Goodall v. Chrysler Inc
OPINION: Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) or, Alternatively, to Transfer Venue Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1412 (d/e 12) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is DENIED. Defendant' ;s Motion to Transfer Venue is GRANTED. The Court orders this action transferred to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York for referral to the Bankruptcy Court for that district. This case is CLOSED, and all pending motions are terminated. (SEE WRITTEN OPINION.) Entered by Judge Sue E. Myerscough on 9/14/2017. (GL, ilcd)
Thursday, 14 September, 2017 10:37:38 AM
Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE CENTRAL DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, U.S. District Judge:
Before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to
Rule 12(b)(6) or, Alternatively, to Transfer Venue Pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1412 (d/e 12). For the following reasons, Defendant’s
Motion is DENIED IN PART and GRANTED IN PART. Defendant’s
Motion to Dismiss is DENIED. Defendant’s Motion to Transfer
Venue is GRANTED.
On August 11, 2016, Plaintiff Shelley Goodall filed the
Page 1 of 35
Complaint in this case (d/e 1) against Defendant FCA US LLC1 for
personal injury. On October 11, 2016, Defendant filed a Motion to
Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) or, Alternatively, to Transfer
Venue Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1412 (d/e ) (hereinafter Motion
to Dismiss or Transfer). Defendant moves to dismiss the Complaint
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that
Plaintiff's claim is barred by the applicable statute of limitations.
Defendant alternatively seeks to transfer this matter to the United
States District Court for the Southern District of New York, for
referral to the Bankruptcy Court in that District. On October 27,
2016, Plaintiff filed a document that the Court considers to be
Plaintiff’s Response to the Motion to Dismiss or Transfer. (d/e ).
On November 14, 2016 (d/e ), and December 27, 2016 (d/e
), Plaintiff made filings with supplemental exhibits. The Court
presumes that these filings amend Plaintiff’s Response to the
Motion to Dismiss or Transfer, as both seem to reference the Motion
to Dismiss or Transfer. (d/e  (stating it is “responding to the
1 The Complaint names “Chrysler, Inc.” as the defendant. However, in its
Motion to Dismiss or Transfer, Defendant clarifies that its name is FCA US
LLC, formerly known as Chrysler Group LLC. Defendant also asserts that
Chrysler LLC is a bankrupt entity.
Page 2 of 35
defendants [sic] response and their plea for a dismissal . . . .”)) (d/e
 (filing supplemental information on talc powder, which
Defendant stated was in the airbag in its Motion to Dismiss or
Transfer)). On March 23, 2017, Defendant filed, with leave of this
Court, its Reply to Plaintiff’s Response (d/e ). On April 4, 2017,
Plaintiff filed what the Court considers to be a surreply to
Defendant’s Reply (d/e ). Although Plaintiff did not seek leave of
the Court to file her surreply as required, the Court ALLOWS
The following information is taken from the allegations in and
the exhibits attached to the Complaint, which the Court must
accept as true when ruling on a motion to dismiss. Tamayo v.
Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008).
On January 1, 2009, Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle
accident in which the side of her vehicle was struck by another
vehicle. A letter from Chrysler to Plaintiff2 attached to the
Complaint indicates that Plaintiff’s vehicle involved in the accident
was a 1996 Chrysler Sebring. Plaintiff’s airbag tore open and
2 Plaintiff attached to the Complaint two letters from Chrysler that are
addressed to “Shelly Burg,” which the Court presumes to be the same person
as Plaintiff. Compl. at 8–9.
Page 3 of 35
sprayed her with chemicals, which caused burns on her face, neck,
chest, and scalp, damage to her airways, glaucoma in both eyes,
spots on the left side of her brain which caused a “mini stroke,”
blood pressure problems, rashing, and scarring.
Plaintiff requested Defendant to provide her with “the MSDS
sheet,” which is seemingly a reference to a Material Safety Data
Sheet (MSDS) for the airbag at issue. Plaintiff received an MSDS for
the Mopar Airbag Inflator Module Assy-Driver Air Bag (Mar. 29,
2005) in 2016. See Third Attachment to the Complaint (d/e ) at
Plaintiff claims that if she had the MSDS at the time of the accident,
the doctors treating her injuries may have been able to provide
Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages for bodily harm,
emotional harm, pain and suffering, loss of income, loss of
enjoyment of life, and property damage. Plaintiff also seeks punitive
This Court has subject matter jurisdiction based on the
diversity of the parties and because the amount in controversy
Page 4 of 35
exceeds $75,000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). Plaintiff is a citizen of
Illinois, while Defendant is a citizen of Michigan. See Compl. at 1.
In addition, the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000 exclusive of
interest and costs because the Plaintiff seeks $1,000,000,000 in
compensatory damages. Compl. at 7.
III. MOTION TO DISMISS
A. LEGAL STANDARD
When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court
construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff,
accepting all well-pleaded allegations as true and construing all
reasonable inferences in the plaintiff’s favor. Tamayo, 526 F.3d at
1081 (7th Cir. 2008). However, the complaint must set forth facts
that plausibly demonstrate a claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint
must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”). Plausibility means
alleging factual content that allows the court to reasonably infer
that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. Id.
A court addressing a motion to dismiss may consider certain
documents in addition to the complaint. First, the court may
Page 5 of 35
consider any exhibits attached to the Complaint. See Fed. R. Civ.
Pro. 10(c) (“A copy of a written instrument that is an exhibit to a
pleading is a part of the pleading for all purposes.”); Moranski v.
General Motors Corp., 433 F.3d 537, 539 (7th Cir. 2005) (“Any
written instrument attached to the complaint is considered part of
the complaint.”); Beam v. IPCO Corp., 838 F.2d 242, 244 (7th Cir.
1988) (exhibits attached to the complaint are incorporated into the
pleading for purpose of Rule 12(b) motion).
Second, the court may consider the plaintiff’s response to a
motion to dismiss and other statements and materials that are
referenced in the complaint and that are essential to the plaintiff’s
claims. Heng v. Heavner, Beyers & Mihlar, LLC, 849 F.3d 348, 35354 (7th Cir. 2017) (finding that a court may, when ruling on a
motion to dismiss, consider materials or elaborations in a plaintiff’s
trial brief or response to a motion to dismiss consistent with the
pleadings); Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1367 n.1 (7th Cir.
1997) (finding that a court may consider facts submitted in a pro se
plaintiff’s brief opposing a motion to dismiss when the facts are
consistent with the allegations in the complaint). A plaintiff
opposing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss “may submit materials
Page 6 of 35
outside the pleadings to illustrate the facts the party expects to be
able to prove.” Geinosky v. City of Chi., 675 F.3d 743, 745 n.1 (7th
Finally, the court may consider information that is subject to
judicial notice. Ennenga v. Starns, 677 F.3d 766, 773-74 (7th Cir.
2012) (a court may take judicial notice of matters within the public
record that are not subject to reasonable dispute without converting
a pending motion into a motion for summary judgment.
In deciding on the Motion to Dismiss or Transfer, the Court
will consider the exhibits to the Complaint—the two letters from
Chrysler to Plaintiff and the MSDS. The Court will also consider
Plaintiff’s statements in her Response to the Motion to Dismiss or
Transfer that are consistent with the Complaint.
The Court will not consider Plaintiff’s numerous other filings
and their exhibits (d/e  and ). Plaintiff attached to d/e 
numerous articles and scientific resources on sodium azide,
potassium nitrate, and the dangers of airbag chemicals to human
health. Plaintiff also attached a customer service summary for a
leather cleaner service, and a workers compensation accident
report. None of these materials are referenced in the Complaint,
Page 7 of 35
nor are they essential to Plaintiff’s claims. The Court accordingly
will not consider these documents. Plaintiff also attached several
photographs of what the Court presumes to be the vehicle at issue
and Plaintiff after the accident. While the accident and the ensuing
harm to Plaintiff are the subject of the Complaint, the photographs
are extraneous to Plaintiff’s claims. The Court will not consider
them at this stage.
Plaintiff also attached various medical records and the
accident report to d/e . The accident report contains facts that
Plaintiff will need to prove in order to prevail on her claims. The
medical records substantiate Plaintiff’s descriptions of her injuries
and her prayers for damages. The Court will accordingly consider
the accident report and the medical records attached to d/e .
1. The present action is governed by the Illinois statute of
limitations for personal injury claims.
Although the Complaint does not state the particular cause of
action under which Plaintiff asserts Defendant’s liability, Plaintiff
claims that Defendant is liable to her for the personal injuries she
sustained from chemicals that sprayed onto her from her airbag.
Page 8 of 35
The Court must therefore apply state law regarding the statute of
limitations for personal injury claims, including corresponding
tolling rules. Jenkins v. Village of Maywood, 506 F.3d 622, 623-24
(7th Cir. 2007) (“Because no federal statute of limitations governs,
federal courts routinely measure the timeliness of federal civil rights
suits by state law. . . . Federal courts using state limitations periods
thus apply the state’s coordinate tolling rules as well.”) (internal
quotation marks omitted). Therefore, Plaintiff’s claims are limited
by Illinois’ two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims.
See 735 ILCS § 5/13-202 (2016) (“Actions for damages for an injury
to the person . . . shall be commenced within 2 years next after the
cause of action accrued . . . .”).
The Complaint alleges Defendant is liable for injuries Plaintiff
sustained from a motor vehicle accident that occurred on January
1, 2009. The Complaint, filed on August 11, 2016, was therefore
filed approximately seven-and-a-half years after the accident. The
expiration of the applicable statute of limitations is an affirmative
defense. Chi. Bldg. Design, P.C. v. Mongolian House, Inc., 770 F.3d
610, 613 (7th Cir. 2014). Although a plaintiff is not required to
plead facts in the complaint to anticipate and defeat affirmative
Page 9 of 35
defenses, dismissal is appropriate where the complaint sets out
sufficient facts to establish the statute of limitations affirmative
defense. United States v. Lewis, 411 F.3d 838, 842 (7th Cir. 2005)
(Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal appropriate where complaint “plainly
reveals that an action is untimely under the governing statute of
limitations.”); see also Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 579 (7th Cir.
2009) (several of plaintiff’s claims were properly dismissed at
12(b)(6) stage as time-barred by the statute of limitations because
the relevant dates were set forth unambiguously in the complaint).
Because the Complaint establishes that it was filed five-and-ahalf years after the two-year anniversary of the accident giving rise
to this case, dismissal is appropriate unless a tolling doctrine
applies. Indep. Trust Corp. v. Stewart Info. Servs. Corp., 665 F.3d
930, 935 (7th Cir. 2012) (when ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion to
dismiss based on the statute of limitations defense, the court shall
consider “any rules that are an integral part of the statute of
limitations, such as tolling and equitable estoppel”).
2. The discovery rule does not prevent expiration of the statute
of limitations prior to the date on which Plaintiff filed the
Under Illinois law, the statute of limitations is subject to the
Page 10 of 35
discovery rule, which tolls the running of the clock until the plaintiff
knows or reasonably should know of her injury and knows or
reasonably should know that her injury was wrongfully caused.
Mitsias v. I-Flow Corp., 959 N.E.2d 94, 100 (Ill. App. Ct. 2011).
“[T]he statute of limitations begins to run as soon as she has
sufficient information about her injury and its cause to spark
inquiry in a reasonable person as to whether the conduct of the
party who caused her injury might be legally actionable.” Id. at
i. Plaintiff was aware of her injuries in 2009.
The Complaint establishes that Plaintiff was aware of injuries
around the time of the accident in 2009. The Complaint states that
Plaintiff’s airbag tore open and sprayed her with chemicals. The
Complaint lists several immediately-occurring injuries, including
second degree burns to her face, chest, neck, and scalp. Compl. at
6. The Complaint also states that Plaintiff has been “ill since being
exposed” to the chemicals in the airbag. Id. The Complaint also
indicates that Plaintiff received medical treatment at the time of the
accident, stating that if Plaintiff had the MSDS at the time of the
accident, her doctors could possibly have administered better
Page 11 of 35
treatment. Id. While certain of the alleged injuries reasonably
could have been unknown to Plaintiff for a period of time following
the accident, Plaintiff could not reasonably have been unaware of
the second degree burns to her face, chest, neck, and scalp.
Further, the letter from Chrysler dated January 12, 2009,
acknowledges Plaintiff’s injuries, including the burns Plaintiff
sustained by the force of the deploying airbag. The Complaint
therefore establishes that Plaintiff had knowledge of her injuries in
ii. Plaintiff need not have been aware of the extent or
severity of her injuries at the time of the accident to
prevent the tolling of the statute of limitations.
In her response to Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss or Transfer,
Plaintiff states she “did not know of the severity [presumably, of her
injuries] until it was confirmed” by a lung specialist (Plaintiff does
not indicate when this occurred). Pl.’s Resp. at 1 (d/e 13). Plaintiff
also did not suffer her “mini stroke” until 2016 and her illness
seems to be getting worse. Compl. At 6. However, ignorance of the
severity or extent of the harm does not toll the statute of limitations
when Plaintiff knew of at least some injury giving rise to a cause of
action. Clay v. Kuhl, 727 N.E.2d 217, 222 (Ill. 2000) (“There is no
Page 12 of 35
requirement that a plaintiff must know the full extent of his or her
injuries before suit must be brought under the applicable statute of
limitations.”). Full knowledge of the nature of the injuries is not the
type of knowledge contemplated by the discovery rule. See id. at
221 (statute of limitations not tolled by plaintiff’s discovery two
years after alleged sexual abuse of resultant psychological
Therefore, Plaintiff’s later learning about other injuries, such
as her “mini stroke” in 2016 and her worsening illness, Compl. at 6,
and the severity of her injuries does not toll the statute of
limitations. The statute began to run at the time that she knew of
injury sufficient to assert her claim, such as the second degree
burns to her face, chest, neck, and scalp, which the Complaint
establishes that Plaintiff knew about at the time of the accident.
iii. Plaintiff was aware in 2009 that her injuries were
In addition to the discovery rule’s requirement that the
plaintiff know or reasonably should know about her injuries, the
statute of limitations also does not begin to run until the plaintiff
has sufficient information to reasonably inquire as to the wrongful
Page 13 of 35
cause of her injuries. Mitsias, 959 N.E.2d at 101 (“As for the
element of wrongfulness, an injured plaintiff should reasonably
know that her injury is wrongfully caused.”). Plaintiff need only
have general knowledge of wrongfulness. Mitsias, 959 N.E.2d at
101–05. (“[A] plaintiff's duty of inquiry begins well before she can
be certain that defendant’s conduct satisfies all elements of a
particular cause of action, as long as she is aware that her injury
might have been ‘wrongfully caused’ in a general, non-technical
The Complaint contains sufficient facts to establish that
Plaintiff was aware in 2009 that her injuries were wrongfully
caused. The January 12, 2009, letter from Chrysler to Plaintiff
regards the “concerns that you have with the above referenced
vehicle.” The letter explicitly addresses the existence of chemicals
in the airbag and Plaintiff’s injuries. Chrysler also said that it
conducted an investigation into the incident and inspected the
vehicle. The letter, signed by the “Customer Claims Resolution
Group” in the Office of the General Counsel, states “we are sorry to
hear of your injuries and sincerely hope that you are well on the
road to recovery.” Id. at 9. The letter indicates that Plaintiff
Page 14 of 35
contacted Chrysler about these concerns prior to the date of the
letter, January 12, 2009. The letter establishes that Plaintiff’s
inquiry into the cause of her injuries began before January 12,
Additionally, Plaintiff asked Chrysler for the MSDS just after
the accident. See Compl. at 5 (“Never would give me the MSDS
sheet I asked for at the time of the wreck.”).
The Complaint thus indicates that a reasonable inquiry as to
wrongfulness was sparked in Plaintiff in 2009. Her actions just
after the accident cannot reasonably be said to be consistent with
unawareness of the wrongful cause of her injuries.
Statutes of limitations are intended to prevent plaintiffs from
sitting on their rights. Nolan v. Johns-Manville Asbestos, 421
N.E.2d 864, 868 (Ill. 1981). Knowing of some injuries and having
sufficient information to raise a reasonable question of
wrongfulness, Plaintiff had a duty to reasonably inquire from
sources other than Defendant into the cause of her injuries. See
United States v. Kubrick, 444 U.S. 111, 122 (1979) (statute of
limitations began to run when plaintiff was aware that the probable
cause of his hearing loss was an antibiotic he received at the
Page 15 of 35
hospital, two years before a physician informed him that the
antibiotic should not have been administered, because plaintiff
could have inquired about standard of care from other physicians);
Hoffman v. Orthopedic Sys., Inc., 765 N.E.2d 116, 122 (Ill. App. Ct.
2002) (statute of limitations began to run against plaintiff harmed
during surgery when plaintiff asked attorney to investigate any
potential medical malpractice claim such that her product liability
claim was time-barred three years later when she returned to
hospital for unrelated matter and hospital staff stated that injury
had been caused by surgical platform used during her surgery
because she did not attempt more thorough inquiry into the cause
of her injuries and she would have discovered products liability
claim within limitations period if she had attempted to obtain
results of hospital’s investigation of incident).
The discovery rule does not shield a plaintiff who knows of her
injuries and knows who caused the injury and does not reasonably
investigate beyond inquiries to the wrongdoer. Id. The Court in
“We are unconvinced that for statute of limitations
purposes a plaintiff's ignorance of his legal rights and his
ignorance of the fact of his injury or its cause should
Page 16 of 35
receive identical treatment. That he has been injured in
fact may be unknown or unknowable until the injury
manifests itself; and the facts about causation may be in
the control of the putative defendant, unavailable to the
plaintiff or at least very difficult to obtain. The prospect is
not so bleak for a plaintiff in possession of the critical
facts that he has been hurt and who has inflicted the
injury. He is no longer at the mercy of the latter. There
are others who can tell him if he has been wronged, and
he need only ask. If he does ask and if the defendant has
failed to live up to minimum standards of medical
proficiency, the odds are that a competent doctor will so
inform the plaintiff.” Id. at 122 (emphasis added).
Although Defendant did not provide Plaintiff with the MSDS
until 2016, Plaintiff could have discovered the standard for safety,
composition, and durability of airbags within the statutory period
through reasonable diligence. Mitsias, 959 N.E.2d at 103 (“[T]he
need for plaintiffs to investigate their potential claims with
reasonable diligence has likewise shaped the development of the
discovery rule in Illinois.”). A quick search of public materials
reveals several articles published during the statutory period in this
case that discuss airbag components and their potential toxicity.
See, e.g. OSHA Hazard Information Bulletin, Automobile Air Bag
Safety (Aug. 30, 1990); SciJourner, The Hidden Hazards of Airbags
(June 22, 2010); Rudnitsky Law Firm, Airbag Chemicals Cause
Breathing Problems (May 29, 2009). The Court finds that
Page 17 of 35
reasonable diligence would have made Plaintiff aware of the
potential wrongful cause of her injury before expiration of the
statute of limitations.
Because Plaintiff knew or reasonably should have known of at
least some of her injuries and of their wrongful cause around the
time of the accident in 2009, the statute of limitations was not
tolled by the discovery rule.
3. Defendant is equitably estopped from asserting the
expiration of the statute of limitations as a defense at this
stage in the proceedings.
Although the discovery rule did not toll the statute of
limitations period, Plaintiff has alleged sufficient facts at this stage
of the proceedings to find that the doctrines of equitable estoppel
and fraudulent concealment apply. Therefore, Defendant is
prohibited from asserting the statute of limitations defense as a
ground for dismissal for failure to state a claim for relief.
Under Illinois law, a plaintiff may file her claim within five
years of discovery of her cause of action if the defendant
fraudulently concealed the cause of action from her. 735 ILCS
5/13-215. To establish fraudulent concealment, the plaintiff must
prove that the defendant intentionally took active steps to prevent
Page 18 of 35
or delay the plaintiff from bringing a timely lawsuit and that the
fraud prevented her discovery of the cause of action. Clay, 727
N.E.2d at 223.
Allegations in the Complaint that Defendant refused to give
Plaintiff the MSDS until 2016 and that Defendant lied to Plaintiff
about the danger of chemicals in the airbag do not amount to
fraudulent concealment. Plaintiff has not asserted that Defendant
intentionally withheld the MSDS. Nor has Plaintiff asserted that
Defendant intended to deceive Plaintiff as to the airbag’s
components to delay her pursuit of this action. With no allegation
that any of Defendant’s conduct was fraudulent or intentional,
Plaintiff has not established fraudulent concealment.
Overlapping somewhat with the doctrine of fraudulent
concealment, equitable estoppel prevents a defendant from
asserting a statute of limitations defense if the plaintiff missed the
statutory deadline to file her claim due to some other deliberate or
blameworthy conduct by the defendant. Shropshear v. Corp.
Counsel of City of Chi., 275 F.3d 593, 597 (7th Cir. 2001). The
doctrine of equitable estoppel exists under Illinois and federal law.
See id. at 598; Clay, 727 N.E.2d at 223 (child abuser’s selection of
Page 19 of 35
victims who would remain silent and leading them to believe his
behavior was acceptable did not equitably toll statute of limitations
for personal injury claim by victim). A federal court applies the
federal doctrine of equitable estoppel when determining whether the
applicable state statute of limitations has run. See Shropshear,
275 F.3d at 598. Under federal case law, equitable estoppel applies
if the defendant intentionally misled the plaintiff or if the plaintiff
reasonably relied on the defendant’s representations in forbearing
suit. Bomba v. W.L. Belvidere, Inc., 579 F.2d 1067, 1070-71 (7th
Cir. 1978). Examples include promises to the plaintiff that the
defendant will not plead the statute of limitations pending
settlement discussions and hiding or destroying evidence that the
plaintiff needs to determine whether she has a claim. Cancer
Found., Inc. v. Cerberus Capital Mgmt., LP, 559 F.3d 671, 676 (7th
To benefit from the doctrine of equitable estoppel, the plaintiff
must allege sufficient facts to indicate that the defendant’s actions
or statements give rise to the doctrine. Theriot v. Captain James
Sprinkle, Inc., 30 F.3d 136 (7th Cir. 1994) (unpublished) (“A
plaintiff seeking to rely on estoppel bears the burden of
Page 20 of 35
demonstrating that he was actually misled. Thus, when the
running of the statute of limitations is clear, it is incumbent upon
the plaintiff to allege sufficient facts which illustrate that the
conduct or representations of the defendant would give rise to
estoppel. To prevail in this case, [the plaintiff] must establish that
the circumstances surrounding the taking of the release somehow
induced or lulled him into not filing suit.”).
The Complaint alleges that Defendant lied to Plaintiff about
the airbag’s dangers. Further, Chrysler stated in the January 12,
2009, letter that airbags do not contain chemicals. Compl. at 2, 9.
Defendant also withheld the MSDS until 2016. Pl.’s Resp. at 1.
These alleged actions and statements by Defendant, coupled
with Plaintiff’s assertion that she did not know about the harmful
chemicals in the airbag until 2016, support a preliminary
conclusion that Defendant intentionally misled Plaintiff and/or
Plaintiff reasonably relied on Defendant’s misrepresentations. See
Singletary v. Cont’l Ill. Nat. Bank and Trust Co. of Chi., 9 F.3d
1236, 1241 (7th Cir. 1993) (merely refusing to cooperate in making
the plaintiff’s case does not equitably toll the statute of limitations,
but concealment of evidence which the plaintiff needed in order to
Page 21 of 35
determine that he had a claim may give rise to an extension). The
Complaint alleges sufficient facts at this stage in the proceedings to
equitably estop Defendant from asserting a statute of limitations
4. The continuing tort rule does not apply.
Illinois's continuing tort rule holds that when “a tort involves a
continuing or repeated injury, the limitations period does not begin
to run until the date of the last injury or the date the tortious acts
cease.” Belleville Toyota, Inc. v. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.,
770 N.E.2d 177, 190 (Ill. 2002). A tort is not continuing simply
because Plaintiff suffers ongoing or subsequent injury. Feltmeier v.
Feltmeier, 798 N.E.2d 75, 85 (Ill. 2003) (“[W]here there is a single
overt act from which subsequent damages may flow, the statute
begins to run on the date the defendant invaded the plaintiff's
interest and inflicted injury, and this is so despite the continuing
nature of the injury.”). The single overt act here is Defendant’s
production and sale of a chemical-containing airbag, even if the
injuries that Plaintiff suffered may have continued or worsened
from 2009 to 2016. See Bridewell v. Eberle, 730 F.3d 672, 678 (7th
Cir. 2013) (“The idea that failing to reverse the ongoing effects of a
Page 22 of 35
tort restarts the period of limitations has no support in Illinois
5. Plaintiff has not established that she was under a legal
disability at the time this cause of action accrued.
Finally, the Illinois statute of limitations is tolled when a
person with a personal injury claim is under a legal disability at the
time the cause of action is accrued. Such a person may bring her
claim within two years after the disability is removed. 735 ILCS §
5/13-211 (“If the person entitled to bring an action, specified in
Sections 13-201 through 13-210 of this Code, at the time the cause
of action is accrued, . . . is under a legal disability, then he or she
may bring the action within 2 years after . . . the disability is
removed.”). Personal injury claims in Illinois, such as the claim in
this case, are governed by Section 13-202. See 735 ILCS 5/13-202.
A person suffers from a legal disability where she is “entirely
without understanding or capacity to make or communicate
decisions regarding [her] person” and unable to manage her estate
or financial affairs. Basham v. Hunt, 773 N.E.2d 1213, 1223 (Ill.
App. Ct. 2002). A person is not legally disabled if “she can
comprehend the nature of the injury and its implications.” Id. at
Page 23 of 35
Plaintiff has not asserted that she has any such disability. By
filing the Complaint and the attached exhibits, her response to
Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss or Transfer, and various other
documents, Plaintiff has demonstrated that, at least as of the filing
of this lawsuit, she understands the nature of her injuries and is
capable of making decisions about her person. The legal disability
exception to the running of the statute of limitations does not apply.
IV. MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE
Defendant alternatively requests this Court to transfer this
matter to the United States District Court for the Southern District
of New York for referral to the Bankruptcy Court in that district.
Venue is proper in this district because a substantial part of
the events giving rise to the claim occurred in this judicial district.
28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2). The collision giving rise to this action took
place at the intersection of South Grand Avenue and 5th Street in
Springfield, Illinois. Compl. at 5.
A. BANKRUPTCY CASE BACKGROUND
The vehicle at issue in this case was designed and
manufactured by Chrysler Corporation, predecessor to Chrysler
Page 24 of 35
LLC. On April 30, 2009, Chrysler LLC filed for bankruptcy
protection in the United States Bankruptcy Court of the Southern
District of New York (the “Bankruptcy Court”). In re Old Carco LLC
(f/k/a Chrysler LLC), No. 09–50002, (Bankr. S.D.N.Y.). Thereafter,
Chrysler LLC entered into a proposed purchase agreement called
the Master Transaction Agreement (MTA) with Chrysler Group
LLC—a new company later known as FCA US LLC (Defendant). The
MTA provided that Chrysler LLC would sell substantially all of its
operating assets to Chrysler Group. Under the MTA, Chrysler
Group assumed certain liabilities from Chrysler LLC. On June 1,
2009, the Bankruptcy Court issued a Sale Order approving the
MTA. The transaction closed on June 10, 2009, and the
bankruptcy plan was confirmed on April 23, 2010. The bankruptcy
case was closed on March 2, 2016, but the case was reopened
several times for limited purposes. Id.
In making the purchase, Chrysler Group did not assume
liability for any claims that arose before the Closing Date except for
those liabilities expressly described in the order. Sale Order ¶ 35.
With respect to product liability claims like Plaintiff’s, Chrysler
Group assumed liability for claims arising from the sale of motor
Page 25 of 35
vehicles before the June 10, 2009 Closing Date “solely to the extent
that” such claims “(A) arise directly from motor vehicle accidents
occurring on or after Closing, (B) are not barred by any statute of
limitations, (C) are not claims including or related to any alleged
exposure to any asbestos-containing material or any other
Hazardous Material and (D) do not include any claim for exemplary
or punitive damages.” MTA § 2.08(h) as amended by Amend. No. 4
(Oct. 29, 2009). The Bankruptcy Court expressly retained
jurisdiction to “interpret, implement, and enforce the terms and
provisions of this Sale Order including . . . “to protect [Chrysler
Group] against any Claims . . . .” Sale Order ¶ 59.
Defendant asserts that Plaintiff’s claims for compensatory and
punitive damages seek to impose liability on Defendant that is
prohibited by the Sale Order because the statute of limitations has
run and Defendant did not assume liability for punitive damages
claims. The Court also notes, but Defendant does not argue, that
Plaintiff’s action does not fall within the MTA’s restrictions on
liability for accidents that occurred before the Closing Date: this
action arises from a motor vehicle accident on January 1, 2009, five
months before the June 10, 2009 Closing Date. See MTA § 2.08(h)
Page 26 of 35
as amended by Amend. No. 4 (Oct. 29, 2009).
B. LEGAL STANDARD
A district court may transfer a bankruptcy case or proceeding
to another district court in the interest of justice or for the
convenience of the parties.” 28 U.S.C. § 1412; Mello v. Hare, Wynn,
Newell & Newton, No. 3:12–CV–404, 2012 WL 2601945, at * 4 (M.D.
Tenn. July 5, 2012) (noting that these two standards are
“disjunctive and separate, and transfer is appropriate even if only
one is met”).
The party moving for a transfer has the burden to show by a
preponderance of the evidence that transfer is warranted. Quick v.
Viziqor Solutions, Inc., No. 4:06CV637, 2007 WL 494924, at *3
(E.D. Mo. Feb. 12, 2007). Deciding whether transfer under § 1412
is warranted requires a case specific analysis based on the totality
of the circumstances. Gulf States Exploration Co. v. Manville
Forest Prods. Corp. (In re Manville Forest Prods. Corp.), 896 F.2d
1384, 1391 (2d Cir. 1990) (the interest of justice standard is a
“broad and flexible standard which must be applied on a case-bycase basis”).
Page 27 of 35
1. Eligibility for Transfer Under § 1412
This case is eligible for transfer under § 1412 because it is a
bankruptcy “case or proceeding.” Under 28 U.S.C. § 1334, district
courts have subject-matter jurisdiction over bankruptcy
proceedings “under title 11” and proceedings “arising under title 11”
(known as “core” proceedings) and proceedings “arising in or related
to cases under title 11” (known as “related-to” proceedings).
Quesenberry v. Chrysler Group LLC, No. 12-48-ART, 2012 WL
3109431, at *3 (E.D. Ky. July 31, 2012); see also Stern v. Marshall,
131 S. Ct. 2594, 2605 (2011).
There is a split in authority regarding whether § 1412 allows
for the transfer of an action that is “related to” a bankruptcy action
in another forum. See City of Liberal v. Trainmobile Corp., 316 B.R.
358, 362 (D. Kan. 2004) (collecting eleven cases holding that § 1412
governs the transfer of both core and related-to proceedings and ten
cases holding that § 1412 governs the transfer of just core
Defendant contends that Plaintiff’s claims relate directly to the
Bankruptcy Court’s orders and opinions. This case is a proceeding
that is eligible for transfer under § 1412 because the outcome of the
Page 28 of 35
action could affect the administration of the estate. See Creekridge
Capital, LLC v. Louisiana Hosp. Center, LLC, 410 B.R. 623, 627 (D.
Minn. 2009) (granting transfer to bankruptcy court of equipment
lessor’s claims against guarantors of bankrupt lessee because
action was “related to” bankruptcy proceedings because the
outcome of the action “could conceivably have any effect on the
estate being administered in the bankruptcy” such as if “the
outcome could alter the debtor’s rights, liabilities, options, or
freedom of action and which in any way impacts upon the handling
and administration of the bankrupt estate.”) (internal quotation
marks omitted); Baker v. Muscletech Research & Dev., Inc., No. 06–
C–492, 2006 WL 1663748, at *1–2 (E.D. Wis. June 9, 2006) (§ 1412
allowed for the transfer of related-to proceedings).
2. Transfer is in the Interest of Justice.
Because the balance of considerations overwhelmingly favor
the Bankruptcy Court as the proper venue for interpreting and
enforcing the Sale Order, the Court will transfer this case.
In deciding whether transfer of a “related-to action” under §
1412 would be in the interest of justice, courts consider factors
such as (1) the economical and efficient administration of the
Page 29 of 35
bankruptcy estate, (2) the presumption in favor of the forum where
the bankruptcy case is pending, (3) judicial efficiency; (4) the ability
to receive a fair trial, (5) the state’s interest in having local
controversies decided within its borders by those familiar with its
laws, (6) the enforceability of any judgment rendered, and (7) the
plaintiff’s original choice of forum. Creekridge Capital, 410 B.R. at
Courts often find that the most important consideration when
weighing the interest of justice is whether the transfer would
“promote the economic and efficient administration of the estate.”
In re Commonwealth Oil Refining Co., 596 F.2d 1239, 1247 (5th
Cir. 1979). Claims that challenge the limitations of liability
pursuant to a Sale Order—such as the Plaintiff’s—threaten to affect
the bankruptcy estate by altering the estate’s obligations to the
purchaser. A streamlined interpretation of the Sale Order prevents
inconsistent interpretations that could unravel the Sale Order’s
“critical inducement” of “transferring assets [to the purchaser] free
and clear of existing tort liability.” In re Chrysler LLC, 576 F.3d
108, 126 (2d Cir. 2010), vacated on other grounds by In re Chrysler
LLC, 592 F.3d 370 (2d Cir. 2010).
Page 30 of 35
Transfer of this action would promote the efficient
administration of the bankruptcy estate. Issues raised in the
present action require interpretation and application of the Sale
Order. Cooper v. Daimler AG, No. 1:09-CV-2507, 2009 WL
4730306, at *4 (N.D. Ga. Dec. 3, 2009). The Bankruptcy Court has
already ruled on whether Chrysler Group assumed various
liabilities for tortious conduct. See Opinion Granting Debtors’
Motion Seeking Authority to Sell, Pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 363,
Substantially All of the Debtors’ Assets, In re Old Carco LLC (f/k/a
Chrysler LLC), No. 09–50002, (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. May 31, 2009)
[Docket No. 3073]; see Cooper, 2009 WL 4730306 (granting transfer
to bankruptcy court of negligent design case against Chrysler
because transfer supported efficient administration of the Sale
Order, the bankruptcy court already ruled on similar issues and
had retained jurisdiction, issues required interpretation and
application of Sale Order, and similar issues were likely to be raised
in other proceedings). Further, issues like those raised by the
present action are likely to be raised in other proceedings. These
matters can be more efficiently addressed by a single court to
ensure a consistent interpretation.
Page 31 of 35
Further, the Bankruptcy Court is the proper forum for
resolution of these issues. A bankruptcy court’s interpretation of
its own order is “entitled to substantial deference” because of its
special expertise in the order’s intended meaning and its greater
familiarity with the underlying bankruptcy case. See Travelers
Indem. Co. v. Bailey, 129 S. Ct. 2195, 2204 n.4 (2009). Here, the
Bankruptcy Court specifically retained jurisdiction to interpret and
enforce the Sale Order, including protecting Chrysler Group from
any claims made against it. Sale Order ¶ 59. Further, the
Bankruptcy Court did not limit its retained jurisdiction to protect
the Sale Order to the period while the bankruptcy action was
pending. Sale Order ¶ 59; compare Sale Order ¶ 43. Transfer will
insure that the Sale Order is interpreted and applied as the
Bankruptcy Court intended.
Several factors weigh against transfer. Most significant is the
deference generally accorded to the plaintiff’s original choice of
forum. See In re Bruno’s Inc., 227 B.R. 311, 324–25 (N.D. Ala.
1998); cf. Manley v. Engram, 755 F.2d 1463, 1468 (11th Cir. 1985)
(“[V]enue is merely a privilege of the parties.”). However, in the
interest of justice analysis, the interest of the bankruptcy estate, as
Page 32 of 35
opposed to the litigant’s interest, is paramount. KFC Corp. v.
Wagstaff, 502 B.R. 484, 499 (W.D. Ky. 2013).
Also weighing against transfer is a state’s interest in having
local controversies decided within its borders by those familiar with
its laws. Illinois has an interest in deciding this litigation because
the suit involves an Illinois plaintiff and a vehicle accident that took
place in Illinois. See Creekridge Capital, 410 B.R. at 631.
The Court also recognizes the consideration to be given to a
plaintiff’s choice of forum as well as the convenience afforded to the
parties by litigating an action in the state in which the incident
occurred. Plaintiff states that transfer to the Southern District of
New York would be inconvenient for her, given that she lives, works,
and receives medical treatment in Illinois. Pl.’s Resp. at 1.
Nonetheless, transfer to the Bankruptcy Court to address threshold
issues regarding the viability of Plaintiffs’ claims will not overly
burden Plaintiff. Transfer does not preclude this case from
ultimately being tried in the Central District of Illinois—should
these claims go to trial, the District Court for the Southern District
of New York will determine whether the claims shall be tried in the
Southern District of New York or in this Court. 28 U.S.C. §
Page 33 of 35
The Court finds that the interests of Plaintiff and the State are
outweighed by the substantial efficiencies gained by permitting the
Bankruptcy Court to resolve threshold issues of liability. Transfer
of this case to the Southern District of New York for referral to the
Bankruptcy Court is in the interest of justice because the
Bankruptcy Court is in the best position to interpret its Sale Order
and to determine whether Defendant assumed liability for Plaintiff’s
claims. Defendant’s motion to transfer is therefore GRANTED.
For the foregoing reasons, it is hereby ordered that
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) or,
Alternatively, to Transfer Venue Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1412 (d/e
12) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Defendant’s
Motion to Dismiss is DENIED. Defendant’s Motion to Transfer
Venue is GRANTED. The Court orders this action transferred to the
United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
for referral to the Bankruptcy Court for that district. This case is
CLOSED, and all pending motions are terminated.
ENTERED: September 14, 2017
Page 34 of 35
FOR THE COURT:
s/ Sue E. Myerscough
SUE E. MYERSCOUGH
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Page 35 of 35
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?