Illinois Appellate Court Affirms Dismissal of Case for Forum Non Conveniens; No Abuse of Discretion

The Illinois Appellate Court has found no abuse of discretion where the factors were not delineated in an order when a Cook County judge dismissed a case because of forum non conveniens.

In this case, on Oct. 24, 2013, in Belvidere, Ill., there was a crash involving a car driven by Kenneth Kazort and a garbage truck driven by an operator from Advanced Disposal Services Solid Waste LLC. The garbage truck driver was John Padgett. Padgett was alleged to have backed into a driveway in order to turn around and move on to the next resident. When the garbage truck pulled out, Kazort, who was out of view, was blocked by “numerous large trees, a recreational vehicle, vegetation and other foliage.”

As the garbage truck pulled out into the street, Kazort’s car and the truck crashed into each other, killing Kazort. Malinda Ruch was appointed administrator of the Kazort estate and filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County claiming negligence on the part of Padgett and on his employer Advanced Disposal.

On May 20, 2014, the defendants moved to transfer the action from Cook County to Boone County where the crash occurred.

Kazort lived in Boone County and the crash took place there in Belvidere, Ill. The incident was investigated by the Boone County sheriff’s department and the Boone County coroner.

In the motion it was pointed out by Advanced Disposal that Cook County courts saw more than 21,000 cases that were filed in 2012 seeking more than $50,000 in compensation; Boone County had 44 such cases in the same time period.

The only elements of the case located in Cook County were the economic experts for Ruch and the law firm hired by Ruch.

Ruch pointed out in defense of her forum that all of the witnesses who were involved were willing to appear in Cook County for a trial. It was also noted that in Boone County the case took an average of 56 months to get to judgment where the prayer for relief was more than $50,000; in Cook County 36.1 months were required to get to judgment.

The trial judge in Cook County disagreed with Ruch’s arguments and found that “no reasonable connection between the accident and Cook County,” were present. The trial court dismissed the case pursuant to forum non conveniens to be refiled in Winnebago County or Boone County where both Padgett and Ruch had decided. Ruch filed an appeal.

The argument presented by Ruch on appeal was that “the trial court did not engage in any analysis of the public and private factors,” and that this analysis was required to support a forum non conveniens order. Ruch claimed that the dismissal order was an abuse of discretion.

The appellate court disagreed, quoting its own precedent that there is not “any authority supporting the proposition that a circuit court’s ruling on a forum non conveniens motion must be reversed solely for an inadequate record of its analysis.”

The appeals panel stated that it may uphold the trial court’s decision on any basis in the record and conduct its only analysis of the public and private factors. The appeals panel emphasized that Ruch’s decision to prosecute in Cook County received less deference because it was not her home county and that because the accident took place in Boone County, “practical problems” as well as access to evidence, favored the transfer.

Therefore, the circuit court’s decision to dismiss on the grounds of forum non conveniens was affirmed.

Malinda Ruch v. John Padgett, et al., 2015 IL App (1st) 142972 (Sept. 11, 2015).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling automobile accident cases, truck accident cases, bicycle accident cases and motorcycle accident cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including River Forest, Oak Park, Oak Lawn, Palatine, Palos Hills, Blue Island, Grayslake, Crystal Lake, Wheaton, Aurora, Woodridge, Wonder Lake, Winthrop Harbor, Willowbrook and Woodstock, Ill.

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