Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Philip
A. Fleischman, Judge, presiding.
PRESIDING JUSTICE MEJDA DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Rehearing denied March 6, 1985.
Defendants in the 16 cases hereinafter set forth appeal from the denial of their consolidated motions to dismiss the respective actions brought against them, which motions are based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens. On appeal, the issue is whether the trial court erred in denying the motions to dismiss. We reverse the trial court's order denying the motions as hereinafter set forth.
These lawsuits arise out of the collapse on April 15, 1982, of a portion of a highway ramp and extension bridge under construction in East Chicago, Indiana. Sixteen actions were brought in the circuit court of Cook County against some or all of the seven defendants to recover damages for injuries suffered by the plaintiffs or for the deaths of the decedents of some of the plaintiffs.
The 16 cases involved herein are: No. 82-L-7718, Frederick D. Torrijas v. Midwest Steel Erection Co., Inc., et al.; No. 82-L-8251, Linda K. Bricker v. Midwest Steel Erection Co., Inc., et al.; No. 82-L-8892, William and Brenda Newman v. Midwest Steel Erection Co., Inc., et al.; No. 82-L-9497, James and Jacqueline Brannock v. Anthes Industries, Inc., et al.; No. 82-L-9584, Dorothy Whitehead et al. v. Figg & Muller Engineers, Inc., et al.; No. 82-L-10412, Harold R. Warren v. Anthes Industries, Ltd., et al.; No. 82-L-11191, Betty Elkins v. Anthes Industries, Inc., et al.; No. 82-L-11363, Carolyn K. Pegg v. Anthes Industries, Inc., et al.; No. 82-L-11484, Edith Chester v. Anthes Industries, Inc., et al.; No. 82-L-11927, Donald and Colleen Hanft v. Anthes Industries, Inc., et al.; No. 82-L-12007, Mark and Shelley Mays v. Anthes Industries, Inc., et al.; No. 82-L-12066, Charles and Elizabeth Calhoun v. Anthes Industries, Inc., et al.; No. 82-L-12119, M. Louis and Willette Cloutier v. Anthes Industries, Inc., et al.; No. 82-L-13774, Kevin and Stacy Riley v. Anthes Industries, Inc., et al.; No. 82-L-14170, Patricia O'Connor v. Anthes Industries, Inc., et al.; No. 82-L-19124, David S. and Eileen M. Nelson v. Anthes Industries, Inc., et al.
These lawsuits were consolidated for the purpose of the disposition of the several defendants' motions to dismiss based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens. The trial court denied the motions giving no reasons for its ruling. Thereafter, this court granted defendants leave to appeal the trial court's denial of the motions pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 306 (87 Ill.2d R. 306).
Plaintiffs allege that Anthes Industries, Ltd., a Canadian corporation, and Chicago Contractors Supply Company, an Illinois corporation, designed and supplied defective steel scaffolding to Superior Construction Company, Inc. (Superior). Superior, an Indiana corporation, was the general contractor on the project and the employer of several of the plaintiffs or their decedents. Figg & Muller Engineers, Inc., a Florida corporation doing business in Illinois, subcontracted with Superior for the redesign of certain portions of the ramp. Midwest Construction Company, Inc., an Illinois corporation, also subcontracted with Superior for a portion of the construction of the ramp. Thatcher Engineering Corporation, an Indiana corporation conducting business in Illinois, supplied the tools and some manpower for the project. Lastly, Dyer Construction Company, an Indiana corporation doing business in Illinois, performed excavation work prior to the laying of the foundation for the ramp.
The plaintiffs involved in this litigation are residents of Indiana, with the exception of one plaintiff who is a resident of Missouri. All of the lay and medical witnesses to the occurrence reside in Indiana. The only connections with Illinois are: five of the defendants are either incorporated in or doing business in the State, physicians treating five of the plaintiffs are located in Illinois, plaintiffs' lawyers' offices are in Illinois, and several expert witnesses reside there.
The issue presented for our consideration is whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying defendants' motion to dismiss based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens.
The trial court has broad discretion in deciding whether a case should be dismissed based upon forum non conveniens. (Moore v. Chicago & North Western Transportation Co. (1983), 99 Ill.2d 73, 81-83, 457 N.E.2d 417.) On review, the only consideration is whether the trial court's decision constituted an abuse of discretion and not whether the reviewing court would have resolved the issue in the same manner as the trial court. 99 Ill.2d 73, 83, 457 N.E.2d 417.
The doctrine of forum non conveniens assumes the existence of at least two forums in which the controversy may be litigated. (Moore v. Chicago & North Western Transportation Co. (1983), 99 Ill.2d 73, 76, 457 N.E.2d 417; Jones v. Searle Laboratories (1982), 93 Ill.2d 366, 371, 444 N.E.2d 157.) The application of this doctrine, therefore, focuses on the relative convenience of the available forums. Foster v. Chicago & North Western Transportation Co. (1984), 102 Ill.2d 376, 382, 466 N.E.2d 198; Adkins v. Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific R.R. Co. (1973), 54 Ill.2d 511, 514, 301 N.E.2d 729, cert. denied (1976), 424 U.S. 943, 47 L.Ed.2d 349, 96 S.Ct. 1411.
In Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert (1947), 330 U.S. 501, 91 L.Ed. 1055, 67 S.Ct. 839, the United States Supreme Court enunciated the relevant interests, both private and public, which must be balanced in determining the most convenient forum. The private interest factors include the ease of access to sources of proof, the availability of compulsory process to secure the attendance of unwilling witnesses, the cost of obtaining the attendance of willing witnesses, the possibility of a view of the site of the occurrence, and the convenience of the parties. Factors of public interest requiring consideration are the imposition of jury service on the residents of the community, the congestion of the court dockets, the need to apply the law of a foreign jurisdiction, and the interest in having local controversies decided at home. (Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert (1947), 330 U.S. 501, 508-09, 91 L.Ed. 1055, 1062-63, 67 S.Ct. 839, 843; see, e.g., Adkins v. Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific R.R. Co. (1973), 54 Ill.2d 511, 301 N.E.2d 729, cert. denied (1976), 424 U.S. 943, 47 L.Ed.2d 349, 96 S.Ct. 1411.) After balancing these factors, the court may decline to exercise jurisdiction when it finds that the litigation may be conducted more conveniently in another forum. (Moore v. Chicago & North Western Transportation Co. (1983), 99 Ill.2d 73, 76, 457 N.E.2d 417; Wieser v. Missouri Pacific R.R. Co. (1983), 98 Ill.2d 359, 364-65, 456 N.E.2d 98.) The Illinois Supreme Court has recognized that unless these factors weigh heavily in favor of the defendant, the plaintiff's choice of forum should not be disturbed. Espinosa v. Norfolk & Western Ry. Co. (1981), 86 Ill.2d 111, 119, 427 N.E.2d 111.
In support of their motion to dismiss, defendants contend that all of the relevant contacts with this litigation are located in Indiana. Defendants argue that Indiana is the site of the occurrence, the residence of the occurrence and immediate post-occurrence witnesses, the residence of all but one of the plaintiffs, none of whom reside in ...