Forum Non Conveniens Dismissal Not A Final Order; Appealable By Petition, Not Notice Of Appeal

Dennis and Kimberly Quaids’ newborn twins were hospitalized at Cedars-Sanai Hospital in Los Angeles, California for a staph infection. The babies were given Heparin instead of Hep-Lock, as was prescribed by the physician. The Quaids settled a claim against the hospital before a lawsuit was filed. They sued Baxter Healthcare Corporation, the manufacturer of both medications. The Quaids’ chief claim was that the labeling for both medications was too much alike for hospital personnel to distinguish between them.

The Quaids, residents of California, filed the lawsuit in Cook County, Illinois. Baxter asked the Cook County trial court to dismiss the case on the basis of forum non conveniens − i.e., that California was a more convenient location for this case.

The Cook County trial court agreed that California was the more convenient forum and dismissed the Illinois case. The Quaids filed a petition for leave to appeal under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 306(a)(2), which specifically permits a party to do so. But Baxter argued that the trial court’s dismissal was a final order. Thus, the only way the Quaids could have invoked appellate jurisdiction was to have filed a notice of appeal under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 301. [An appeal is initiated by filing a notice of appeal.]

The First District Illinois Appellate Court rejected Baxter’s arguments, mainly for theses reasons:

• The appellate court first pointed to the “plain language” of Rule 306, which allows a party to file a petition for leave to appeal “from an order … allowing or denying a motion to dismiss on the grounds of forum non conveniens …”
• The appellate also stated that the dismissal order was not final, so a Rule 301 appeal would not have been proper. The order was not final because the forum non conveniens statute came with conditions, which if not met would have required the Illinois trial court to reinstate the case.
• The appellate court also ruled that the amendment to Rule 306 in 1993 [expanding the rule to cover orders “allowing or denying” a forum non conveniens motion from only orders denying those motions], together with the plain language of the rule, indicated the Illinois Supreme Court’s intention to establish “that filing a petition for leave to appeal is the proper procedure for seeking review of a forum non conveniens dismissal.”

The appellate court did allow the appeal, but in the end affirmed the dismissal because California was the better jurisdiction for this case. Read the whole case, Quaid v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., No. 1-08-2727 (6/17/09), by clicking here.

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