matter; (2) the place of delivery of the contract; (3) the domicile of the insured; (4) the domicile of the insurer; (5) the place of the last act to give rise to a valid contract; and (6) the place of performance or other place bearing a rational relationship to the general contract. Lapham-Hickey Steel Corp. v. Protection Mutual Ins. Co., 166 Ill. 2d 520, 655 N.E.2d 842, 845, 211 Ill. Dec. 459 (Ill. 1995). Considering these factors, the court finds that Texas law will likely apply to this matter.
First, regarding the location of the subject matter, a couple of recent Illinois appellate court decisions -- citing the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws -- hold that the location of the insured risk is the most important factor and thus granted considerable weight. See Society of Mount Carmel v. Nat'l Ben Franklin Ins. Co. of Illinois, 268 Ill. App. 3d 655, 643 N.E.2d 1280, 1287, 205 Ill. Dec. 673 (Ill. App. 1st Dist. 1994) ("The location of the insured risk is given special emphasis."); Diamond State Ins. Co. v. Chester-Jensen Co., Inc., 243 Ill. App. 3d 471, 611 N.E.2d 1083, 1095, 183 Ill. Dec. 435 (Ill. App. 1st Dist. 1993) ("The location of the insured risk will be given greater weight than any other single contact ....").
Here, the location of the subject matter or of the insured risk is Texas. Plaintiffs may argue that the location of the insured risk is Illinois because ELCA which procured the policy applicable to its congregations -- which includes Synod -- situated across the country is located there, but, that's not how Illinois courts analyze this particular issue. Where policies cover an organization's conduct nationwide, the courts hold that the location of the insured risk is the place where the insured's liability actually arises -- here, Texas. See Mount Carmel, 643 N.E.2d at 1287; Diamond State, 611 N.E.2d at 1095; American Builders & Contractors Supply Co., Inc. v. The Home Ins. Co., 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 796, No. 96 C 5041, WL 43017 *2 n.5 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 28, 1997). Thus, this factor weighs heavily in favor of the application of Texas law.
Although the first factor heavily favors the application of Texas law, a consideration of the subsequent factors does not point to a clear winner. The place of delivery of the policies was New York. The last act giving rise to the policies/contracts occurred in either Virginia or New York. ELCA is domiciled in Illinois; Synod is domiciled in Texas. Atlantic Mutual is domiciled in New York. ELCA pays its premiums out of its Chicago office; Synod pays its premiums out of its Houston, Texas office. Finally, where a declaratory judgment action is at issue, some Illinois cases also consider the location of the underlying lawsuit -- here, Texas. See Mount Carmel, 643 N.E.2d at 1287 ("Moreover ... the underlying action was brought in a California court ...."); Diamond State, 611 N.E.2d at 1094.
Considering the aforementioned factors, it appears clear that Illinois law will not apply to the interpretation of the insurance policies. New York certainly has many contacts with the policies. However, because Illinois courts grant significant weight to the location of the insured risk -- here, Texas -- and a couple of the other factors point to Texas, the court believes that Texas law prevails. This factor weighs in favor of transferring this matter to Texas.
2. Public interest
There are certain types of cases in which a particular forum has a strong interest in hearing. See Houck v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 947 F. Supp. 373, 376 (N.D. Ill. 1996) (local community has strong interest in hearing case involving crash of TWA Flight 800). This is one of them. The underlying case involves serious allegations of sexual misconduct against an ordained minister. Certainly, the local community is following this matter closely. Although the underlying case and this declaratory judgment action are distinct cases for the purposes of analyzing certain aspects of the instant transfer of venue motion, they are clearly related cases in a non-technical, realistic sense. Because of the sensitive and serious nature of the allegations in the underlying case, the court finds that the local community has a strong interest in resolving all aspects of this matter.
Defendant's motion to transfer this case is GRANTED. This case is transferred to the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division. 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).
Date: AUG 26 1997
James H. Alesia
United States District Judge