Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County. No. 92-L-73. Hon. Nicholas G. Byron & Hon. P. J. O'Neill, Judges, presiding.
Petition for Leave to Appeal Denied January 31, 1996.
Presiding Justice Maag delivered the opinion of the court: Kuehn and Hopkins, JJ., concur.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Maag
PRESIDING JUSTICE MAAG delivered the opinion of the court:
On January 6, 1991, Cole Turner was injured in a one-car automobile accident on Route 159 in Macoupin County, approximately one-half mile north of the Madison County line. ValerieTurner, the decedent's wife and special administrator of the estate of Cole Turner, filed a complaint in the circuit court of Madison County on January 30, 1992, seeking recovery against the defendant, Richard Jarden, for negligence and wrongful death. The complaint alleged that a water hydrant located on Richard Jarden's property, part of which extends into Madison County, was left open causing water to run down the property and accumulate and freeze on Route 159. Plaintiff's complaint alleged that the decedent was driving in a southerly direction when the vehicle that he was driving crossed the ice and water flowing from defendant's property, causing him to slide off of the roadway and roll several times before coming to a stop. The accident occurred in front of property leased by Jarden Farms, and the decedent sustained serious injuries. Decedent was immediately taken to Alton Memorial Hospital, located in Madison County, for treatment. Decedent was then transferred to a hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. As a result of the decedent's injuries, he died on January 7, 1991. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss for improper venue or, in the alternative, a motion to transfer venue to Macoupin County pursuant to the doctrine of forum non conveniens. On October 23, 1992, plaintiff filed an amended complaint adding the following additional defendants: Maurice Jarden, Charles Jarden, Joseph Jarden, James Jarden, John Jarden, Steven Jarden, and David Jarden, individually (the codefendants), and as a partnership, Jarden Farms. On December 8, 1992, the codefendants filed a motion to transfer venue to Macoupin County. On February 8, 1993, the circuit court denied defendant's motion to dismiss, finding that venue was proper because a portion of the partnership's farming operations is located in Madison County. Following further discovery, the circuit court denied the motions to transfer on forum non conveniens grounds after weighing the public- and private-interest factors, finding that they did not strongly favor the defendants. The defendants appeal.
The relevant facts are as follows: Jarden Farms is a partnership engaged in the business of raising cattle, growing crops for cattle feed, dairy operations, and trucking operations. Richard Jarden retired in 1983 and since that time has not been a partner in Jarden Farms. The partnership leases four tracts of land from Richard. Three of them are as follows: the old dairy farm, consisting of 200 acres; the 120 acres next to the old dairy farm; and 27 acres on the other side of Molton Road. All three pieces of property are located in Macoupin County, Illinois. The partnership also leases from Richard a 100-acre parcel that is located in Madison County, Illinois. The partnership uses several acres that are owned by one or more of the brothers or the partnership, amounting to approximately 1,753 acres. Of this land, approximately 140 to 160 acres are located in Madison County. The partnership used the 140 to 160 acres located in Madison County for growing grain to feed cattle. Some barn and silo buildings are located on the property in Madison County also.
The defendants claim that the circuit court committed reversible error in denying defendant's motion to dismiss or transfer the case to Macoupin County for lack of proper venue. We disagree.
For purposes of venue, the residence of a partnership is as follows:
§ 2-102. Residence of corporations, voluntary unincorporated associations and partnerships defined. For purpose of venue, the following definitions apply:
(b) A partnership sued in its firm name is a resident of any county in which any partner resides or in which the partnership has an office or is doing business." (Emphasis added). (735 ILCS 5/2-102(b) (West 1992)).
Plaintiff, citing Baltimore & Ohio R.R. Co. v. Mosele (1977), 67 Ill. 2d 321, 329, 368 N.E.2d 88, 92, 10 Ill. Dec. 602, does not dispute the principle espoused by the defendants that quantitatively more business activity is required for venue than for jurisdiction. In Mosele, the court held that it would be a distortion of the plain meaning of the words of the venue statute to hold that a corporation is "doing business" within any county with which it has even minimal contacts. ( Mosele, 67 Ill. 2d at 329, 368 N.E.2d at 92.) Although the Mosele court did not state exactly what is required to satisfy the "doing business" provision in the venue statute, it did state that the defendant must be "conducting its usual and customary business within the county in which venue is sought." ( Mosele, 67 Ill. 2d at 329, 368 N.E.2d at 92.) The activity must be of such a nature so as to localize the business and make it an operation within the district. Mosele, 67 Ill. 2d at 330, 368 N.E.2d at 92.
In the instant case, the partnership owns and leases approximately 140 to 160 acres in Madison County. These properties are used to grow grain to feed the cattle that supply the milk for the defendants' dairy business. Raising a grain crop for this purpose is not merely incidental to other activities that keep the partnership in business. It appears to be an integral part of the defendants' dairy production.
Furthermore, the defendants argue that the partnership activities are not "localized" within Madison County because the partnership owns and leases substantially more property in Macoupin County than in Madison County, in addition to the fact that thepartnership ...