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Olsson v. General Motors Corp.

January 09, 2001

LAURIE OLSSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
V.
GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION, BILL SULLIVAN PONTIAC, INC., AND FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF CHICAGO, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 98--L--1256 Honorable James W. Jerz, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Geiger

The plaintiff, Laurie Olsson, appeals from the January 27, 2000, order of the circuit court of Du Page County transferring her case to the circuit court of Cook County pursuant to the doctrine of forum non conveniens. On appeal, the plaintiff argues that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering the transfer. We affirm.

The facts relevant to this appeal are as follows. On December 4, 1998, the plaintiff filed suit in the circuit court of Du Page County against the defendants, General Motors Corporation (GM), Bill Sullivan Pontiac, Inc. (Sullivan Pontiac), and the First National Bank of Chicago (First National Bank). As subsequently amended, the complaint consisted of six counts and alleged causes of action for breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty, revocation of acceptance, consumer fraud, rescission of retail installment contract, and loss of bailed goods.

The amended complaint alleged that the plaintiff purchased a new vehicle from Sullivan Pontiac on April 22, 1997. During the months of June 1997, August 1997, September 1997, and October 1997, the plaintiff brought her vehicle to Sullivan Pontiac for repair work under the vehicle's warranty. On June 22, 1998, the plaintiff again brought her vehicle to Sullivan Pontiac for additional repairs and/or warranty work. While the vehicle was at Sullivan Pontiac on this occasion, there was a rainstorm. The amended complaint alleged that the vehicle was parked in an area prone to flooding and that, during the storm, the vehicle was damaged.

On July 1, 1999, Sullivan Pontiac filed a motion to transfer venue pursuant to the doctrine of forum non conveniens. In its motion, Sullivan Pontiac noted that all of the events alleged in the amended complaint occurred at its place of business in Arlington Heights, Cook County. Sullivan Pontiac also noted that the plaintiff was not a resident of Du Page County but instead resided in McHenry County. Accordingly, Sullivan Pontiac argued that, after considering the relevant private and public interest factors, the case had no practical connection to Du Page County and should be transferred to Cook County.

The motion was supported by the affidavit of Jeffrey Sullivan, the general manager of Sullivan Pontiac. In his affidavit, Jeffrey Sullivan indicated that Sullivan Pontiac's principal place of business is in Arlington Heights, Cook County, and that Sullivan Pontiac did not have an office or solicit business in Du Page County. Jeffrey Sullivan further indicated that the sale, financing, and subsequent repairs of the vehicle occurred at the dealership in Cook County and that the salesman, finance manager, and various mechanics who worked with the plaintiff remain employed by the dealership. Additionally, the alleged flooding of the vehicle also occurred at the dealership.

In a supplemental affidavit, Jeffrey Sullivan identified nine potential witnesses in the case. These individuals included the service manager, various mechanics who worked on the plaintiff's vehicle, the salesperson who sold the plaintiff the vehicle, and the finance manager who assisted the plaintiff in obtaining financing. None of these individuals resided in Du Page County.

GM and First National Bank subsequently filed notices of their intent to join in Sullivan Pontiac's motion to transfer venue pursuant to the doctrine of forum non conveniens.

In reply to the defendants' motion, the plaintiff argued that she had selected Du Page County as the venue to file the action and that her preference was entitled to considerable weight. The plaintiff also argued that the defendants had failed to offer any evidence demonstrating that they were substantially inconvenienced by the selected forum or that the relevant private and public factors favored transfer. Additionally, the plaintiff noted that GM had its regional headquarters in Naperville, Du Page County.

In support of her reply, the plaintiff attached excerpts from the depositions of Jeffrey Sullivan, Rhenea Cump, and Lonnie Greenwald. In his deposition, Jeffrey Sullivan testified that litigating the case in Du Page County would be as convenient as litigating the case in downtown Chicago. He also testified as to his belief that downtown Chicago was farther from the dealership than Wheaton. Rhenea Cump and Lonnie Greenwald were managers who worked out of GM's regional headquarters in Naperville, Du Page County. Cump and Greenwald were identified by GM as the employees having the most involvement and knowledge in the case. Cump resided in Libertyville, Lake County, and Greenwald resided in Aurora, Du Page County. Greenwald testified that it was more convenient to travel to Wheaton than to downtown Chicago.

On January 27, 2000, following arguments of counsel, the trial court granted the defendants' motion and transferred the case to the circuit court of Cook County. The trial court found that the case did not have a strong connection to Du Page County. Although the trial court noted that the plaintiff had selected Du Page County as the venue, it did not give this selection significant deference because the plaintiff was not a resident of Du Page County. The trial court further noted that the dealership and many of the witnesses resided in Cook County. The trial court noted that the dealership was located only minutes away from the Rolling Meadows branch of the circuit court of Cook County and that, even if the case were assigned to downtown Chicago, the availability of public transportation made that location more convenient for the witnesses. Finally, the trial court did not believe that jurors in Du Page County should sit on a case that had no significant connection to the community.

On March 30, 2000, this court allowed the plaintiff's petition for leave to appeal pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 306(a)(2) (166 Ill. 2d R. 306(a)(2)).

On appeal, the plaintiff argues that the trial court abused its discretion in transferring the case to the circuit court of Cook County. The plaintiff argues that the trial court failed to give adequate deference to her selection of the forum and that the defendants failed to prove that the relevant private and public factors strongly favored transfer to Cook County.

The doctrine of forum non conveniens is an equitable doctrine that presupposes the existence of more than one forum with jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter. Griffith v. Mitsubishi Aircraft International, Inc., 136 Ill. 2d 101, 105 (1990). Under the doctrine, a court may decline to exercise jurisdiction over a case where it appears that there is another forum with jurisdiction over the parties in which the trial can be had more conveniently. Carlberg v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 199 Ill. App. 3d 127, 130 (1990). The doctrine is not only applicable to cases involving other states but also may be applied to effectuate intrastate transfers between counties within Illinois. Peile v. Skelgas, Inc., 163 Ill. 2d 323, 336 (1994). The trial court is vested with considerable discretion in its ...


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