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Baker v. Burlington No. R.r. Co.

OPINION FILED NOVEMBER 21, 1986.

HOWARD L. BAKER, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,

v.

BURLINGTON NORTHERN RAILROAD COMPANY ET AL., DEFENDANTS-PETITIONERS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County; the Hon. A.A. Matoesian, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE HARRISON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff, Howard L. Baker, filed an action in the circuit court of Madison County to recover damages for personal injuries he sustained in two separate accidents which occurred while he was employed by defendant Burlington Northern Railroad Company (Burlington Northern) as a train conductor. Plaintiff's complaint is in three counts. Counts I and II, directed against defendant Burlington Northern, arise under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (45 U.S.C.A. sec. 51 et seq. (West 1972)). Count III, directed against defendant Illinois Central Gulf Railroad (Illinois Central) sounds in negligence. Following preliminary discovery, defendants filed a joint motion to dismiss or to transfer the action under the doctrine of forum non conveniens. Defendants' motion was denied by the circuit court in an order dated March 14, 1986. This court then granted defendants' petition for leave to appeal pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 306(a)(1)(ii) (94 Ill.2d R. 306(a)(1)(ii)), and the sole issue now before us is whether the circuit court abused its discretion in refusing either to dismiss plaintiff's action or transfer it to another, more convenient forum. We affirm and remand for further proceedings.

Plaintiff's complaint alleges that he was injured on December 30, 1982, "while getting off a train operated by defendant Burlington Northern * * * at or near its office in or about Centralia, [Marion County,] Illinois," and that his injuries were the result of Burlington Northern's having committed one or more of the following acts or omissions:

"(a) Negligently and carelessly failed to provide Plaintiff with a reasonably safe place to work;

(b) Negligently and carelessly failed to stop its train for employees including the Plaintiff to be allowed to get off;

(c) Negligently and carelessly failed to maintain its roadbed in a reasonably safe condition." Count I.

The complaint further alleges that on or about May 24, 1984, plaintiff sustained additional injuries when "the train upon which he was riding [as a conductor for Burlington Northern] was thrown into emergency throwing him about the caboose." According to the complaint, those injuries were caused because defendant Burlington Northern:

"(a) Negligently and carelessly failed to provide Plaintiff with a reasonably safe place to work;

(b) Negligently and carelessly failed to warn Plaintiff of the immediate and violent stopping of its train;

(c) Negligently and carelessly operated its train in close proximity of its interlock with the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad Company;

(d) Negligently and carelessly failed to keep proper lookout for other trains near or at its interlock." Count II.

Finally, the complaint alleges that the emergency stop of the train which caused plaintiff's injuries on May 24, 1984, resulted from defendant Illinois Central's having:

"(a) Negligently and carelessly operated its truck equipment at or near the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad Company/Burlington Northern Railroad Company interlock without proper lookout for other trains;

(b) Negligently and carelessly failed to warn of its operation near the interlock to the Burlington Northern Railroad Company;

(c) Negligently and carelessly caused the signal to be activated at the interlock;

(d) Negligently and carelessly failed to obey its own signals of [sic] the safety of others." (Count III.)

There is no dispute that the May 24, 1984, accident occurred at Christopher, Franklin County, Illinois. Plaintiff is a resident of Centralia, Marion County, Illinois. Defendants admit that Burlington Northern "operates, maintains and owns certain equipment, right-of-way and facilities for doing business" ...


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