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Hernandez v. Karlin Foods Corporation

May 04, 2001

IRENE HERNANDEZ, AS TEMPORARY GUARDIAN OF THE ESTATE AND PERSON OF MICHAEL A. HERNANDEZ, A DISABLED PERSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
KARLIN FOODS CORPORATION, A CORPORATION, AND VERN E. LUNDBERG, INC., A CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 99 L 14155 Honorable Paddy McNamara, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice O'brien

Not Released For Publication

IRENE HERNANDEZ, AS TEMPORARY GUARDIAN OF THE ESTATE AND PERSON OF MICHAEL A. HERNANDEZ, A DISABLED PERSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
KARLIN FOODS CORPORATION, A CORPORATION, AND VERN E. LUNDBERG, INC., A CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 99 L 14155 Honorable Paddy McNamara, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice O'brien

Plaintiff, Irene Hernandez, appeals the order of the circuit court transferring venue pursuant to the doctrine of intrastate forum non conveniens. We affirm.

 Defendant Karlin Foods Corporation (Karlin) contracted with defendant Vern E. Lundberg, Inc. (Lundberg), for construction of a distribution center in Lee County. Lundberg hired Professional Steel to erect the structural steel for the project. On October 18, 1999, Michael Hernandez, an employee of Professional Steel, fell at the construction site in Lee County and incurred extensive injuries, including brain damage and paraplegia.

Immediately after the accident, Hernandez received treatment at St. Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, Winnebago County. Later that day, he was transferred to Rockford Memorial Hospital in Winnebago County, where he remained for almost one month. Hernandez was then transferred to Vencor Hospital in Sycamore, DeKalb County, where he remained for about four weeks before being transferred to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, where he stayed for 2 ½ months. Hernandez is currently being treated at the Center for Comprehensive Services in Carbondale, Jackson County.

Plaintiff, as temporary guardian of the estate and person of Hernandez, filed a negligence action in Cook County against defendants. Defendants filed a motion to transfer the cause to Lee County under the doctrine of forum non conveniens. The circuit court granted defendants' motion. Plaintiff appeals pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 306(a)(2) (155 Ill. 2d R. 306(a)(2)).

Forum non conveniens is an equitable doctrine that assumes the existence of more than one forum with jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter of a case. Broeker v. Turville, 257 Ill. App. 3d 389, 391 (1993). Application of the doctrine invokes principles of convenience and fairness in selecting between the two or more forums that have jurisdiction. Griffith v. Mitsubishi Aircraft International, Inc., 136 Ill. 2d 101, 105 (1990). Defendant bears the burden of proving the plaintiff's choice of forum is inconvenient to the defendant and another forum is more convenient to all parties. Whirlpool Corp. v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's of London, 295 Ill. App. 3d 828, 837 (1998).

Under the forum non conveniens doctrine, courts must balance private interest factors affecting the litigants and public interest factors affecting the administration of the courts. Broeker, 257 Ill. App. 3d at 392. The private interest factors include: relative ease of access to sources of proof; the accessibility of witnesses; the possibility of a jury view of the premises; and all other practical problems that make a trial easy, expeditious, and inexpensive. Roberts v. Illinois Power Co., 311 Ill. App. 3d 458, 460-61 (2000). The public interest factors include: the relative court congestion; the imposition of jury duty upon residents of a county with little or no connection to the litigation; and an interest in having localized controversies decided locally. Griffith, 136 Ill. 2d at 106. The doctrine of forum non conveniens is a flexible one that requires evaluation of the total circumstances rather than concentration on any single factor. Peile v. Skelgas, Inc., 163 Ill. 2d 323, 336-37 (1994).

Plaintiff's right to choose the forum is a substantial one, and unless the factors strongly weigh in favor of transfer, plaintiff's choice of forum should rarely be disturbed. Broeker, 257 Ill. App. 3d at 392. However, plaintiff's choice of forum is accorded less deference when, as here, plaintiff does not reside in the county she has chosen and the situs of the injury is not located in the chosen forum. Elling v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., 291 Ill. App. 3d 311, 314 (1997).

The reviewing court will not disturb the circuit court's granting or denying a forum non conveniens motion absent an abuse of discretion. Elling, 291 Ill. App. 3d at 314. An abuse of discretion occurs when the circuit court acts arbitrarily, fails to employ conscientious judgment and ignores recognized principles of law. Elling, 291 Ill. App. 3d at 317.

No abuse of discretion occurred here. The circuit court granted defendants' motion to transfer venue to Lee County because the accident occurred in Lee County, three of the occurrence witnesses live in Lee County, and the remaining occurrence witnesses live closer to Lee County than to Cook County. Further, the ...


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