Missouri woman's insurance claim won't be decided in St. Clair Co.; State Farm had argued forum shopping

By Record News | Apr 16, 2019

BELLEVILLE – Heather Brinkley of DeSoto, Mo., who sued State Farm in St. Clair County circuit court over coverage of her home, chose not to resist a challenge to the court’s jurisdiction. 

She dismissed her suit on March 26, at a hearing State Farm had requested. 

Circuit Judge Heinz Rudolf signed an order finding Brinkley would file an action in the circuit court of Jefferson County, Mo.  

Attorney Jeremy Gogle of St. Louis sued State Farm for Brinkley last September, seeking a declaration that State Farm must cover fire damage. 

In January, State Farm counsel Patrick Cloud of Edwardsville moved to dismiss the complaint in favor of a more convenient forum. 

Cloud argued that where a plaintiff with no connection to St. Clair County chooses it, forum shopping is the only reasonable conclusion. 

He wrote that firefighters, investigators, and Brinkley’s accountant were outside of the court’s subpoena power. 

Gogel stood by the forum choice on March 4, calling the suit a contract dispute between parties in different states. 

“It is misguided to state that it would be inappropriate for the people of Illinois to be able to weigh in on how companies operating in their own state handle their insureds’ claims,” Gogel wrote. 

He wrote that State Farm claimed the fire was set intentionally. 

“Plaintiff disagrees,” Gogel wrote. “This case hinges on facts, not law.” 

On March 22, Cloud wrote for State Farm that the location of its headquarters had little bearing on the analysis. 

If Brinkley’s position were taken to its logical conclusion, any State Farm policyholder anywhere in the world could properly bring a breach of contract claim against State Farm in St. Clair County for denial of a claim, Cloud wrote. 

Gogel dropped his opposition in front of Rudolf, voluntarily dismissing the suit without prejudice.

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Heyl Royster Voelker and Association Twentieth Judicial Circuit of Illinois

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