Appeals panel: Lawsuit over pedestrian accident in Kane County belongs in Kane courts, not Cook

By Karen Kidd | Apr 20, 2018

CHICAGO — A case involving a Kane County woman who allegedly was struck by a vehicle driven by a Redbox employee in Kane County is headed to Kane County court after a state appeals court affirmed a lower court's decision the lawsuit doesn't belong in Cook County's courts.

The decision, which was filed in the Illinois First District Court of Appeals on April 11, was penned by Justice James G. Fitzgerald Smith. Justices Nathaniel R. Howse Jr. and Terrence J. Lavin concurred with the decision.

"In the end, when all of the relevant private and public interest factors are viewed in their totality, they strongly favor transfer to Kane County, which can better serve the convenience of the parties and the ends of justice with respect to the instant cause," Fitzgerald Smith wrote in the court's opinion. "We therefore find that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting [the] defendants’ motion to transfer pursuant to forum non conveniens."

In their appeal, the plaintiffs in the case, Debbie J. and Alan M. Schuster, had argued Cook County Circuit Court abused its discretion when it granted a defense motion for a venue transfer, according to the background portion of the appeals court's 29-page opinion.

The case stems from an accident in which Debbie Schuster allegedly was struck by a vehicle driven by a Redbox Automated Retail employee in northwest suburban East Dundee in Kane County, according to the appeals court's decision. The vehicle the Redbox employee was driving at the time was leased to Outerwall Inc., which does business as Coinstar.

Debbie Schuster and her husband Alan, both Kane County residents, filed suit against Redbox and Coinstar in Cook County Circuit Court, alleging negligence and loss of consortium.

The defendants in the suit asked that the case be moved from Cook County to Kane County, which the Schusters opposed, arguing "that their choice of forum, which is their substantial right, should prevail," according to the appellate decision.

After Cook County Circuit Court granted the venue transfer motion, the Schusters appealed, claiming that the circuit court had abused its discretion "because it conducted an unequal balancing of the relevant factors at issue in favor of transfer," Fitzgerald Smith said in the court's opinion. "They ask that we reverse the trial court’s order and, accordingly, restore the matter to the venue they initially chose."

The justices noted, on one hand, Redbox and Coinstar do substantially more business locally in Cook County than in Kane County.

"Defendants Redbox and Coinstar are Delaware corporations that have ties to several counties in Illinois," Fitzgerald Smith said in the court's opinion. "Relevant to the instant cause, Redbox, for example, has offices and warehouses in Cook and Du Page Counties and also does business in Kane County. Its agent for process is located in Cook County. By all agreement, it does more business, transactionally and monetarily, in Cook County as opposed to Kane County. Similarly, Coinstar does business in both Cook and Kane Counties, but more substantially (again, transactionally and monetarily) in the former as opposed to the latter. Its agent for process is also located in Cook County."

But the justices said the case still belonged in Kane County, as the plaintiffs reside there, the incident occurred there and virtually all witnesses and evidence in the case would be found in Kane County, as well. 

The justices noted the defendants in the case had not shown that Cook County was an inconvenient venue for the case, but rather that "another is more convenient to all the parties simply because the chosen venue has little or no connection to the cause," Fitzgerald Smith said in the court's opinion. "But we believe, just as the trial court did, that [the] defendants here did make this showing based on the evidence presented."

According to Cook County court records, plaintiffs are represented in the case by attorneys with the firm of Brittain & Ketchum P.C., of Elgin.

Redbox is defended by the firm of Stone Johnson Chtd., of Chicago.

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Organizations in this Story

Coinstar Illinois First District Appellate Court Redbox Automated Retail LLC

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