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Meyers v. Bridgeport Machines

OPINION FILED JUNE 20, 1986.

TIMOTHY T. MEYERS, APPELLEE,

v.

BRIDGEPORT MACHINES DIVISION OF TEXTRON, INC., APPELLANT.



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

JUSTICE WARD DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied September 26, 1986.

The plaintiff, Timothy Meyers, filed a complaint for personal injuries in the circuit court of McHenry County against Bridgeport Machines Division of Textron, Inc. (Bridgeport Machines). On the plaintiff's motion, the complaint was dismissed without prejudice under section 2-1009 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 110, par. 2-1009), which provides for voluntary dismissals. The plaintiff subsequently filed a complaint in the circuit court of Cook County alleging the same cause of action. The defendant's motion to dismiss or to transfer the action to the circuit court of McHenry County on the ground of forum non conveniens was denied, and the appellate court declined to review the denial by the circuit court (94 Ill.2d R. 306(a)(1)(ii)). We granted the defendant's petition for leave to appeal under our Rule 315 (94 Ill.2d R. 315(a)).

The complaint alleged that the fingers on Meyer's left hand were injured on June 8, 1981, while he was cleaning the surface of a grinding machine designed and manufactured by a corporate predecessor of the defendant, and that a defect in the design of the machine caused his injury. The machine, described in the complaint as a Harig Grinder Model 612 Deluxe, was manufactured by Harig Products, Inc., at its plant in Kane County. Prior to the plaintiff's injury, Harig Products, Inc., had been sold to Textron, Inc., a corporation transacting business in Illinois, and the plant in Kane County was made a part of Bridgeport Machines Division of Textron, Inc. Bridgeport Machines has a registered agent in Cook County.

According to the pleadings, reconstructive surgery was performed on the plaintiff's fingers at McHenry Hospital in McHenry County, and he underwent therapy treatments at a clinic in McHenry County. The orthopedic surgeon who operated on the plaintiff's hand, Dr. Sheroo Kohli, has an office in Highland Park, Lake County. The defendant's medical expert, Dr. Norton Flanagan, has an office at Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Kane County. The witnesses of the plaintiff and defendant who are prepared to testify to the design and manufacture of the grinding machine reside in Cook County.

The plaintiff Meyers, who resides in McHenry County, states that he was was injured at his place of employment, Mol-Tek Precision, Inc. (Mol-Tek), which is in McHenry County. Mol-Tek was made a third-party defendant to the action in McHenry County through a complaint filed by Bridgeport Machines, but Mol-Tek has not been brought in as a third-party defendant in the action in Cook County. However, the affidavit accompanying the plaintiff's response to the forum non conveniens motion states that Mol-Tek has been granted leave to intervene in the Cook County action and that Mol-Tek has retained counsel in Cook County.

On December 5, 1983, the day the circuit court of McHenry County was to set the case for trial, counsel for the plaintiff informed the court that the plaintiff's representation had been referred to an attorney in Chicago, and that that attorney was on trial in the circuit court of Cook County. The plaintiff's counsel asked the court to dismiss the action without prejudice under section 2-1009 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 110, par. 2-1009). Defense counsel objected and asked that the case simply be continued, as discovery had been completed and the matter was about to be set for trial in McHenry County. The court granted the plaintiff's motion and dismissed the complaint. Shortly thereafter the plaintiff filed this action in the circuit court of Cook County. The defendant argues that this action has no significant factual connections with Cook County and that the circuit court of Cook County erred in refusing to dismiss or transfer the action to McHenry County on the ground of forum non conveniens.

Under the doctrine of forum non conveniens it is assumed that there is more than one forum in which jurisdiction may be obtained over the parties and the subject matter of a cause, and in which the cause may be tried. (Wieser v. Missouri Pacific R.R. Co. (1983), 98 Ill.2d 359, 364; Jones v. Searle Laboratories (1982), 93 Ill.2d 366, 371.) This court has stated:

"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' [citations], whenever it appears that there is another forum that can better `serve the convenience of the parties and the ends of justice.' [Citation.]" (Adkins v. Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific R.R. Co. (1973), 54 Ill.2d 511, 514.)

See, e.g., Wieser v. Missouri Pacific R.R. Co. (1983), 98 Ill.2d 359, 364; Moore v. Chicago & North Western Transportation Co. (1983), 99 Ill.2d 73, 76; Espinosa v. Norfolk & Western Ry. Co. (1981), 86 Ill.2d 111, 117-18.

The determination of whether the particular circumstances warrant dismissal of a complaint on the ground of forum non conveniens is entrusted to the discretion of the trial court, and its decision will be set aside only if it is shown that the court abused discretion in weighing the relevant considerations. (Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno (1981), 454 U.S. 235, 257, 70 L.Ed.2d 419, 436, 102 S.Ct. 252, 266; Jones v. Searle Laboratories (1982), 93 Ill.2d 366, 373; People ex rel. Compagnie Nationale Air France v. Giliberto (1978), 74 Ill.2d 90, 110, cert. denied (1979), 441 U.S. 932, 60 L.Ed.2d 660, 99 S.Ct. 2052; Cotton v. Louisville & Nashville R.R. Co. (1958), 14 Ill.2d 144, 159.) The Supreme Court stated factors to be considered in determining whether to dismiss under forum non conveniens in what has become the classic decision of 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. * * * 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." Foster v. Chicago & North Western Transportation ...


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