The question posed is this: Say an Illinois trial court rules that another state is more suitable for a lawsuit and dismisses it based on the doctrine of interstate forum non conveniens. Can the plaintiff then refile the action in another Illinois county and relitigate the forum issue again in the new Illinois court?
This was the approach the plaintiff took in Wakehouse v. Goodyear, No. 02-L-281 (3d Dist. 2004). After the case was filed in St. Clair County, the defendant filed and won a motion to dismiss based on interstate forum non conveniens. The court in St. Clair County dismissed the case, ruling that either Nebraska or Iowa would be a more appropriate forum. But rather than refiling in one of those two states, the plaintiff refiled the case in Peoria County.
In Wakehouse, the Third District said this was improper:
Although res judicata, estoppel and law of the case do not prohibit a plaintiff who has been dismissed on the basis of interstate forum non conveniens from refiling in another Illinois county, we believe that the doctrine itself precludes such an event. Forum non conveniens is an equitable doctrine that "is based on considerations of fundamental fairness and sensible and effective judicial administration." It allows a court to decline jurisdiction and direct the litigation to a forum that can better serve the convenience of the parties and the ends of justice. The purposes underlying the doctrine would be ill-served by allowing plaintiffs who have fully litigated and lost an interstate forum non conveniens motion to avoid its effects by the simple expedient of choosing a different Illinois county.
Id. (citations omitted). As a result of this finding, the case was dismissed again. What's the lesson for plaintiffs' lawyers? If presented with a motion to dismiss for interstate forum non conveniens in a case in which another Illinois county might also be a suitable venue, the lawyer should argue for that county as a fallback position, rather than face a ruling that no county in Illinois is suitable for the litigation.