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Suit Over Death of Illinois Resident in Iowa Tractor-Trailer Crash Transferred to Iowa – Daly v. Central Refrigerated Service

By September 15, 2011July 23rd, 2019Trucking Accidents

As a southern Illinois semi truck accident attorney, I was interested to read about a jurisdictional issue affecting an Illinois family. In Daly v. Central Refrigerated Service, an Illinois woman sued the trucking company whose driver hit her car and one other in southern Iowa. Barbara Daly was injured in the crash and her husband, James Daly, was killed; also injured in a separate car was Todd Iagulli. Iagulli sued in Iowa, but Daly sued in northern Illinois, where she lives. Defendant Central Refrigerated Service moved to transfer Daly’s lawsuit to Illinois, and after consideration, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois agreed to do so.
Truck driver Anthony Johnson was near Iowa’s border with Illinois when his tractor-trailer crashed with vehicles driven by Daly and Iagulli. The opinion did not give details or assign fault. However, the crash was serious enough to kill James Daly and inspire the two suits filed by Iagulli and Barbara Daly. Daly’s case originally named Johnson as well as Central as a defendant, but when Central moved to transfer the case to Iowa, Daly voluntarily dismissed the case and re-filed without naming Johnson. Central again moved to transfer the case to Iowa. It argued that Iagulli’s case is already pending in the same Iowa federal court; and the accident took place in Iowa. (Central is incorporated in Nebraska and headquartered in Utah.)
In its analysis, the district court first noted that venue is proper in both northern Illinois and southern Iowa. The next part of its analysis focused on the convenience of each forum to the parties. While the plaintiff has chosen Illinois, the court said, the other factors weigh more heavily for Iowa. The material events in the case — the crash — took place in Iowa, it noted, and it does not matter that Johnson was close to and traveling to Illinois at the time. Most of the non-party witnesses would prefer Iowa as well, it said; this includes witnesses living in Iowa as well as Texas resident Johnson, who said he would come to Illinois but prefer Iowa because he is already involved in Iagulli’s suit. The district court found that neither venue offered superior access to sources of proof, in part because the road where the wreck took place was under construction and has been changed. Thus, it found that the convenience of the parties weighs in favor of moving the case. It went on to find that the convenience of witnesses does too, because most non-party witnesses live in Iowa. And the interests of justice would be served by a transfer, the court said, because the Iagulli case is already pending in Iowa and because Iowa’s docket is less crowded. Thus, it granted the motion to transfer to southern Iowa.
As a Missouri 18-wheeler accident lawyer, I understand why the plaintiff fought to keep the case in Illinois. The Iowa courthouse is literally three times the distance from her home that the Illinois courthouse is. And after all, this is an action about her own damages and losses. However, I do not believe that a transfer to southern Iowa will necessarily harm Daly’s case. Iowa law recognizes negligence and wrongful death claims just like Illinois law, and may be able to provide just as good a recovery. This may be less true when choosing between two states that have a cap on the financial recovery — such as a medical malpractice damages cap. That’s why, if you do have a choice between two equally valid venues, it’s always best to talk to a St. Louis tractor-trailer accident attorney like me about the smartest move.

Carey, Danis & Lowe represents people in Missouri and southern Illinois who were seriously hurt by a trucker’s or trucking company’s failure to make safe decisions. If you or someone you love was hurt by an irresponsible semi truck driver, call us today at 1-877-678-3400 or send us an email for a free consultation.
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