Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 99 L 01560 Honorable David Donnersberger, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Reid
In this medical malpractice action, the plaintiffs-appellants are a young girl and her parents. The defendants-appellees are essentially the hospitals and doctors that allegedly harmed the girl as a result of their alleged negligence. The sole issue raised on appeal is whether the trial court abused its discretion when it granted the defendants' motion to transfer venue from Cook County to DuPage County. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the decision of the trial court and remand this cause for further proceedings.
Plaintiff Sophie Chung (Sophie), a minor, is represented by her parents, Howard Chung (Howard) and Myunghee Chung (Myunghee), who are also suing in their individual capacities. On February 9, 1999, the plaintiffs filed a two-count complaint wherein they alleged the following defendants committed medical malpractice: Advocate Health Care (Advocate), d/b/a Good Samaritan Hospital (Good Samaritan); DuPage Emergency Physicians, Ltd. (DuPage Physicians); Valerie Jean Phillips, M.D. (Dr. Phillips); Bruce Donenberg, M.D.; J. Badowska, M.D., S.C.; Janina Badowska, M.D. (Dr. Badowska); Central DuPage Hospital Association, d/b/a Central DuPage Hospital (Central DuPage); Associated General Surgeons, S.C.; Peter W. Broido, M.D. (Dr. Broido); West Central Anesthesiology Group, Ltd.; Michael J. Perconti, M.D.; John A. Kowalski, M.D.; Winfield Radiology Consultants, S.C.; Hak Kung Sue, M.D.; Pediatric Criticare, Ltd.; and Sari Nabulsi, M.D (Dr. Nabulsi).
In the complaint, it was alleged that on February 9, 1997, five year-old Sophie was admitted to Good Samaritan, which is located in DuPage County, Illinois, for gastro-intestinal symptoms. There, Dr. Phillips and Dr. Badowska examined Sophie and decided that she needed pediatric critical care treatment. Sophie was subsequently transferred to Central DuPage, which is also located in DuPage County.
At Central DuPage, Sophie was examined by Dr. Broido and Dr. Nabulsi. After an abdominal flat plate and upright X ray were taken, Sophie was taken to surgery. There, Dr. Broido performed a procedure known as an exploratory laparotomy. During the procedure it was discovered that Sophie had a malrotation of the bowel. After untwisting her bowel, Dr. Broido elected to stop the procedure in order to evaluate the bowel's condition. The next day, Sophie was transferred to Children's Memorial Hospital (Children's Memorial), which is located in Chicago, Illinois.
The doctors at Children's Memorial discovered that Sophie's bowel had died because the malrotation had not been timely treated. Sophie subsequently had four additional surgeries and remained hospitalized at Children's Memorial until April 7, 1997. The plaintiffs, who are residents of DuPage County, initiated this action in Cook County, Illinois. On May 18, 1999, the defendants filed a motion to transfer venue pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 187 (134 Ill. 2d R. 187). The defendants requested that the case be transferred to DuPage County pursuant to the doctrine of forum non conveniens. The trial court granted the defendants' motion to transfer venue and the plaintiffs appealed. A different division of this court initially denied the plaintiffs' petition for leave to appeal, and on May 1, 2000, the Supreme Court of Illinois issued a supervisory order that required this court to vacate its previous order and address this case on its merits.
The plaintiffs maintain the trial court abused its discretion when it granted the defendants' motion to transfer venue from Cook County to DuPage County.
The doctrine of forum non conveniens presupposes the existence of more than one forum having jurisdiction and venue. Peile v. Skelgas, Inc., 163 Ill. 2d 323, 336 (1994), citing Wieser v. Missouri Pacific R.R. Co., 98 Ill. 2d 359, 364 (1983), and Vinson v. Allstate, 144 Ill. 2d 306, 311 (1991). A trial court has considerable discretion in ruling on a forum non conveniens motion, and the court's decision to grant or deny that motion will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion. Peile, 163 Ill. 2d at 336; Brummett v. Wepfer Marine, Inc., 111 Ill. 2d 495, 503 (1986). According to this equitable doctrine, a court that has jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter involved may nevertheless decline jurisdiction of a case when it is apparent that trial in another forum with jurisdiction over the parties would be more convenient and would better serve the ends of justice. Vinson, 144 Ill. 2d at 310.
To determine whether the doctrine applies, the circuit court must balance the private interest factors affecting the convenience of the parties and the public interest factors impacting the court's administration of its docket. Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 508-09, 91 L. Ed. 1055, 1062-63, 67 S. Ct. 839, 843 (1947); Torres v. Walsh, 98 Ill. 2d 338, 345 (1983). The doctrine of forum non conveniens is a flexible one which requires evaluation of the total circumstances rather than concentration on any single factor. Peile, 163 Ill. 2d at 336-37.
"In Illinois, the private interest factors include (1) the convenience of the parties; (2) the relative ease of access to sources of testimonial, documentary, and real evidence; and (3) all other practical problems that make trial of a case easy, expeditious, and inexpensive--for example, the availability of compulsory process to secure attendance of unwilling witnesses, the cost to obtain attendance of willing witnesses, and the ability to view the premises (if appropriate)." First American Bank v. Guerine, 198 Ill. 2d 511, 516 (2002), citing Griffith v. Mitsubishi Aircraft International, Inc., 136 Ill. 2d 101, 105-06 (1990), Bland v. Norfolk & Western Ry. Co., 116 Ill. 2d 217, 224 (1987), and Adkins v. Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific R.R. Co., 54 Ill. 2d 511, 514 (1973)(these factors also may include the relative capacities of the two forums to provide a fair trial).
"The public interest factors include (1) the interest in deciding localized controversies locally; (2) the unfairness of imposing the expense of a trial and the burden of jury duty on residents of a county with little connection to the litigation; and (3) the administrative difficulties presented by adding further litigation to court dockets in ...