Illinois Appellate Court Affirms Choice of Forum in Product Defect Case

Jack Taylor was a motocross enthusiast from the downstate Illinois town of Lewistown. Taylor replaced a tire for his motocross bike on July 9, 2009 with a new one he purchased from a store in Peoria, Ill.  On July 11, 2009, Taylor went to the Sunset Ridge MX MotoCross Course in Walton, which is near Lewistown.

While using the course, Taylor attempted to jump. When he landed on the front tire, the one he had only recently replaced, it blew out and caused him to be injured. Taylor was taken to a nearby hospital and then transferred to another hospital in Peoria. 

On June 21, 2012, Taylor filed a lawsuit against Lemans Corp., Moose Racing, Parts Unlimited and Gibbs Motor Corp., alleging strict liability for a defective product, negligence and breach of implied warranties. The lawsuit that Taylor filed was in Cook County. The defendants moved to transfer the case to Bureau County, where the motocross course was located. The motion was brought under the doctrine of forum non conveniens.

The defendants argued that the motocross course was in Bureau County, so the inspection of the scene of the accident would be easier if the case were being tried in the same county. Further, one of the eyewitnesses lived in the county at the time, and Taylor was treated by medical personnel in that county before being transferred to Peoria County. 

None of the medical personnel and witnesses lived in Bureau, Peoria or Fulton counties. The defendants further argued that Bureau County had an interest in and should bear the cost of an accident on a course located there. Lastly, the defendants argued that Bureau’s court system is less congested than Cook County’s. 

Taylor disagreed. He noted that all parties had retained counsel from Cook County. Taylor emphasized to the court that his case was a product liability and breach of warranty case. The motocross course was not being sued, so no inspection of the course would be necessary. 

The medical information, though originally taken in Bureau County, was easily available anywhere. The product that Taylor complained about could be purchased in Cook County as well as Peoria County, but not in Bureau County. Therefore, Bureau County would have little interest in its liability.

The trial court noted that Cook County was neither Taylor’s home nor the site of the accident and as a result his forum choice was given less deference. However, some deference was granted, and the court found little reason to transfer the case.

Bureau County is no closer to the defendants or plaintiff than Cook County, the witnesses are scattered throughout Illinois counties and the defendants failed to present any affidavits from witnesses stating that Cook County was inconvenient.

The trial judge found that because the case brought was a product liability claim, the site of the accident was less important. The judge also noted that the court system in Bureau, though smaller than Cook County, is not substantially less congested. Following the trial judge’s order denying transfer, the defendants appealed.

In the appellate court decision, it found that the convenience of the parties was a wash, with no affidavits being submitted showing Cook County to be inconvenient considering the number of locations among the witnesses and parties. The defendants also chose not to show any practical problems or impediments to getting evidence to Cook County. Both defendants and Taylor retained counsel based in Cook County, which added little to the analysis. 

While public interest factors generally favor resolving claims at the scene of an accident, with product liability, local interest is less relevant, as product liability claims are “not inherently local in flavor.”

In this case, the product was not sold where the incident occurred. Cook County had 18 dealers for Moose Racing and 12 for Parts Unlimited. Neither company had dealers in Bureau County.The appellate court also made note that the defendants chose not to include transcripts of the trial, hearings or decisions and added that absent such transcripts, the appellate court is forced to presume that the trial court had sufficient factual basis for all claims and that they all adhered to the law. As a result, the appellate court affirmed the decision of the trial judge leaving the case in Cook County for further disposition.

Jack Taylor v. Lemans Corporation, Moose Racing, Parts Unlimited and Gibbs Motor Corporation, No. 2013 IL App. (1st) 130033 (Oct. 15, 2013).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling product defect cases, motorcycle accidents and bicycle accidents for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 37 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Maywood, Orland Park, South Holland, Oak Lawn, Blue Island, Chicago Heights, Frankfurt, Broadview, Mount Prospect, Northlake, Schiller Park, Wheaton, Warrenville, Palatine, Woodridge, Willowbrook, Tinley Park, Chicago (Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square), Roselle and Rosemont, Ill.

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