Thursday’s Illinois Supreme Court ruling in Gridley v. State Farm highlights the pressing need for venue reform legislation in Illinois, according to the American Insurance Association (AIA).
“The fact that this lawsuit went all the way to the state Supreme Court before venue was correctly decided reinforces the need for legislation that clearly delineates when and where forum is proper in civil cases,” said Lynda Mounts, AIA assistant general counsel. “Coincidentally, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing today to gather more information on this issue. This is an encouraging development and we are optimistic that things may finally be changing in Illinois with respect to venue shopping.”
The Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee held a subject matter-only hearing Thursday in Chicago where new evidence of “litigation tourism” was presented. The Illinois Civil Justice League presented data from a statewide study that quantifies the problem and shows that citizens in certain counties across the state are unduly burdened by a significantly higher number of civil cases in their local courts when compared to the rest of the state.
“Strengthening the venue rules will go a long way toward solving the problem of ‘litigation tourism’ and help keep Illinois courts open for Illinois citizens,” added Mounts.
In Gridley, the plaintiff resides in Louisiana where he alleged wrongdoing, and raised issues of title laws, in connection with a purchase he made there. The case also involved witnesses and evidence located almost entirely in Louisiana. Aside from State Farm’s corporate headquarters in Bloomington, Illinois, there was no connection to Illinois, yet he brought his case to Madison County.
AIA filed an amicus brief arguing that this case underscores the impact of improperly applying the doctrine of forum non conveniens, which allows a court to reject jurisdiction over a case and dismiss it for reasons such as if the convenience of the parties and the interest of justice would be better served if the case were brought in a more proper venue. In this situation, the case belonged in the plaintiff’s home state of Louisiana.
“For many years, Illinois has had a reputation, both locally and nationally, for having a few overly friendly local courts that cater to out-of-state lawsuits and at times issue blatantly unfair rulings. The Court’s decision today may help stem the tide of such lawsuits,” added Mounts.
The Court’s ruling in Christopher Gridley v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, case No. 94144, can be found at the following link: http://www.state.il.us/court/Opinions/SupremeCourt/2005/November/Opinions/Html/94144.htm.
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