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St. Louis-san Francisco Ry. v. Gitchoff

OPINION FILED OCTOBER 5, 1977.

ST. LOUIS-SAN FRANCISCO RAILWAY COMPANY, PETITIONER,

v.

JOHN GITCHOFF, JUDGE, ET AL., RESPONDENTS.



Original petition for mandamus.

MR. JUSTICE MORAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is an original proceeding wherein petitioner, the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Company (Railroad), seeks a writ of mandamus from this court reversing the trial court's denial of the Railroad's motion to quash summons, service and return. Respondent Winfred Lane Stites, the plaintiff in the trial court proceeding, there sought recovery under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq.) for alleged injuries which occurred in Missouri. As the defendant in that action, the Railroad, under section 20 of the Civil Practice Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 110, par. 20), filed a limited appearance and the above motion. After a hearing, Judge Gitchoff of the circuit court of Madison County denied the Railroad's motion.

Although neither party asserts the impropriety of an original action in mandamus to resolve the issues of this case, we deem it appropriate to note that this court granted leave to file the mandamus herein at a time when there was pending before it the case of Baltimore & Ohio R.R. Co. v. Mosele (1977), 67 Ill.2d 321, which raised similar issues in a like context. There, we observed that a substantial number of corresponding cases against that railroad were pending in the circuit court of Madison County. Under these circumstances, in the interest of judicial economy, we have elected to proceed to the merits of this petition.

The Railroad is a foreign corporation organized under the laws of the State of Missouri. It has its headquarters in St. Louis, and is not licensed to do business in the State of Illinois. The Railroad operates in nine states: Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and Florida. Its northern terminus is the Lindenwood Yards in St. Louis, Missouri. It has no railroad trackage in Illinois, and therefore operates no "run through" trains in this State. The shipment of the Railroad's freight into or out of Illinois is handled by a corporation known as the Terminal Railroad Association (TRRA), which operates a switching or transfer facility between St. Louis, Missouri, and Madison and St. Clair counties in Illinois. The Railroad maintains a sales office in Chicago, which office is staffed by seven employees. The solicitors there, as in the Railroad's 54 sales offices across the continental United States, are paid a salary, receive no commissions, and collect no money from shippers.

Mr. John Harvey, assistant superintendent of the Railroad's St. Louis terminal, is responsible for coordinating and expediting the movement within Illinois of the company's cars and those cars consigned to it by other railroads. In this connection, Mr. Harvey has, for approximately the last 10 years, spent between 60% and 80% of his working hours in Illinois. An office was provided for his use in the TRRA Brooklyn shops at Lovejoy, Illinois, in St. Clair County, which office was equipped with a direct telephone line to the Railroad's headquarters. While in this office, Mr. Harvey was served process.

Expedited service is of substantial competitive importance to the Railroad in view of the industry's fixed-rate structure. In 1972, the Railroad's revenues for just that traffic which originated or terminated in Madison County, Illinois, totaled $1,867,619. The figure for 1973 was $2,982,188; for 1974, $2,830,545.

The Railroad urges that venue does not lie in Madison County, and that its business contacts in the State of Illinois are insufficient to subject it to personal jurisdiction by the Illinois courts>. Dealing briefly with the question of venue, section 6 of the Civil Practice Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 110, par. 6) provides in pertinent part:

"Venue — Residence of corporations and partnerships defined. For purposes of venue, the following definitions apply:

(1) Any private corporation or railroad or bridge company, 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. A foreign corporation not authorized to transact business in this State is a nonresident of this State."

(See Baltimore & Ohio R.R. Co. v. Mosele (1977), 67 Ill.2d 321.) The pertinent part of the venue statute, section 5 of the Civil Practice Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 110, par. 5), reads:

"Venue — Generally. 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, or (b) in the county in which the transaction or some part thereof occurred out of which the cause of action arose.

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

It is clear from the above provisions that the Railroad, a foreign corporation not authorized to do business in this State, is a nonresident and, as such, is not subject to the venue restrictions imposed upon residents of this State by the first sentence of section 5, above. Instead, under the second sentence of section 5, venue in any county is proper. We do not dwell on the issue of venue in view of the clear statutory venue provisions applicable to ...


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