Illinois Residents Injured in Indiana Bus Crash Defeat Effort to Move Their Case Out of State

MegabusIf you are a Chicago-area resident who has been injured by someone else’s mistakes, you probably prefer to sue the wrongdoer here in Illinois. Having to carry out your case in some other state means having to hire out-of-state counsel instead of a local law firm, and it very likely means having to travel to this distant location for various events, including the trial. These are just a few of the reasons why it often pays to contest an opponent’s efforts to have a case moved out of state. In one set of cases arising from an Indiana bus crash, a group of Chicago-area plaintiffs successfully persuaded the courts that the rules regarding lawsuit forums did not require moving their injury actions to Indiana (and away from Cook County).

The incident that produced this legal action was a bus crash in central Indiana. A driver headed northbound on Interstate 65 lost control of his car and crashed about 10 miles south of Indianapolis. The car came to rest on the highway. A double-decker bus, with 48 passengers headed from Chicago to Atlanta, came up from behind the car and hit it. The bus driver tried to maintain control but overcorrected, causing the bus to overturn. Fortunately, no one sustained life-threatening injuries.

The crash produced a multitude of lawsuits against the bus company. Of the dozen lawsuits triggered by the crash, nine of the cases involved Illinois plaintiffs. The nine Illinois residents sued the bus company in this state. The location where an action takes place, known in legal terms as the “forum,” can be a very important part of your case. Forcing a plaintiff (or plaintiffs) to fight for their rights in someplace far away could, in some situations, cause them serious problems, like expensive travel as well as time away from work and family, which can increase the pressure to drop the case or settle prematurely.

These are some reasons why it is important to fight a defendant’s motion arguing that your lawsuit is in an improper forum. In this case, the plaintiffs fought against the bus company’s argument that the litigation should take place in Indiana because some witnesses, including the young driver whose car crash led to the bus crash, were not Illinois residents and could not be forced to come to Illinois to testify.

The trial judge sided with the passengers, and the appeals court upheld that ruling. In deciding whether the location a plaintiff has selected is proper, the courts must consider several factors. These include the convenience of the parties, the relative ease of accessing sources of evidence, the availability of court processes forcing unwilling witnesses to testify, the cost of willing witnesses’ attendance, and the possibility of a need for viewing the site of the incident. In addition, the law demands that a judge consider “the administrative difficulties caused by litigating cases in congested forums; … the unfairness of imposing jury duty on residents of a county with no connection to the litigation; and … the interest in having local controversies decided locally.”

In this case, the passengers persuaded the judge that the facts relevant to these factors did not strongly favor moving the case to Indiana. They noted that 78 of the case’s 116 witnesses were Illinois residents, and they also rebuffed the bus company’s argument about the possibility of the jury visiting the scene of the accident, pointing out that the conditions there had already changed, and the two sides’ expert witnesses had already viewed the wrecked bus.

Based on this information and Illinois’ factors, the evidence didn’t indicate that Cook County was a forum non conveniens and did not require moving the case to Indiana.

If you’re injured in a bus crash, there are many pieces to the puzzle of a successful recovery for the harm you’ve suffered. To make sure you give yourself a strong chance of success, talk to the diligent Chicago motor vehicle collision attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eagle, Eisenstein, Johnson & Bareck. Our team has been helping injured people for many years in pursuing the compensation they deserve. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Woman Hit By Champaign City Bus Obtains $9M Injury Verdict Award, Chicago Injury Attorneys Blog, March 15, 2017

Will Self-Driving Trucks Be Safer, Sooner? Chicago Injury Attorneys Blog, Dec. 30, 2016