APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIFTH DISTRICT
521 N.E.2d 115, 167 Ill. App. 3d 491, 118 Ill. Dec. 47 1988.IL.149
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County; the Hon. A. A. Matoesian, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE LEWIS delivered the opinion of the court. HARRISON, P.J., and KARNS, J., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE LEWIS
The plaintiff, Larry Degraw, filed a complaint in the circuit court of Madison County, Illinois, on January 17, 1985, pursuant to the Merchant Seamen Act, commonly called the Jones Act (46 U.S.C.A. § 688 (West 1975)) and general maritime law of the United States. The defendant, Flowers Transportation, Inc., filed an amended motion to decline jurisdiction based upon forum non conveniens, or, in the alternative, to transfer. This motion was denied. This court granted defendant's petition for leave to appeal under Supreme Court Rule 306(a)(1)(ii) (107 Ill. 2d R. 306(a)(1)(ii)).
Plaintiff's complaint contained three counts seeking damages for personal injuries that allegedly occurred in three separate accidents while the plaintiff was employed by defendant. All three of these accidents occurred on defendant's vessel on the Mississippi River. Defendant filed affidavits, answered interrogatories and furnished other discovery material. These documents make it clear that the accidents alleged in counts I and III occurred on the Mississippi River adjacent to Illinois. Defendant's unchallenged affidavit stated that, as to count I, on the date of the alleged injury the plaintiff was working on the
M/V Rusty Flowers between mile 489 and mile 559 on the upper Mississippi River between Iowa and Illinois. The adjoining counties from mile 489 through mile 559 are Jo Davies, Carroll, Whiteside, Henry and Rock Island. The injury alleged in count III purportedly occurred between Scott County, Missouri, and Alexander County, Illinois, on the Mississippi River. The injury alleged in count II purportedly occurred on the Mississippi River further south, between Missouri and Tennessee. There appears to be no argument that at least two of the alleged injuries occurred on the Mississippi River adjoining the Illinois counties mentioned above.
The issues presented for review are (1) whether the trial court erred in denying defendant's motion to dismiss the case based upon the doctrine of interstate forum non conveniens, and (2) whether the trial court erred in denying defendant's motion to dismiss or to transfer the case based upon the doctrine of intrastate forum non conveniens.
The record discloses that the plaintiff is and has been a resident of Memphis, Tennessee. The defendant is a Mississippi corporation with its principal place of business in Greenville, Mississippi. The record also discloses that only one of 28 potential witnesses is from the State of Illinois. These 28 witnesses were crew members that were aboard the vessel on the three separate incidents. These witnesses reside in Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Iowa and Florida. Ten doctors, identified as possible witnesses, that treated the plaintiff are from Tennessee, Texas and Mississippi. All facilities used in the treatment of plaintiff are located in Memphis, Tennessee. Two of the alleged accidents occurred on the Mississippi River adjoining Illinois. Also included in the record is the statistical information concerning the congestion of courts in the various forums. It is undisputed that venue is proper in Madison County.
We hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in declining to dismiss the case on the basis of interstate forum non conveniens. This issue has been decided in Brummett v. Wepfer Marine, Inc. (1986), 111 Ill. 2d 495, 490 N.E.2d 694, and Bland v. Norfolk & Western Ry. Co (1987), 116 Ill. 2d 217, 506 N.E.2d 1291. This court in Minton v. Helena Marine Service, Inc. (1986), 147 Ill. App. 3d 491, 494, 495 N.E.2d 136, 139, an interstate forum non conveniens case, stated:
"Applying the holding in Brummett, we find that plaintiff's choice of Illinois as the forum for his case is entitled to great deference due to the fact two of the counts allege plaintiff was injured in Illinois."
"The plaintiff's choice of forum should be entitled to no less deference when in a tort action he chooses the situs of the injury rather than the forum of his residence. [Citation.] The factual connection to the forum is as great, perhaps greater, when the plaintiff chooses the forum where an accident occurred as when he chooses his place of residence. Moreover, Illinois has an interest in protecting persons and property within the State from unsafe practices and conditions; the State should therefore provide a forum in which persons, no matter where they reside, can seek compensation for injuries suffered in Illinois. . . .
. . . There is clearly an overriding element of essential fairness in condoning the choice by an injured party of the forum in which the injury was suffered. It also makes for sensible and effective judicial administration for a claim to be pursued in the forum where it arose. Where the plaintiff files his claim at the situs of his injury there is a clear ...