PCI: Ill. Supreme Court Ruling on Class Action Case Victory for Insurers

November 18, 2005

In a decision that reportedly emphasizes the need for venue reform legislation in the state, the Illinois Supreme Court this past week unanimously dismissed Gridley v. State Farm, the class action lawsuit against State Farm, citing that the case should not have been accepted due to jurisdiction problems.

According to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), the decision is a major victory for consumers and businesses who need to see common sense rules applied in Illinois’ courts, but warns that legislative action is still needed to curtail litigation costs.

“Madison County has become the lawsuit capitol of the country and the favored venue for personal injury lawyers. The Supreme Court’s decision sends a clear message that venue shopping should not be tolerated in the state of Illinois,” said Greg LaCost, assistant vice president and regional manager for PCI

In the decision filed Thursday, the Court declared that the former judge who accepted the case, “abused his discretion” in refusing to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Christopher Gridley, a Louisiana motorist whose lawyers turned the case into a class-action lawsuit. The trial court denied the forum non conveniens motion and the appellate court affirmed that decision.

Specifically, the Court stated that the, “plaintiff’s choice of forum is accorded less deference when the plaintiff is from out of state and the action giving rise to the litigation did not occur in that state, and that Illinois residents should not be burdened with jury duty when the action has no relation to Illinois”. The defendants have argued that the lawsuit should have been filed in Louisiana where the plaintiff lived and purchased his car.

PCI testified that the decision highlighted the need for venue reform legislation in the state during a hearing of the Illinois Senate Judiciary in Chicago on venue reform legislation, SB 1724.

At the hearing, PCI, one of the members of the Coalition for Common Sense Courts, testified on the bill’s behalf that a couple of counties in the state have been burdened by a high number of civil cases in their local courts when compared to other counties throughout the state.

“The Supreme Court’s decision is solid proof that state legislators need to pass the Common Sense Courts Act, the pending bill charged with putting an end to venue-shopping in the state,” added LaCost. “Strengthening venue reform legislation will limit out of state lawsuits from burdening the local courts and will give local jurisdictions the time and resources to handle the appropriate local cases.”

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