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McKendree v. Illinois Central Railroad Co.

January 11, 2010

JOHN MCKENDREE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ILLINOIS CENTRAL RAILROAD COMPANY, A CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on the amended motion of defendant Illinois Central Railroad Company ("Illinois Central") to transfer this case to the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) (Doc. 30). Plaintiff John McKendree has responded to the motion (Doc. 32), and Illinois Central has replied to McKendree's response (Doc. 33).

I. Background*fn1

McKendree began working for Illinois Central in 1970, when he was hired in Fulton, Kentucky. Fulton is in the Western District of Kentucky but is very close to its border with the Western District of Tennessee. In 1974, McKendree became a locomotive engineer and began making daily trips from Memphis, Tennessee, to Cairo, Illinois. The more than 150-mile journey required substantial travel across the Western District of Tennessee and across the Western District of Kentucky, but only reached into the Southern District of Illinois for the final few miles of the trip. He continued these trips up to the late 1990s. In the 1980s, he also drove trains an unspecified number of times from Memphis to Centralia, Illinois. The more than 250-mile journey required substantial travel across the Western District of Tennessee, the Western District of Kentucky and the Southern District of Illinois. For about the past ten years, McKendree has been headquartered in Memphis, within the Western District of Tennessee but very close to its border with the Northern District of Mississippi. He currently lives in Oxford, Mississippi, within the Northern District of Mississippi and approximately 85 miles from Memphis, the location of the main office of the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee.

McKendree brought this case in the Southern District of Illinois under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq. He seeks compensation for injuries he suffered in two discrete incidents that occurred while he was working as a locomotive engineer for Illinois Central. The first incident occurred on January 23, 2007, in Memphis, Tennessee, when McKendree attempted to adjust a seat in a locomotive in which he was working (Count II). The second incident occurred on October 30, 2008, in Fulton, Kentucky, when McKendree attempted to turn a hand brake (Count III). McKendree also seeks compensation for cumulative trauma injuries he suffered while working for Illinois Central (Count I).

The witnesses in this case are concentrated in the Western District of Tennessee or within approximately 110 miles of Memphis, including all of McKendree's medical providers except one surgeon and one medical imaging center in Chesterfield, Missouri. In addition, five or six witnesses reside in the Southern District of Illinois (there is a question about where one witness lives). Other witnesses reside in the Southern District of Mississippi, the Northern District of Illinois, Wisconsin or Canada.

Illinois Central believes the case belongs in the Western District of Tennessee in light of the location of McKendree's employment as a whole, the discrete events in Counts II and III and the important witnesses as well as that district's interest in this case. Accordingly, it filed the pending motion to transfer venue for the convenience of the parties and witnesses and in the interest of justice. McKendree maintains that a transfer of venue is not warranted because of his travels in the Southern District of Illinois, the location of witnesses and other factors.

II. Transfer Standards

Illinois Central does not contest that venue is proper in the Southern District of Illinois under 28 U.S.C. § 1391 or 45 U.S.C. § 56 and therefore does not seek a change of venue pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406, which governs transfer or dismissal when venue is improper. Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 634 (1964). Indeed, Illinois Central is an Illinois corporation with its headquarters in the Northern District of Illinois and business operations in the Southern District of Illinois. Therefore, under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c), it is deemed to be a resident of, among other districts, the Southern District of Illinois and is subject to venue here.*fn2

Instead, Illinois Central relies exclusively on 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), under which a district court may transfer a civil action to any other district where the action might have been brought originally "[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The decision to transfer a case is left to the discretion of the district court. Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988); Van Dusen, 376 U.S. at 622; Cote v. Wadel, 796 F.2d 981, 985 (7th Cir. 1986); see Norwood v. Kirkpatrick, 349 U.S. 29, 32 (1955).

In deciding a § 1404(a) motion to transfer, the Court should consider a number of case-specific factors such as the convenience of the potential transferee forum to the parties and witnesses and the interests of justice in general. Stewart, 487 U.S. at 29-30; see Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219 (7th Cir. 1986) (citing Van Dusen , 376 U.S. at 622). "The movant . . . has the burden of establishing, by reference to particular circumstances, that the transferee forum is clearly more convenient," Coffey, 796 F.2d at 219-20, and the Court must give some weight in favor of the forum in which the plaintiff chose to file the complaint, Heller Fin., Inc. v. Midwhey Powder Co., 883 F.2d 1286, 1294 (7th Cir. 1989); Macedo v. Boeing Co., 693 F.2d 683, 688 (7th Cir. 1982).

Courts frequently consider specific factors such as the plaintiff's choice of forum, the location of the relevant events, documents and evidence, the convenience to the witnesses and parties, the relation of the controversy to the forum, the court's familiarity with the applicable law and the speed with which a case can be tried. Methode Elecs., Inc. v. Delphi Auto. Sys. LLC, 639 F. Supp. 2d 903, 907 (N.D. Ill. 2009). Even if the circumstances indicate that a transfer would be clearly more convenient to the parties and witnesses, a court may still refuse to transfer the case if it is not in the interest of justice. Coffey, 796 F.2d at 220; Van Dusen, 376 U.S. at 625. "Factors traditionally considered in an 'interest of justice' analysis relate to the efficient administration of the court system," including where the litigants are more likely to receive a speedy trial. Coffey, 796 F.2d at 221.

III. Analysis

In light of the particular circumstances of this case, the Court finds that Illinois Central has met its burden of showing that the Western District of Tennessee is clearly more convenient than the Southern District of Illinois ...


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