In an Order filed on July 15, 2015 by the Appellate Court of Illinois Fifth District (“Appellate Court”), the Appellate Court discussed the equitable doctrine of forum non conveniens in the context of a medical malpractice case where the defendant, who lived in Illinois, tried but failed to move the pending Illinois medical malpractice case to Missouri. The Appellate Court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the medical malpractice defendant’s motion to dismiss on the grounds of forum non conveniens where the plaintiff filed the suit in the home county of the individual defendant and the convenience factors did not strongly favor dismissal.
The Doctrine Of Forum Non Conveniens
Under the doctrine of forum non conveniens, a court may decline jurisdiction over a case in favor of another forum if it appears that litigating the matter in the other forum will be more convenient for the parties and better serve the ends of justice. Forum non conveniens is an equitable doctrine based on principles of fundamental fairness and sensible and effective judicial administration. The Appellate Court stated that although courts have the discretion to decline jurisdiction, they should do so only in exceptional circumstances because a plaintiff has a substantial interest in choosing the forum in which to vindicate his rights – a key consideration is the plaintiff’s choice of forum because the plaintiff’s choice is always entitled to deference.
However, the plaintiff’s choice of forum is not always entitled to the same level of deference: when a plaintiff chooses his home forum or a forum where the incident giving rise to his claim occurred, it is presumed that he chose this forum because it was convenient, but when the plaintiff chooses a forum other than his home county or the site of the events at issue, the presumption is not as strong and the plaintiff’s choice is entitled to somewhat less deference than it otherwise would be in those circumstances (one concern underlying forum non conveniens jurisprudence is the need to discourage forum-shopping by plaintiffs because it may burden communities with litigation over disputes that arose elsewhere, although the Appellate Court noted that both plaintiffs and defendants engage in forum-shopping with equal fervor).
The Appellate Court stated that in determining whether to grant a forum non conveniens motion, trial courts must balance all of the relevant private and public interest factors. Private interest factors include: (1) the convenience of the parties; (2) the relative ease of access to testimony and other evidence; (3) the availability of compulsory service to secure the attendance of unwilling witnesses; (4) the cost to secure the attendance of willing witnesses; (5) the possibility of a jury view of the premises, if appropriate; and (6) all other practical considerations that make a trial easy, expeditious, and inexpensive. The public interest factors include: (1) the administrative difficulties of trying cases in courts with congested dockets; (2) the unfairness of imposing jury duty on residents of a county with little or no connection to the lawsuit; and (3) the interest in resolving local disputes locally.
The Appellate Court stated that in ruling on a forum non conveniens motion, courts must consider all of the private and public interest factors and determine whether, on balance, they strongly outweigh the plaintiff’s interest in choosing a forum, and the decision to grant or deny a forum non conveniens motion rests within the sound discretion of the trial court that will not be overturned absent an abuse of discretion (an abuse of discretion occurs where no reasonable person could take the position of the trial court).
In the case it was deciding, the Appellate Court determined that the convenience of the parties favored the Illinois court filing; the remaining private interest factors, on balance, do not favor either filing in the Illinois court or filing in the Missouri court; and, that all three of the public interest factors weigh in favor of a Missouri court. Nonetheless, the Appellate Court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it ruled that the medical malpractice defendant had not met her burden of demonstrating that the factors favoring the Missouri court strongly outweighed the plaintiff’s interest in choosing a forum (the Illinois court).
Source Dickerson v. Barker, 2015 IL App (5th) 130578-U, No. 5-13-0578.
If you were injured as a result of medical malpractice in Illinois, you should promptly consult with an Illinois medical malpractice attorney who may investigate your medical negligence claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.