A 2012 Illinois Supreme Court decision that determined St. Clair County was not the most convenient forum for a Mississippi man’s asbestos suit is the basis for a recent Madison County forum decision.
On Jan. 10, Circuit Judge William Mudge granted a defense motion to transfer an auto accident personal injury suit to Clinton County.
Mudge wrote that Clinton County has more of a basis to claim the controversy than Madison County “inasmuch as it occurred there, was investigated there, involved Clinton County drivers, was witnessed there and the plaintiff (was) primarily treated there.”
Garren Forth of Centrailia sued Dewal Wuebbels and Spray Insulation & Contracting Inc. last July claiming injuries from a September 2011 accident on Route 161. Forth claimed he was driving east while at the same time Wuebbels, who was driving a Spray Insulation truck westbound, allegedly tried to turn left across oncoming traffic and into the driveway of a house. Wuebbels allegedly failed to yield the right-of-way and, instead, crashed into the side of Forth’s car.
Mudge relied on the high court’s 5-1 decision in Fennell v. Illinois Central Railroad which requires that all public and private interest factors be carefully evaluated in forum non conveniens matters.
In reaching his decision, Mudge wrote that the factors in Forth's case “strongly favor transfer.”
Mudge wrote that he took into consideration private interest factors, such as the convenience of the parties and relative ease of access to evidence, as well as public interest factors, such as “the administrative difficulties caused when litigation is handled in congested venues instead of being handled at its origin, the unfairness of imposing jury duty upon residents of a community with no connection to the litigation.”
The plaintiff, represented by Ely Hadowsky of St. Louis, argued that Spray Insulation conducts business – though minimal at 5 percent - in Madison County and that its registered business agent – Christopher Byron – is located in Madison County, making venue proper.
Forth also argued that his choice of forum was entitled to substantial deference, that medical providers were spread out making Madison County no less convenient than Clinton County, that attorneys for the parties were located closer to Madison County, that imposing jury duty upon Madison County residents was not unfair because of Spray Insulation’s connection and that court congestion was “not a significant factor.”
Madison County Circuit Court Case No. 13-L-1230
Fennell v. Illinois Central Railroad
Plaintiff Walter Fennell sued the railroad company in 2009, claiming he developed respiratory problems after being exposed to asbestos and other toxic substances during his career with Illinois Central.
He brought the suit in St. Clair County three years after a Mississippi court dismissed a similar suit in which he was named one of 85 plaintiffs.
St. Clair County Circuit Judge Lloyd Cueto denied Illinois Central’s forum motion, noting that the location of certain evidence, as well as the area’s interest in asbestos and a relatively open trial docket, made St. Clair County a convenient forum.