Plaintiffs Entitled to Substantial Deference in Choice of Forum

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Rebecca Kujawa (“Kujawa”) sued attorney John Hopkins (“Hopkins”) in the Circuit Court of Madison County, Illinois for legal malpractice in an underlying medical malpractice matter.  Hopkins moved to transfer the case to Effingham County for forum non conveniens.  Among other things, Hopkins asserted that the underlying medical malpractice occurred in Effingham county, that essential witnesses and records relevant to the underlying case were located there, and that jurors in that county had an interest in determining whether their local medical providers were negligent.  Kujawa countered that Hopkins resided in Madison County, that his alleged malpractice took place there, that the parties would be inconvenienced by having to travel to Effingham County, and that the people of Madison county had an interest in determining whether their local attorneys committed legal malpractice.

The motion was denied, and the Appellate Court of Illinois, Fifth District, affirmed.  It explained that a plaintiff’s choice of forum “is entitled to substantial deference and should rarely be disturbed,” although it is entitled to “somewhat less deference when the plaintiff chooses a forum other than his place of residence or the location where some part of the action arose.”  Id. at ¶ 18.  Beyond that, neither public nor private factors strongly favored transfer.  As to private factors, the Court noted that Hopkins had an office across the street from the Madison County courthouse and that no medical witness in the underlying matter had provided an affidavit attesting to the inconvenience of attending trial there.  Furthermore, Hopkins had not demonstrated that any records in Effingham county could not be easily transported or electronically transmitted to Madison County.  As for public factors, such as local interest in deciding local matters, the Court found no abuse of discretion.

Kujawa v. Hopkins, 2019 IL App (5th) 180568, appeal denied, 135 N.E.3d 566 (Ill. 2019)

(This is for informational purposes and is not legal advice.)


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