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04/27/89 Marianne Hoffmeister, v. K Mart Corporation

April 27, 1989

MARIANNE HOFFMEISTER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

K MART CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIFTH DISTRICT

537 N.E.2d 460, 181 Ill. App. 3d 739, 130 Ill. Dec. 393 1989.IL.618

Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County; the Hon. Robert L. Craig, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

PRESIDING JUSTICE WELCH delivered the opinion of the court. HARRISON and HOWERTON, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE WELCH

On July 27, 1987, plaintiff, Marianne Hoffmeister, filed a one-count complaint against defendant, K mart Corporation, in the circuit court of St. Clair County. The complaint alleged that on December 31, 1986, plaintiff sustained injuries when she tripped on an entry carpet which was turned up on the edge while shopping in defendant's store in Fairview Plaza, Centralia, Illinois. Centralia is located partially in Clinton County and partially in Marion County.

On September 14, 1987, defendant filed a motion to transfer venue from St. Clair County to either Clinton County or Marion County on forum non conveniens grounds. The motion, which is verified, alleges that plaintiff is a resident of the State of Florida; that the only known occurrence witnesses are plaintiff's husband, also a resident of Florida, and plaintiff's son, a resident of Centralia, Marion County; that the K mart store where the plaintiff fell is located in Centralia, Clinton County; that all K mart employees with whom plaintiff had any contact either before or after her fall reside in Clinton County; that plaintiff was examined in the emergency room of St. Mary's Hospital in Centralia, Marion County; that plaintiff's treating physician resides in the State of Florida; that a fair trial could be had in either Marion County or Clinton County; that the judicial backlog of cases is greater in St. Clair County than in Marion County; that trial of the cause in Clinton County would facilitate a jury view of the premises where plaintiff fell; that plaintiff's lawsuit has no connection whatsoever with St. Clair County other than the fact that plaintiff's attorneys have their offices there; and that to try the case in St. Clair County would place an undue burden on its citizens and court system.

On October 16, 1987, plaintiff filed an unverified response to defendant's motion to transfer venue. The response alleges that the county seat of St. Clair County is only 30 to 35 miles from the site of plaintiff's fall; that plaintiff had contact with only one K mart employee regarding her fall, whose address is unknown; that she was not treated, but only examined, at St. Mary's Hospital in Centralia, and that all medical care and treatment has been performed by physicians practicing in the State of Florida; that the judicial backlog in St. Clair County is not great; that no jury view of the accident site will be necessary; that trial of the cause in St. Clair County would not burden its citizens or court system; and that defendant's motion was filed for the sole purpose of forum shopping.

The trial court denied defendant's motion to transfer venue by order dated October 19, 1987, finding that the facts do not so strongly favor defendant as to defeat plaintiff's choice of forum. Defendant appeals.

Since the Illinois Supreme Court's decision in Bland v. Norfolk & Western Ry. Co. (1987), 116 Ill. 2d 217, 506 N.E.2d 1291, the law in Illinois regarding the doctrine of forum non conveniens has been fairly well settled. Bland sets forth the various factors to be considered by the trial court in deciding a forum non conveniens motion:

"Factors relating to the private interests of the parties include 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.' [Citation.]

Public factors relevant here include the administrative difficulties flowing from court congestion; 'a local interest in having localized controversies decided at home'; and the unfairness of burdening citizens in an unrelated forum with jury duty." (116 Ill. 2d at 224, 506 N.E.2d at 1294.)

All of these factors must be weighed and balanced (Bland, 116 Ill. 2d at 225, 506 N.E.2d at 1294), keeping in mind that a plaintiff's right to select a forum is a substantial one. (Bland, 116 Ill. 2d at 225, 506 N.E.2d at 1295.) Thus,

"[unless] those factors strongly favor the defendant, then the plaintiff should be allowed to exercise his choice in deciding in what forum to ...


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