In its opinion filed on November 10, 2016, the Appellate Court of Illinois Fifth District (“Appellate Court”) discussed the application of the forum non conveniens doctrine in a medical malpractice case, affirming the trial court’s denial of the Illinois medical malpractice defendants’ motions to transfer the plaintiffs’ Illinois medical malpractice case from the county in which it was filed in a contiguous county that the defendants alleged were more convenient for them.
Forum Non Conveniens Doctrine
As the Appellate Court stated, forum non conveniens is an equitable doctrine founded in considerations of fundamental fairness and sensible and effective judicial administration. The forum non conveniens doctrine allows a circuit court to decline jurisdiction and transfer an action when it appears that another forum can better serve the convenience of the parties and the ends of justice. The circuit court is vested with considerable discretion in determining whether to grant or deny a forum non conveniens motion, and its ruling will not be reversed unless it can be shown that the court abused its discretion in balancing the relevant public- and private-interest factors (a court abuses its discretion when no reasonable person would take the view adopted by the circuit court).
The Appellate Court stated that the circuit court’s discretionary power under the forum non conveniens doctrine should be exercised only in exceptional circumstances when the interests of justice require a trial in a more convenient forum. In considering a forum non conveniens issue, the circuit court must evaluate the total circumstances of the case and consider all relevant private- and public-interest factors, without emphasizing any single factor. The private-interest factors are not weighed against the public-interest factors, and each case must be considered on its own unique facts.
Factors of private interest include: (1) the convenience of the parties, (2) the relative ease of access to sources of testimonial, documentary, and real evidence, and (3) all other practical considerations that make the trial of a case easy, expeditious, and inexpensive.
Factors of public interest include: (1) the interest in deciding controversies locally, (2) the unfairness of imposing the expense of a trial and the burden of jury duty on residents of a forum with little connection to the litigation, and (3) the administrative difficulties presented by adding litigation to already congested court dockets.
The defendant has the burden to show that the balance of relevant private- and public-interest factors strongly favors transfer to another forum: the defendant must show that the plaintiff’s chosen forum is inconvenient to the defendant, and that another forum is more convenient to all parties.
A further consideration in the analysis is the deference owed to a plaintiff’s choice of forum: the plaintiff has a substantial interest in selecting the forum where his rights will be vindicated, and the plaintiff’s choice of forum should rarely be disturbed unless other factors strongly favor transfer. However, a plaintiff’s choice of forum is given somewhat less deference when the plaintiff chooses a forum other than his home forum or the location where some part of the action arose. Nonetheless, less deference does not mean no deference. In satisfying its burden to show that the plaintiff’s chosen forum is inconvenient to the defendant and that another forum is more convenient to all parties, the defendant may not argue that the plaintiff’s chosen forum is inconvenient to the plaintiff.
After thoroughly discussing the record of the circuit court proceedings in the case it was deciding and applying the above-mentioned factors, the Appellate Court held that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying the moving defendants’ motions to transfer based on intrastate forum non conveniens when it determined that the defendants failed to meet their burden to show that the balance of factors strongly favored transfer of the plaintiffs’ Illinois medical malpractice case from the county in which the plaintiffs filed their medical malpractice action to a contiguous county and that the other county was more convenient to all parties.
Source Foster v. Hillsboro Area Hospital Inc., 2016 IL App (5th) 150055
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