwhelmed than Grundy County.
- Convenience to all parties favored Grundy County because:
- Plaintiff lived closer to Grundy County;
- The incident occurred in Grundy County;
- The store employees involved lived in Will and LaSalle Counties, which are closer to Grundy County;
- The plaintiff’s medical care was in and closer to Grundy County;
- The cost of traveling and parking at the Grundy County courthouse was significantly cheaper than going to Daley Center
The defendant in this case had stores in Cook County, as well as all of the surrounding counties. However, the Illinois Supreme Court has emphasized that the conduct of unrelated business transactions in a particular county is not a significant factor for purposes of forum non conveniens. Dawdy, 207 Ill.2d at 182; Kahn, 355 Ill.App.3d at 27.
The plaintiff argued that no single county had a predominant connection to the litigation and Cook County had sufficient interest to keep the case.
The Court evaluated each factor in detail. The court found the community interest of having this case handled locally in Grundy County, where the alleged incident occurred, strongly favored transfer to Grundy County. Along these lines, the court also found protecting the judicial resources and not burdening the citizens of Cook County for this matter to be significant. Therefore, the court ruled Cook County did not have an interest in resolving a slip and fall at store in Grundy County.