In June 2017, the Cray Huber appellate department won a forum non conveniens victory when the First District Appellate Court overturned a Cook County judge who had refused to transfer an asbestos case from Cook County to Winnebago County. In Rohl v. Caterpillar, et al., the appellate department successfully argued that the plaintiff was, at best, equivocal about exposure to asbestos in Cook County, and all of the relevant factors favored transfer to Winnebago County.
The appellate court initially declined to hear the petition for leave to appeal. The appellate department then filed with the Illinois Supreme Court a motion for supervisory authority, arguing in part that the lower court’s analysis was necessarily flawed because it was based on the faulty premise that the plaintiff had been exposed to asbestos in Cook County for nearly eight months in the late 1940s. The plaintiff had testified that he worked in Winnebago County from 1953 until his retirement in 1999. He spent six months attending a trade school in Chicago sometime in the late 1940s. According to the plaintiff’s testimony, the automotive parts he worked with at the trade school were new, clean and dust-free, and he was unsure of whether he was ever exposed to asbestos in Cook County.
The Illinois Supreme Court issued a supervisory order directing the appellate court to allow the petition for leave to appeal pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 306. The appellate court then resolved the issue on the merits, ruling in a Rule 23 Order that the circuit court abused its discretion in denying defendants’ motion to dismiss based on forum non conveniens.