Illinois First District Appellate Court
CHICAGO — A state appeals panel has ruled a Cook County judge "abused (her) discretion" in agreeing to take another look at whether a lawsuit against a health care facility in downstate Sycamore belongs in Cook County court.
The appellate justices ordered the case against Kindred Hospital Sycamore and Kindred Healthcare transferred to court in DeKalb County.
In their 27-page judgment, the three-justice panel of the Illinois First District Appellate Court found that most of the witnesses, evidence and the alleged negligence all are based or occurred in DeKalb County, and that is where the case should be litigated - not Cook County, as the plaintiffs desired.
"The circuit court abused its discretion when it granted the plaintiffs' motion to reconsider the court's prior decision to grant the defendants' motion to transfer based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens," the judgment said. "We reverse and remand and reinstate the circuit court's previous order granting the defendants' motion to transfer."
Justice Mathias W. Delort wrote the judgment. Justices Thomas E. Hoffman and Maureen E. Connors concurred.
The judgment was issued as an unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23, which limits its use as precedent.
Plaintiffs in the negligence case are Benjamin Nelson, guardian of Jeff Nelson, who is disabled; and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce Private Equity Wealth Management, as guardian of Jeff Nelson's estate.
The plaintiffs are represented by the Clifford Law Offices, of Chicago.
The plaintiffs are suing THC-Chicago, which does business as Kindred Hospital Sycamore and Kindred Healthcare, over falls that Jeff Nelson allegedly suffered while a patient at the Sycamore transitional care and long term acute care hospital in April 2018, according to the background portion of the judgment.
The appropriate location for the case became an issue early on. Kindred is in DeKalb County. Jeff Nelson is listed in the original complaint as residing in Cook County, but his address is listed as Batavia, in DuPage County, and at "a facility" in Chicago in Cook County. Canadian Imperial's address is in downtown Chicago.
The defendants moved to transfer the case to DeKalb County, arguing that, under the doctrine of forum non conveniens, the facts of the case made DeKalb County the jurisdiction best suited to take the case. Cook County Associate Judge Moira Johnson granted that request.
The case, however, remained in Cook County after the plaintiffs asked Judge Johnson to reconsider, which she did.
Kindred argued that Judge Johnson abused her discretion in agreeing to reconsider.
In its judgment, the appellate panel agreed. The justices noted Judge Johnson acknowledged "the vast majority of witnesses and sources of evidence are located in DeKalb County" where the alleged negligence also occurred.
"We agree and find the circuit court abused its discretion when it granted plaintiffs’ motion to reconsider and gave greater deference to the location of Jeff’s medical providers who treated him after the alleged negligence occurred," Justice Delort wrote in the order.
THC-Chicago is represented by the firm of Smith Blake Hill, of Chicago.