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Hartung v. Central Ill. Public Serv. Co.

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 6, 1982.

ROBERT HARTUNG, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

CENTRAL ILLINOIS PUBLIC SERVICE COMPANY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County; the Hon. George J. Moran, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE KARNS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

We granted defendant's petition for leave to appeal from the order of the circuit court of Madison County denying defendant's motion for change of venue, pursuant to amended Supreme Court Rule 306(a)(1)(iv) (87 Ill.2d R. 306(a)(1)(iv)). We hold that the trial court erroneously denied defendant's motion.

Plaintiff, Robert Hartung, a resident of Clinton County, Illinois, brought this action against defendant, Central Illinois Public Service Company, an Illinois corporation, for personal injuries sustained by him while employed as a boilermaker during a construction project at defendant's electrical generating plant at Coffeen, Montgomery County, Illinois. In his complaint, plaintiff alleged that defendant failed to exercise ordinary care and caution for the safety of plaintiff, and failed to provide plaintiff a reasonably safe place to work. Plaintiff alleged that defendant contracted with J.S. Alberici Construction Company to erect structural additions to its plant at Coffeen and that Alberici hired plaintiff as a construction boilermaker to work at that jobsite.

The complaint also alleged that defendant had entered into a contract with co-defendant, Sargent and Lundy, a partnership doing business in Madison County, Illinois, to provide the design, engineering and construction supervision of the structural additions. In count II of the complaint, plaintiff alleged that Sargent and Lundy was in charge of the work at the construction site and was guilty of the same acts of negligence alleged to have been committed by Central Illinois Public Service Company.

Defendant filed a special and limited appearance and motion for transfer of venue, alleging that it does not do business in Madison County. This motion was denied by the trial court on June 14, 1979. On January 28, 1982, the trial court granted Sargent and Lundy's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the partnership from the suit because there was no contractual relationship between it and defendant or J.S. Alberici Construction Company regarding the work performed by plaintiff at the time of his injury.

On March 2, 1982, defendant refiled and restated its earlier motion for transfer of venue, further alleging that Sargent and Lundy was joined solely for the purpose of fixing venue in Madison County. The trial court denied defendant's motion, and it is from that order that defendant now appeals.

On appeal defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying defendant's motion for transfer of venue because defendant was not doing business within Madison County for purposes of the venue statute. Section 5 of the Civil Practice Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 110, par. 5), effective July 1, 1982, section 2-101 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 110, par. 2-101) 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 * * *."

Section 6 of the Civil Practice Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 110, par. 6) effective July 1, 1982, section 2-102 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 110, par. 2-102) defines the residence of a corporation for venue purposes:

"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. * * *"

Defendant is an Illinois corporation with its registered agent located in Quincy, Adams County, Illinois. Defendant's office and principal place of business is in Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois. Defendant does not have an office in Madison County, does not own real estate in Madison County or have utility lines or poles in Madison County for the transmission of electricity.

The evidence further revealed that defendant consummated commercial transactions with 10 different Madison County residents which totaled nearly $4.4 million in 1979. Approximately $3.5 million of this total was attributable to a contract with Refineries Transport and Terminal Corp., a resident of Madison County, for the hauling of light oil to defendant's Coffeen power station. The remaining transactions included the purchase of $462,000 of lime, $255,000 of utility poles, $81,000 of valves, fittings and pipes, $50,000 of hydrogen, $11,000 of septic work and equipment, $5,000 of wire rope and slings and $3,000 of railroad equipment.

Plaintiff maintained that these commercial transactions contributed directly to defendant's production and marketing of its principal consumer product, electricity. Plaintiff further contends that these transactions were done systematically and continuously, thus establishing that defendant was "doing business" within Madison County within the meaning of the venue statute.

The question of what constitutes "doing business" has been considered previously in this State. In Baltimore & Ohio R.R. Co. v. Mosele (1977), 67 Ill.2d 321, 368 N.E.2d 88, suit was brought in Madison County against defendant railroad under the Federal Employers' Liability Act for personal injuries sustained by plaintiff. Evidence disclosed that the railroad had no offices or operating facilities within Madison County and that the incident from which the action arose did not take place in that county. It was established that the railroad's cars frequently passed through Madison County under the operation and control of the Terminal Railroad Association (TRRA) which functions as a terminal and interchange facility for railroads which ship freight to or from St. Louis, Missouri. Defendant owned 6.25% ...


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