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06/14/94 ROBERT D. BLAKEY v. GILBANE BUILDING

June 14, 1994

ROBERT D. BLAKEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
GILBANE BUILDING COMPANY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Joseph N. Casciato, Judge Presiding.

McCORMICK, DiVito, Scariano

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mccormick

JUSTICE McCORMICK delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant, Gilbane Building Company, appeals from the Cook County circuit court's denial of its motion to transfer the case to Champaign County under the doctrine of forum non conveniens. We reverse and remand with directions to grant the motion to transfer because the relevant factors strongly favor Champaign County over Cook County as an appropriate forum for this case.

Robert Blakey sued Gilbane in Cook County under the Structural Work Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 48, pars. 60-69), alleging that Gilbane's failure to provide adequate scaffolding caused Blakey, an employee of Johnson Contracting Company, to fall from a roof he was helping construct for the University of Illinois in Urbana. Plaintiff admitted that he and all three post-accident witnesses he named in discovery lived in Macon County, which is much closer to Champaign County than to Cook County. Plaintiff also listed the doctors, clinics and hospitals who treated him. Two doctors were in Champaign County, and he saw one doctor in Macon County, one in Sangamon County, and one in St. Louis, Missouri. Plaintiff went to two clinics and one hospital in Champaign County, one clinic and two hospitals in Macon County, one clinic in Sangamon County, and one clinic in St. Louis, Missouri. He received no medical care in, and listed no witnesses from, Cook County. All of the doctors and clinics are closer to Champaign County than to Cook County.

Plaintiff's employer, Johnson Contracting Company, which has headquarters in Rock Island County, entered into the roofing contract with University of Illinois in Champaign County. Defendant, a Rhode Island corporation with an office in Chicago, entered into the contract to act as construction manager in Champaign County. Neither contract required any work outside of Champaign County. Defendant's project manager lived in Champaign County, but two other supervisors who worked on the project had moved to Ohio before the plaintiff brought this case.

The trial court said at the hearing on defendant's motion that several counties had some connection to the case; Cook County had some connection because some out-of-state witnesses might come through Chicago, even if trial were held elsewhere, and defendant maintained an office in Cook County. Applying Meyers v. Bridgeport Machines Division of Textron, Inc. (1986), 113 Ill. 2d 112, 497 N.E.2d 745, 100 Ill. Dec. 567, the court found that consideration of the appropriate factors did not strongly favor Champaign County over all other counties, so the court allowed plaintiff his choice of forum by denying the motion to transfer. We granted defendant's petition for leave to appeal pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 306(a)(1)(ii). 134 Ill. 2d R. 306(a)(1)(ii).

Our supreme court laid out the basic principles of forum non conveniens in two decisions filed early in 1987:

"Although broad discretion is vested in the trial court in determining whether particular circumstances require transfer of a cause under forum non conveniens, that court's decision will be reversed on review if it can be shown that, in deciding as it did, the court abused discretion. [Citations.]

Forum non conveniens is an equitable doctrine. It presupposes the existence of more than one forum with jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter. [Citations.] Under the doctrine, a court may decline to exercise jurisdiction of a case whenever it appears that there is another forum with jurisdiction of the parties in which trial can be more conveniently had. [Citations.]

In deciding whether the doctrine applies, a court must balance private interest factors affecting the convenience of the litigants and public interest factors affecting the administration of the courts. [Citation.]

Factors relating to the private interests of the litigants 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.' Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert (1947), 330 U.S. 501, 508, 91 L. Ed. 1055, 1062, 67 S. Ct. 839, 843.

Public factors * * * 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. Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert (1947), 330 U.S. 501, 509, 91 L. Ed. 1055, 1063, 67 S. Ct. 839, 843." Bland v. Norfolk & Western Ry. Co. (1987), 116 Ill. 2d 217, 223-24, 506 N.E.2d 1291, 107 Ill. Dec. 236.

In Weaver v. Midwest Towing, Inc. (1987), 116 Ill. 2d 279, 507 N.E.2d 838, 107 Ill. Dec. 685, the plaintiff sustained injuries during the course of a trip on a barge travelling down the Mississippi River from Minnesota through Madison County, Illinois. Plaintiff received medical treatment in St. Louis, Missouri, but he sued in Madison County. The trial court denied the defendant's motion to dismiss for forum non conveniens. Our supreme court reviewed the record and found that it did not support the defendant's assertion that the case could be more conveniently tried elsewhere. ( Weaver, 116 Ill. 2d at 284-85, 289.) The defendant did not even "indicate who are or where are any of the prospective witnesses or the location of any other relevant source ofproof." ( Weaver, 116 Ill. 2d at 289.) The court said that "a plaintiff's right to select the forum is a substantial one, and * * * unless the balance of the relevant factors is strongly in favor of the defendant, the ...


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