An appellate court has ruled that Cook County is an appropriate venue for a lawsuit that involved a truck crash in Ohio and a company that primarily does its business out of a southern Illinois town.
The Illinois First District Appellate Court found that plaintiff Sergiu Tabirta’s lawsuit against driver James Cummings and Gilster Mary Lee Corp. (GML) can go forward in the Circuit Court of Cook County because GML does business in Cook County. GML is a private-label food manufacturer headquartered in Chester, Ill., which is located 62 miles south of St. Louis along the Mississippi River. GML employed a Cook County resident, James Bolton, who worked out of his home as GML’s “point person” for three customers – Aldi, Central Grocery and Sears/Kmart.
Bolton’s home could be considered an “other office” in Cook County, meaning Tabirta’s lawsuit against the company could proceed in Cook County as the Illinois Appellate Court of the First District found.
“He is not a traveling salesperson; rather, he spends the vast majority of his time communicating with GML’s customers via e-mail and over the phone from his home, a fixed location.”
“Although GML does not possess an ownership interest in Bolton’s personal residence, we do not find that the lack of such an interest precludes a finding that Bolton’s residence is an ‘other office.’”
In the underlying lawsuit, Tabirta alleged that he suffered “catastrophic injuries” when Cummings’s semi-trailer collided with his commercial truck along Interstate 71 north of Columbus, Ohio.
The First District Illinois Appellate Court in February 2018 passed on the defenses’ petition for leave to appeal the case after the Cook County judge ruled Tabirta’s lawsuit could proceed in Cook County because of Bolton’s residency.
The defendants then filed a petition before the Illinois Supreme Court. The high court last May denied the petition and ordered the appeals court to grant it.
Under Illinois law, the lawsuit can stand against a corporation in any county so long as they have “registered office or other office or is doing business” in that county. The First District panel found that there is a “dearth of case law” on what an “other office” means.
The Illinois Appellate Court relied on a 1999 decision from the 5th District Appellate Court, which itself cited a Georgia Supreme Court case.
In Melliere v. Luhr Bros. Inc., the 5th District interpreted the phrase “other office” to mean a “fixed place of business” used for company operations including nontraditional settings like an airplane hangar.
Both parties cited Melliere as supportive of their arguments. Tabirta contended Bolton’s Cook County residence was a fixed location in line with the airplane hangar in Melliere, while the defendant said that the company didn’t have any control or ownership over Bolton’s home.
The Illinois Appellate Court panel agreed with Tabirta’s reading of the case. Therefore, the appeals panel concluded that the Circuit Court did not err in denying defendants’ motion seeking dismissal of Tabirta’s lawsuit for lack of proper venue.
Sergiu Tabirta v. James J. Cummings, et al., 2019 IL App (1st) 172891-B.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling truck accident lawsuits, motorcycle accident cases, bicycle accident cases, pedestrian accident lawsuits and product liability lawsuits for individuals, families and loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Orland Park, Oak Brook, Norridge, Melrose Park, Riverside, LaGrange, Countryside, Chicago (South Lawndale, Back of the Yards, Lincoln Square, Irving Park, Albany Park, Avondale, West Garfield Park, Little Italy, Near South Side, Douglas, Bridgeport, Hyde Park, Gage Park, Chicago Lawn, Auburn Gresham, Chatham, Avalon Park), Evergreen Park, Burbank, Bedford Park, Summit, Stickney, Elmwood Park and Wheeling, Ill.
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