Australian law applies in Macon County, appellate court rules

By Steve Korris | Aug 24, 2006

Terrence Hopkins

Melissa Chapman

Some lucky judge in Decatur gets to apply Australian law to a claim of an Australian citizen about an Australian crash, thanks to the Fifth District appellate court.

The Fifth District on Aug. 17 affirmed an order Madison County Circuit Judge Phillip Kardis signed before retiring last year, transferring the case to Macon County.

Judge Terrence Hopkins wrote for a panel of three judges that, "Australia and Macon County have an equal interest in deciding the controversy."

Plaintiff Peter Woodward sued Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford Motor Company in 2001. He claimed that in 1999 a tire failed on his Ford and the Ford rolled over.

He claims the crash injured him and killed a passenger.

He claims Ford made the defective car in St. Louis and Firestone parent Bridgestone made the defective tire in Macon County.

At a hearing before Kardis in May 2005, Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford moved to dismiss in favor of an Australian forum.

Kardis found no basis for keeping the case in Madison County, nor did he see any merit in sending it to Australia.

He gave Woodward a choice of courts. Woodward chose Macon County.

The defendants asked the Fifth District for leave to appeal. The Fifth District denied it.

The defendants petitioned the Illinois Supreme Court, and last December the Justices ordered the Fifth District to grant leave to appeal.

The Fifth District allowed the appeal and rejected it.

Hopkins called it "…a case with international implications," and wrote that Australian law would apply.

He wrote that he supported Kardis's order even though it "failed to set forth the reasons underlying its refusal to dismiss this case in favor of an Australian forum."

Judges Thomas Welch and Melissa Chapman concurred.

Elizabeth Heller of Edwardsville represents Woodward. Michael Nester of Belleville represents the tire maker and Robert Shultz of Edwardsville represents Ford.

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