Madison County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Stack, who established early on that he would dismiss cases based on forum non conveniens, did not allow two such motions during a recent hearing. But he made it clear to plaintiff attorneys that forum shopping will not be tolerated anymore under his administration of the county's large asbestos docket.
In the first case heard Jan. 26, General Electric (GE) claimed that decedent Harvey Gudmundson--whose case was brought by his widow who lives in Cook County--was only exposed to asbestos while serving in the Navy during the Korean conflict.
Jane Gudmundson filed the complaint in April of 2003 in Madison County.
General Electric's attorney Ronald Hack argued, "This case is unusual as the only exposure alleges it happened during January of 1952 until September of 1955 while in the Navy.
"You have an obligation to transfer this case as it burdens this county since there is no exposure alleged here."
Hack also remarked that Cook County is just as convenient for expert witnesses to travel to since most are from out of state.
Gudmundson's attorney, Barry Julian, argued that the case, which was filed nearly two years ago, is set for trial in less than two weeks. Defendant's motion to transfer for forum non convenies should have been made months if not years ago, Julian said.
He also argued that GE motion for dismissal was nothing more than a stall tactic.
A second case argued by General Electric was one filed on Feb. 10 2003, by Vito LaBruzzo of Jackson County, Missouri.
The suit was originally filed in Jackson County, but LaBruzzo dismissed his case there to file it in Madison County.
"This is an blatant case of forum shopping," Hack said.
Stack, who expressed that he was "disturbed" by the refiling, denied the motion for dismissal anyway because the case was set for trial in February.
Stack, who was set to hear more asbestos motions on Jan. 28 on forum non conveniens, said he might have considered granting the motions for dismissal if they had been filed at the proper time--not weeks before trial.