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Shaw v. Haas

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fifth District

September 23, 2019

ANGELA SHAW, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MATT HAAS, an Employee of Schnuck Markets, Inc.; EMPLOYEE OF DEFENDANT SCHNUCK MARKETS, INC.; and SCHNUCK MARKETS, INC., Defendants-Appellants.

          Rule 23 order filed August 22, 2019.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County. No. 17-L-454 Honorable Andrew J. Gleeson, Judge, presiding.

          Attorneys Beth Kamp Veath, Bryce Pfalzgraf, Brown & James, P.C., Appellants

          Attorney Patrick T. Hinrichs, The Bradley Law Firm, LLC, Appellee

          OVERSTREET PRESIDING JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Moore and Boie concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          OVERSTREET PRESIDING JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 The defendants, Matt Haas (Haas), an employee of Schnuck Markets, Inc.; employee of defendant Schnuck Markets, Inc.; and Schnuck Markets, Inc. (Schnuck), appeal the November 21, 2018, order of the circuit court of St. Clair County that denied their motion to dismiss/transfer based on forum non conveniens. For the following reasons, we reverse and remand with directions for the circuit court to enter an order granting the defendants' motion and transferring the cause to Monroe County.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 On August 17, 2015, the plaintiff, Angela Shaw, was walking in the vestibule of a store owned and operated by Schnuck, located in the city of Waterloo in Monroe County, Illinois, when Haas, acting within the scope of his employment with Schnuck, was pushing a line of shopping carts into the vestibule, lost control of the shopping carts, and caused them to collide with Shaw, thereby injuring her.

         ¶ 4 On August 16, 2017, Shaw-a resident of Monroe County-filed in the circuit court of St. Clair County a seven-count personal injury complaint against Schnuck, an unidentified employee of Schnuck referred to as "John Doe, "[1] and an employee of Schnuck, alleging negligence, vicarious liability, res ipsa loquitor, and negligent hiring, training, supervision, and retention.

         ¶ 5 On September 18, 2017, Schnuck filed a motion to dismiss/transfer based on forum non conveniens, alleging as follows: The facts giving rise to the claim occurred in Monroe County. The unnamed defendants were acting on behalf of Schnuck in Monroe County and are presumably located in Monroe County. Shaw resides in Monroe County. Schnuck conducts business in Monroe County. The citizens of Monroe County have a greater interest in deciding the controversy as opposed to those of St. Clair County. It would be unfair to impose the burden and expense of the litigation on St. Clair County, which has no connection to the controversy. The evidence relating to the incident is located in Monroe County. Any witnesses to the incident would have been residing in or traveling through Monroe County, and it would be more convenient for the parties and witnesses to litigate the matter in Monroe County.

         ¶ 6 The motion to dismiss/transfer based on forum non conveniens further alleged as follows: No events relating to the litigation occurred in St. Clair County. Although Schnuck operates a store in St. Clair County, its unrelated business transactions there are not significant factors for purposes of forum non conveniens. Shaw engaged in forum shopping by filing the action in St. Clair County and, as a result, no deference should be given to her choice of forum there. St. Clair County has no legitimate connection to the case.

         ¶ 7 The defendants requested that the circuit court enter an order dismissing the complaint or, in the alternative, transferring the complaint to Monroe County on the basis of forum non conveniens. On August 15, 2018, Shaw filed an amended complaint, adding Haas as a defendant. On September 19, 2018, Haas filed a motion to join Schnuck's motion to dismiss/transfer based on forum non conveniens.

         ¶ 8 In her memorandum in opposition to the defendants' joint motion to dismiss/transfer based on forum non conveniens, Shaw argued that St. Clair County and Monroe County are equally convenient for purposes of venue and alleged as follows: Schnuck is a Missouri corporation with its corporate headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri, where Schnuck's corporate representative would presumably be located. Schnuck's headquarters and corporate representative are closer to St. Clair County than Monroe County. Schnuck operates two stores in St. Clair County. St. Clair County has an interest in whether Schnuck implements proper training procedures and policies that will protect St. Clair County ...


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