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Lambert v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.

June 28, 2002

LORI LAMBERT, INDEPENDENT PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF RANDY LAMBERT, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
GOODYEAR TIRE AND RUBBER COMPANY, BRIDGESTONE/FIRESTONE, INC., A SUBSIDIARY OF BRIDGESTONE CORPORATION OF JAPAN (FORMERLY KNOWN AS FIRESTONE TIRE AND RUBBER COMPANY), AN OHIO CORPORATION, BURLINGTON NORTHERN AND SANTA FE RAILWAY COMPANY, A DELAWARE CORPORATION; AND INTERSTATE TIRE AND RETREAD, INC., AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. 99 L 5125 The Honorable Irwin J. Solganick Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Greiman

UNPUBLISHED

Defendants, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company (Goodyear) and Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. (Firestone), appeal from the trial court's denial of their joint motion to dismiss based upon forum non conveniens. Thus, the issue presently before us is whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying the motion to dismiss. We reverse the decision of the trial court.

The plaintiff, the decedent's widow, filed her complaint against Goodyear, Firestone, Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company, and Interstate Tire and Retread, Inc. on May 10, 1999. The complaint alleged that in the course of the decedent's employment as a truck stop mechanic, he was injured when he attempted to remove the right front outer tire of a pair of dual truck tires from a trailer in order to service the inner tire of the pair. Plaintiff claims that the flat-base, multipiece truck rim assembly on which the tire was mounted exploded, striking the decedent in the head and leg. The truck trailer from which the decedent attempted to remove the tire was maintained and operated by Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company (Burlington Northern); however, the accident occurred on the premises of the decedent's employer, Sawyer Truck Stop, in Sawyer, Michigan. The decedent died in the local hospital three days later.

The flat-base, multipiece truck rim assembly which allegedly exploded consisted of two components, a Goodyear rim base and a Firestone side/lock ring. Plaintiff asserted in her complaint that each of these components was defective and unreasonably dangerous in its design. Plaintiff further alleged that the components contained inadequate warnings and were negligently designed.

Plaintiff resides in Sawyer, Michigan, which is in Berrien County, and the probate estate of the deceased was created by the Berrien County probate court. Likewise, the decedent was a resident of Sawyer, Michigan, and was employed in Sawyer, Michigan, by Sawyer Truck Stop, where the accident occurred. All of the decedent's survivors are Berrien County residents.

The two police officers who responded to the accident are employees of Chikaming Township, which is located in Berrien County, and they reside in Michigan.

Lakeland Medical Center, the hospital where the decedent was treated, is located in St. Joseph, Michigan, which is located in Berrien County. Each of the doctors who treated the decedent practices in St. Joseph, Michigan.

Some of the decedent's co-workers at the truck stop witnessed the accident. The majority of these witnesses, including the decedent's former employers, Nick and Pat Veit, reside in Michigan.

Goodyear is an Ohio corporation with its principal place of business in Ohio and is present in Illinois by virtue of doing business in this state. The multirim assembly involved in the explosion was designed, manufactured, distributed, marketed, and sold by Goodyear. The multirim assembly was neither designed nor manufactured in Illinois.

Firestone is also an Ohio corporation and is present in Illinois by virtue of doing business in this state. The side/lock ring involved in the explosion was designed, manufactured, distributed, marketed, and sold by Firestone. The side/lock ring was manufactured in Wyandotte, Michigan.

The Burlington Northern is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Illinois.

Interstate Tire and Retread, Inc. (Interstate), is an Illinois corporation doing business in Illinois. The subject tire was remanufactured, marketed, sold, and distributed by Interstate.

In addition to the foregoing facts, plaintiff alleged in her complaint that Burlington Northern was negligent in failing to properly maintain the subject trailer. More specifically, plaintiff claimed that Burlington Northern was negligent in allowing the trailer to leave its Willow Springs, Illinois, railyard while equipped with an allegedly defective and dangerous wheel assembly.

Furthermore, on information and belief, plaintiff alleged in her complaint that either Interstate or Burlington Northern negligently assembled the wheel components with the retread tire and supplied it for use on the trailer.

Plaintiff also asserted that Burlington Northern and Interstate failed to provide adequate warnings and instructions regarding the assembly, handling, dangers, and defects inherent in the use of the flat-base, multipiece rim. Plaintiff specifically alleged that Interstate failed to provide adequate warnings and instructions regarding the assembly, handling, ...


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