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Blakey v. Commonwealth Edison Co.

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 6, 1977.

ADRIAN BLAKEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

COMMONWEALTH EDISON COMPANY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Madison County; the Hon. HORACE L. CALVO, Judge, presiding. MR. JUSTICE EBERSPACHER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied September 28, 1977.

Defendant-appellant, Commonwealth Edison Company (hereinafter referred to as "defendant"), appeals from an adverse judgment entered against it in the trial court in favor of Adrian Blakey (hereinafter referred to as "plaintiff"). Plaintiff, who was an employee of an independent contractor sued defendant to recover damages caused by the alleged negligence of the defendant which owned a steam generating boiler being constructed in Pekin, Tazewell County, Illinois. Plaintiff filed the action in Madison County, Illinois, and a jury verdict of $150,000 was returned in the trial court.

Defendant timely filed its motion to transfer venue to Cook County, Tazewell County, or any other county in Illinois in which defendant was actually doing business. This motion was denied and subsequent renewals of the motion immediately prior to commencement of trial, at the close of plaintiff's case, at the close of all the evidence, and in the post-trial motions were denied.

Denial of defendant's motion to transfer venue was error and we reverse on that ground.

The pertinent statute governing venue is section 5 of the Civil Practice Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 110, par. 5) which provides in pertinent part as follows:

"Except as otherwise provided in this Act, every action must be commenced (a) in the county of residence of any defendant who is joined in good faith and with probable cause for the purpose of obtaining a judgment against him and not solely for the purpose of fixing venue in that county, * * *.

If all defendants are nonresidents of the State, an action may be commenced in any county."

The Civil Practice Act, section 6, provides in regard to corporations:

"For purposes of venue, the following definitions apply:

(1) Any private corporation * * * organized under the laws of this State, and any foreign corporation authorized to transact business in this State is a resident of any county in which it has its registered office or other office or is doing business." (Emphasis added.)

The evidence shows that defendant is an Illinois Corporation, has its registered office in Chicago (Cook County) and has no office in Madison County. The factual issue before us is whether or not defendant is "doing business" in Madison County within the meaning of the venue statute.

The facts cited by plaintiff which he claims satisfies the concept of "doing business" are that railroad cars owned by defendant and leased to the I.C. & G. Railroad are hauled by the I.C. & G. Railroad through Madison County. Secondly, although defendant's service area is composed of approximately the northern one-third of Illinois, it does, from time to time, sell electricity to other power companies through interconnection agreements which are a part of a nationwide "grid" system and conceivably some of the power generated by defendant finds its way to customers of other power companies in Madison County.

We find that the above actions are not sufficient to hold that defendant is "doing business" in Madison County.

Proper venue is an important privilege which is given great weight in Illinois. For example, it was held in Martin-Trigona v. Roderick (1975), 29 Ill. App.3d 553, 331 N.E.2d 100, that a waiver of venue clause in a lease is void as contrary to public policy. In Heldt v. Watts (1946), ...


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