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12/21/89 Thomas R. Walsh Et Al., v. Ramada Inns

December 21, 1989

THOMAS R. WALSH ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES

v.

RAMADA INNS, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, FOURTH DIVISION

551 N.E.2d 249, 194 Ill. App. 3d 945, 141 Ill. Dec. 256 1989.IL.1994

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Lester D. Foreman, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE LINN delivered the opinion of the court. JOHNSON and McMORROW, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE LINN

We allowed the petition of certain defendants (Ramada Inns, Inc., John A. Cassens and John E.H. Cassens) for leave to appeal from the denial of their intrastate forum non conveniens motion. (107 Ill. 2d R. 306(a)(1)(ii).) On appeal, defendants contend that the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to transfer this cause to Whiteside County, Illinois.

Plaintiffs Thomas and Eleanor Walsh are residents of Spring Valley in Bureau County, Illinois. In 1985, Thomas Walsh (hereinafter Walsh) was employed as a construction worker by Richard J. Prescott Construction Company of Sterling in Whiteside County, Illinois.

On December 13, 1985, Walsh was helping to construct an addition to a Ramada Inn located in Rock Falls, Illinois, which also is in Whiteside County, when he fell off of a structural support that had suddenly tipped.

On July 10, 1987, Walsh and his wife filed the instant personal injury action in the circuit court of Cook County. In the action, plaintiffs seek $3 million for alleged negligence, loss of consortium and violation of the Illinois Structural Work Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 48, par. 60 et seq.).

Several weeks prior to filing the complaint, Walsh obtained medical care and treatment in Cook County, Illinois. The record discloses that he earlier had obtained medical care and treatment for his injuries in Whiteside, Winnebago, La Salle, Putnam, and Lake Counties in Illinois.

The record discloses further that the potential occurrence and post-occurrence witnesses are located in several Illinois counties: Rita Peppers and Don Boehme are located in Rock Falls in Whiteside County; John Caudillo (also spelled "Cardillo" in the record), Keith Diehl and Jack Butler are located in Sterling in Whiteside County; Craig Kraft is located in Freeport in Stephenson County; and John Houck is located in Dixon in Lee County.

Defendants subsequently moved to transfer the cause to the circuit court of Whiteside County pursuant to the doctrine of intrastate forum non conveniens and Illinois Supreme Court Rule 187 (107 Ill. 2d R. 187). In support of their motions, defendants contended that Whiteside County was a more convenient forum than Cook County because the accident occurred in Whiteside County, five of the seven potential occurrence and post-occurrence witnesses live in Whiteside County, the remaining two potential occurrence and post-occurrence witnesses live in Stephenson and Lee Counties, which are nearer to Whiteside than to Cook County, and defendants John A. Cassens and John E.H. Cassens live in Whiteside County. Defendants contended further that public interest factors favored Whiteside County because the Whiteside County court docket is less congested than the Cook County court docket, the citizens of Cook County should not be burdened with jury duty in a matter that has no relation to their community, and the citizens of Whiteside County have an interest in the litigation because it implicates the safety of construction equipment used in their community.

In response, plaintiffs contended that Cook County was a convenient forum because Walsh received some of his medical care and treatment in Cook County. Plaintiffs contended further that Cook County was convenient because Ramada Hotel Operating Company and Ramada, Inc. (which are not parties defendant in this case), have a corporate presence in Cook County consisting of a registered agent, a corporate office, and a worldwide sales office.

Relying upon Meyers v. Bridgeport Machines Division of Textron, Inc. (1986), 113 Ill. 2d 112, 497 N.E.2d 745, the trial court denied defendants' motions to transfer and observed that there was no predominance of connections between the instant case and any particular county. The trial court believed instead that there was "a substantial distribution of contacts in a number of counties." On appeal, the issue is whether the trial ...


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