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Chicago & N.w. Transp. Co. v. Matoesian

OPINION FILED JUNE 26, 1981.

CHICAGO AND NORTH WESTERN TRANSPORTATION COMPANY, PETITIONER,

v.

A.A. MATOESIAN, JUDGE, ET AL., RESPONDENTS.



Original petition for mandamus.

MR. JUSTICE CLARK DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied October 19, 1981.

This is an original proceeding for a writ of mandamus (73 Ill.2d R. 381) requesting this court to direct the respondent judge A.A. Matoesian, of the circuit court of Madison County, to vacate his order of August 25, 1980, denying the petitioner Chicago and North Western Transportation Company's motion to dismiss an action brought under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq. (1976)) (FELA).

Respondent Jeffrey S. Reddick allegedly was injured on December 20, 1979, while employed at petitioner's railroad car shop in Clinton, Iowa. Most of the witnesses likely to be called to testify reside in or near Clinton. Reddick filed suit under the FELA on May 21, 1980, and the case was assigned to the respondent judge. On July 7, 1980, the petitioner filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens. The motion was supported by an affidavit sworn to by John H. Caster, an assistant vice-president of petitioner, which averred facts concerning the inconvenience of maintaining the action in Madison County. Memoranda were filed in support of the motion.

The plaintiff-respondent filed a memorandum in opposition to the motion to dismiss. The plaintiff has subsequently filed an affidavit with the circuit court asserting that he is now a resident of Fulton County, Illinois.

The petitioner, a Delaware corporation, is licensed to conduct business in Illinois. It has its executive offices in Chicago and owns property and conducts business in numerous Illinois counties, including Madison County. The circuit court of Madison County has subject matter jurisdiction over the parties, and venue is proper in Madison County.

The petitioner contends that the circuit court of Madison County should have declined to exercise its jurisdiction and, based upon the relative inconvenience to the petitioner in maintaining the action in Madison County, should have dismissed the plaintiff's complaint.

The respondents argue, as the plaintiff did in the trial court, that the State does not have the equitable power to decline jurisdiction under the doctrine of forum non conveniens since the plaintiff has a substantial right in choosing his forum which cannot be overridden by the inconvenience it causes the defendant. The plaintiff cites section 6 of the FELA (45 U.S.C. sec. 56 (1976)) and Pope v. Atlantic Coast Line R.R. Co. (1953), 345 U.S. 379, 97 L.Ed. 1094, 73 S.Ct. 749, to support his thesis.

The respondents also argue that the petitioner does not have a right to defeat the plaintiff's "substantial right" to choose his own forum for the trial of his cause of action.

Finally, respondents argue that the trial court did not abuse its discretion herein in denying petitioner's motion to dismiss. Respondents then argue that mandamus is not an appropriate remedy in this case because the trial judge's decision to deny the motion to dismiss is an exercise of his discretion which is not a proper subject of review by mandamus.

We need not reach the substantive arguments in this matter since we think that mandamus is inappropriate in this case. Mandamus will not lie to correct mere judicial errors (Horn v. Rincker (1981), 84 Ill.2d 139, 148; Baltimore & Ohio R.R. Co. v. Mosele (1977), 67 Ill.2d 321, 334), nor will it lie to direct the manner in which a judge is to exercise his discretion (People ex rel. Chesapeake & Ohio Ry. Co. v. Donovan (1964), 30 Ill.2d 178, 180; People ex rel. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. Clark (1957), 12 Ill.2d 515). Clark was an FELA action brought in Cook County by the administrator of the estate of a deceased employee, a brakeman, who was killed in a head-on collision between two trains in New Mexico. The decedent had resided with his wife and seven children in New Mexico. The administrator resided in Oklahoma. The defendant railroad owned property and operated its business in various States, including Illinois, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. The defendant railroad filed a motion to dismiss the Illinois lawsuit on the ground of forum non conveniens. The trial judge denied the motion on the ground that the plaintiff's right to choose his forum under section 6 of the FELA is a substantial right which should not be taken away by the courts>, "at least unless there is more of a showing than is contained [here]." This court held:

"[A] motion to dismiss based on forum non conveniens raises an issue which necessitates an exercise of discretion by the trial judge in ruling thereon. Such discretionary action of a trial judge cannot be reviewed or controlled by mandamus unless the judge refused to exercise his discretion at all * * *." (People ex rel. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. Clark (1957), 12 Ill.2d 515, 520.)

Accordingly the writ of mandamus was denied.

The petitioner and amici curiae refer us to People ex rel. Chesapeake & Ohio Ry. Co. v. Donovan (1964), 30 Ill.2d ...


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