Presiding Justice Spomer

The Illinois Appellate Court ruled that Madison County Circuit Court Judge Andy Matoesian did not abuse his discretion in denying a defendant's motion to transfer a case based on the doctrine of intrastate forum non conveniens.

"The Illinois Supreme Court has recently reiterated and reemphasized the fact that the forum non conveniens doctrine gives courts discretionary power that should be exercised only in exceptional circumstances when the interests of justice require a trial in a more convenient forum," wrote Presiding Justice Spomer in an April 11 opinion from a three-judge panel.

The case involved plaintiff James Wilton, who filed a wrongful death suit against Jerseyville Manor in December 2003. He alleged that his mother, Bernice Wilton, had sustained injuries and damages while under care of the Jersey County nursing home.

The complaint stated that the defendant also owned a nursing home in Madison County.

Wilton was seeking damages in excess of $100,000 under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act and the Illinois Wrongful Death Act.

On March 1, 2004, Jerseyville Manor filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to transfer venue based on forum non conveniens.

It claimed that Wilton was a resident of Jersey County, that the alleged wrongful acts occurred at a nursing home located in Jersey County, and that Bernice was treated for her injuries in Jersey County.

The motion further argued that the plaintiff and other relatives of Bernice Wilton would be material witnesses and that they all reside in Jersey County.

"Following the Illinois Supreme Court's reasoning in Langenhorst (v. Norfolk Southern Ry. Co.), we must find that the balance of private- and public-interest factors does not strongly favor a transfer to Jersey County, because the defendant cannot show that there is 'no connection' to Madison County, that the defendant or witnesses would be inconvenienced by a trial in Madison County, that a trial would be impractical in Madison County, or that it would be unfair to burden the citizens of Madison County with a trial in this case," Spomer wrote.

"Here, as in Langenhorst, no affidavits have been filed stating that Madison County would be an inconvenient forum for any of the witnesses."

"Because we are bound by the Langenhorst decision, absent a strong showing of actual inconvenience, a circuit court's decision to deny a motion to transfer for forum non conveniens should not be disturbed, even if there is a "more appropriate forum" based on "where the cause of action arose." See Langenhorst, slip op. at 18. If a shift in focus is needed, from inconvenience to the more appropriate forum based on where the cause of action arose, that shift will have to come from the legislature in the form of an amendment to the venue statute."

Justices Stephen McGlynn and James Donovan concurred the decision.


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