The opinion of the court was delivered by: NORGLE
CHARLES R. NORGLE, SR., District Judge:
Before the court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for improper venue and, in the alternative, for lack of personal jurisdiction. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(3), 12(b)(2). For the following reasons, Defendant's motion is denied. The court, however, transfers this case to the Western Division of the Northern District of Illinois.
This is a maritime case about a bridge-barge collision on the "Mighty Mississippi." See generally Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi, (Harper & Row Ed. 1965).
Plaintiff I&M Rail Link ("I&M") owns a railroad bridge that spans the Mississippi River between Sabula, Iowa, and Savanna, Illinois. Built in 1905, it is a "swing span" bridge, meaning that one section of the bridge, via a center pivot pier, swings ninety degrees, and thereby opens two unobstructed navigation channels for approaching river traffic. Vessels are then able to navigate on either side of the center pivot pier. Here, the eastern navigation channel is referred to as the "Illinois draw," while the western navigation channel is referred to as the "Iowa draw." Each draw is 156' in width.
On May 5, 1997, the M/V Megan Beesecker ("the Beesecker"), a towboat owned by Defendant Northstar Navigation, Inc. ("Northstar"), arrived in Savanna, Illinois with nine barges in tow. Her assignment was to pick up three additional barges from Consolidated Grain & Barge, Inc. Upon doing so, the Beesecker proceeded to shove the twelve loaded barges down river. As they approached I&M's bridge, the Beesecker's pilot, James Jarvis ("Jarvis") radioed the bridge tender and asked him to open the swing span. Initially, Jarvis intended to pass through the Iowa draw, but as he drew closer he radioed the bridge tender to tell him that the approach would be through the Illinois draw. As Jarvis navigated the Illinois draw, however, several barges struck the center pivot pier and the bridge's protective barriers. Six barges broke free while the Beesecker and the other barges remained lodged within the Illinois draw.
As a result, I&M's bridge was rendered temporarily inoperative. Not until the next day were the Beesecker and barges dislodged. While a relief towboat pushed one of the barges up river, however, the barge broke free, floated down river, and again struck the bridge.
I&M has filed a one-count complaint against Northstar in personam and against the Beesecker in rem, alleging negligence and seeking monetary relief in excess of $ 75,000 for the alleged damage to its bridge. I&M asserts that jurisdiction is proper under this court's admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, (see 28 U.S.C. § 1333, Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(h), 46 U.S.C. § 740, and diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
Northstar now moves to dismiss, arguing that venue is improper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) because: (1) no substantial part of the accident occurred in this district; and (2) it is not a resident of Illinois, i.e., it does have any office or agent in Illinois, and it is not licensed to do business in the state. In the alternative, Northstar argues that it is not subject to personal jurisdiction in Illinois because it lacks the necessary minimum contacts with the state to satisfy the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Northstar concedes, however, that if the court determines that the collision occurred within Illinois, jurisdiction and venue are proper in this court. (Def.'s Reply, at 2.)
In response, I&M asserts that the court jurisdiction over Northstar because the collision occurred in Illinois and because "Northstar has purposely availed itself of this forum by virtue of its extensive activities navigating vessels and shoving barges in Illinois waters on the upper Mississippi River." (Pl.'s Resp., at 2, 6.) According to I&M, venue is proper because "portions of the negligence and the events which gave rise to this claim occurred [in the Northern District of Illinois]. For example, the captain of the M/V Megan Beesecker left the safety of Savanna, Illinois, to proceed down river in high winds as he approached the bridge. . . . He then collided with I&M's bridge while attempting to navigate its Illinois draw." (Id.)
The court will first address the question of personal jurisdiction.
The plaintiff bears the burden of proving facts sufficient to establish personal jurisdiction. See RAR, Inc. v. Turner Diesel Ltd., 107 F.3d 1272, 1276 (7th Cir. 1997). When determining whether it has jurisdiction over a defendant, the court can both consider and weigh affidavits submitted by the parties, see Kontos v. U.S. Dept. of Labor, 826 F.2d 573, 576 (7th Cir. 1987), but must accept as true all undenied factual allegations and interpret all disputed facts in favor of the party asserting jurisdiction. See Saylor v. Dyniewski, 836 F.2d 341, 342 (7th Cir. 1988).
"An admiralty action may be brought against a corporation in any United States District Court which can obtain personal jurisdiction over that corporation." Sunbelt Corp. v. Noble, Denton & Assocs., Inc., 5 F.3d 28, 31 n.5 (3rd Cir. 1993) (quoting Ocean Science & Eng'g, Inc. v. Int'l Geomarine Corp., 312 F. Supp. 825, 829 (D. Del. 1970)); see also Afferbach v. Cunard Line, Ltd., F. Supp. , 1998 WL 462103, at *3 (D. Wyoming 1998).
"Under Rule 4(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, district courts have personal jurisdiction over nonresident defendants to the extent authorized under the law of the forum state in which the district court sits." Sunbelt Corp., 5 F.3d at 31 (citation omitted); see also In re Oil Spill by the Amoco Cadiz, 699 F.2d 909, 914 (7th Cir. 1983); Peitsch v. Regency Cruises Inc., 664 F. Supp. 362, 363 (N.D. Ill. 1987); Afferbach, 1998 WL 462103, at *3. Accordingly, the court must ...