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Moore v. Chicago & North Western Trans. Co.

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 1, 1983.

WILLIAM J. MOORE, SPECIAL ADM'R, APPELLEE,

v.

CHICAGO AND NORTH WESTERN TRANSPORTATION COMPANY, APPELLANT. — JOHN DELANEY, APPELLEE,

v.

JONES & LAUGHLIN STEEL CORPORATION ET AL., APPELLANTS.



No. 57853. — Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. Raymond S. Sarnow, Judge, presiding.

No. 57992. — Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. Joseph Gordon, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE MORAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

James L. Pittman & Associates, Ltd., of Chicago (James L. Pittman and Mark E. Christensen, of counsel), for appellants.

Alan C. Mendelson, of Chicago, for appellee.

On the court's own motion these two cases were consolidated for opinion after oral argument. They present a single issue for review: Did the trial court abuse its discretion when it denied the defendants' motion to dismiss based upon the doctrine of forum non conveniens?

In each case, the defendants' motions to dismiss the action on the grounds of forum non conveniens were denied by the trial court. Pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 306(a)(1)(ii) (87 Ill.2d R. 306(a)(1)(ii)), each defendant sought review of the trial court's ruling in the appellate court. In exercising its discretion under the rule, the appellate court denied the petitions. Thereafter, this court allowed defendants' petitions for leave to appeal pursuant to Rule 315 (87 Ill.2d R. 315).

Implicit in the doctrine of forum non conveniens is the existence of at least two forums in which the controversy may be litigated. (Jones v. Searle Laboratories (1982), 93 Ill.2d 366, 371; People ex rel. Compagnie Nationale Air France v. Giliberto (1978), 74 Ill.2d 90, 112, cert. denied (1979), 441 U.S. 932, 60 L.Ed.2d 660, 99 S.Ct. 2052.) The inquiry therefore focuses upon the relative convenience of the available forums.

It was stated by the court in Adkins v. Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific R.R. Co. (1973), 54 Ill.2d 511, 514, that "[f]orum non conveniens is a doctrine that is founded in considerations of fundamental fairness and sensible and effective judicial administration." The doctrine assumes that the court has the power to assert jurisdiction. However, under the doctrine, the court may decline to exercise jurisdiction whenever, after balancing all factors essential to the trial of a particular case, it appears that it may be more conveniently tried in another forum. Wieser v. Missouri Pacific R.R. Co. (1983), 98 Ill.2d 359, 364-65; Lonergan v. Crucible Steel Co. of America (1967), 37 Ill.2d 599, 606; Cotton v. Louisville & Nashville R.R. Co. (1958), 14 Ill.2d 144, 150; Whitney v. Madden (1948), 400 Ill. 185, 189, cert. denied (1948), 335 U.S. 828, 93 L.Ed. 382, 69 S.Ct. 55.

In Adkins the court discussed the factors that must be balanced by the trial court in ruling upon a motion to dismiss on the basis of forum non conveniens. These factors include the location of witnesses, the availability of compulsory process to secure attendance of unwilling witnesses, the ease of access to sources of proof, the possibility of a view of the site of the occurrence, the tax burden as well as the imposition of jury service upon the residents of the community, the congestion of the court dockets, and the relative convenience of the parties. (Adkins v. Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific R.R. Co. (1973), 54 Ill.2d 511, 514.) (See also Jones v. Searle Laboratories (1982), 93 Ill.2d 366, 372-73; 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. Accord, Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert (1947), 330 U.S. 501, 508-09, 91 L.Ed. 1055, 1062-63, 67 S.Ct. 839, 843.) However, the plaintiff's choice of forum is accorded great weight and will not be disturbed unless the balance strongly favors the defendant. See Wieser v. Missouri Pacific R.R. Co. (1983), 98 Ill.2d 359, 366; Jones v. Searle Laboratories (1982), 93 Ill.2d 366, 372-73; Espinosa v. Norfolk & Western Ry. Co. (1981), 86 Ill.2d 111, 118; 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.

Broad discretion is vested in the trial court in determining whether particular facts and circumstances warrant dismissal of a case based upon forum non conveniens. The court's decision will be reversed on review if it can be shown that, in deciding as it did, there was an abuse of discretion. 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; Fender v. St. Louis Southwestern Ry. Co. (1971), 49 Ill.2d 1, 4.

In cause No. 57853, the plaintiff, William J. Moore, special administrator of the estate of Carol A. Matijevich, brought an action in the circuit court of Cook County seeking damages against the defendant, Chicago and North Western Transportation Company. The defendant is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Cook County, Illinois. It owns and operates a railroad in many areas, including Adams County, Wisconsin.

Plaintiff's decedent, Carol A. Matijevich, was killed on January 24, 1982, at a railroad crossing in Adams County, when the car she was driving collided with a train owned by defendant. At the time of her death, Mrs. Matijevich was a resident of Marquette County, Wisconsin.

The circuit court of Marquette County appointed plaintiff, father of decedent and an Illinois resident, as special administrator of her estate. Plaintiff engaged a law firm in Cook County, Illinois, and on April 8, 1982, this suit was filed in the circuit court of that county. Plaintiff charged defendant with negligence for violating various Wisconsin statutes. On October 4, 1982, an amended complaint was filed under ...


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