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Jones v. Searle Laboratories

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 17, 1982.

MARGARET JONES ET AL., APPELLEES,

v.

SEARLE LABORATORIES ET AL., APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. Arthur A. Sullivan, Jr., Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE MORAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied January 28, 1983.

Numerous plaintiffs, all of whom are residents of the United Kingdom, filed separate suits against Searle Laboratories (defendant) in the circuit court of Cook County. Pursuant to defendant's motion, the trial court dismissed the suits on the grounds that Illinois is a forum non conveniens. The appellate court reversed and remanded the cause, concluding that there is a relevant connection between the litigation and the selected forum. (100 Ill. App.3d 165.) We granted defendant leave to appeal.

The sole issue presented for review is whether the trial court's dismissal of the cause, pursuant to the doctrine of forum non conveniens, constituted an abuse of discretion.

Defendant is a Delaware corporation which maintains its principal place of business in Skokie, Illinois. It developed and patented certain active ingredients contained in Ovulen, Conovid and Metrulen, the oral contraceptives in question. Defendant granted a license to G.D. Searle & Co., Ltd. (Limited), its wholly owned subsidiary located in Britain, to use the patented ingredients in manufacturing pharmaceuticals for sale in the United Kingdom. Plaintiffs seek to hold defendant liable, on various tort theories, for improperly developing the contraceptives, failing to provide adequate warnings as to their harmful side effects, and releasing the pharmaceuticals for public consumption. Whether or not Searle is liable is not presently at issue. We are here concerned only with the propriety of plaintiffs' choice of forum.

Defendant cites a number of factors in support of its motion to dismiss. It claims that all of the plaintiffs and most of the witnesses reside in the United Kingdom; most of the evidence is located in the United Kingdom; the contraceptives were manufactured, prescribed, and sold in the United Kingdom; and British law would apply to these cases. For these reasons, defendant asserts that trial in Illinois would be burdensome, inconvenient and expensive.

Plaintiffs oppose defendant's motion to dismiss on the grounds that it has its principal place of business in Skokie, Illinois, and the allegedly tortious conduct occurred in Illinois. Plaintiffs emphasize that they are primarily challenging defendant's failure to provide adequate warnings regarding the hazardous nature of the product. The allegedly defective warnings were, for the most part, promulgated by defendant. Thus, it is argued, the evidence and witnesses necessary to establish this theory of liability are located in Illinois.

The doctrine of forum non conveniens presupposes the existence of at least two forums in which the defendant is amenable to jurisdiction. (People ex rel. Compagnie Nationale Air France v. Giliberto (1978), 74 Ill.2d 90, cert. denied (1979), 441 U.S. 932, 60 L.Ed.2d 660, 99 S.Ct. 2052; Lonergan v. Crucible Steel Co. of America (1967), 37 Ill.2d 599.) There is no reason to believe that plaintiffs could not litigate these actions in England, where they reside. Further, defendant has agreed to submit to the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom and to comply with any discovery orders of those courts>. The inquiry therefore concerns the relative convenience of the available forums. As stated in Adkins v. Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific R.R. Co. (1973), 54 Ill.2d 511, 514:

"Forum non conveniens is a doctrine that is founded in considerations of fundamental fairness and sensible and effective judicial administration. In the application of these basic considerations a court may decline jurisdiction of a case `even though it may have proper jurisdiction over all parties and the subject matter involved' (Whitney v. Madden (1948), 400 Ill. 185, 189, cert. denied, 335 U.S. 828, 93 L.Ed. 382, 69 S.Ct. 55), whenever it appears that there is another forum that can better `serve the convenience of the parties and the ends of justice.' (Lonergan v. Crucible Steel Co. of America (1967), 37 Ill.2d 599, 606.)"

The factors to consider in determining a forum non conveniens motion were set forth at length in Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert (1947), 330 U.S. 501, 508-09, 91 L.Ed. 1055, 1062-63, 67 S.Ct. 839, 843:

"An interest to be considered, and the one likely to be most pressed, is the private interest of the litigant. Important considerations are the relative ease of access to sources of proof; availability of compulsory process for attendance of unwilling, and the cost of obtaining attendance of willing, witnesses; possibility of view of premises, if view would be appropriate to the action; and all other practical problems that make trial of a case easy, expeditious and inexpensive. There may also be questions as to the enforceability of a judgment if one is obtained. The court will weigh relative advantages and obstacles to fair trial. It is often said that the plaintiff may not, by choice of an inconvenient forum, `vex,' `harass,' or `oppress' the defendant by inflicting upon him expense or trouble not necessary to his own right to pursue his remedy. But unless the balance is strongly in favor of the defendant, the plaintiff's choice of forum should rarely be disturbed.

Factors of public interest also have place in applying the doctrine. Administrative difficulties follow for courts> when litigation is piled up in congested centers instead of being handled at its origin. Jury duty is a burden that ought not to be imposed upon the people of a community which has no relation to the litigation. In cases which touch the affairs of many persons, there is reason for holding the trial in their view and reach rather than in remote parts of the country where they can learn of it by report only. There is a local interest in having localized controversies decided at home. There is an appropriateness, too, in having the trial of a diversity case in a forum that is at home with the state law that must govern the case, rather than having a court in some other forum untangle problems in conflict of laws, and in law foreign to itself."

(See also Espinosa v. Norfolk & Western Ry. Co. (1981), 86 Ill.2d 111, 118-19; People ex rel. Compagnie Nationale Air France v. Giliberto (1978), 74 Ill.2d 90, 110-11, cert. denied (1979), 441 U.S. 932, 60 L.Ed.2d 660, 99 S.Ct. 2052.) In order to retain flexibility, no one factor should be accorded central emphasis. Piper Aircraft Co. ...


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