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Presnell v. Cottrell

April 28, 2010

DALE PRESNELL AND LORI PRESNELL, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COTTRELL, INC. AND UNITED ROAD SERVICES, INC., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on the motion of defendant United Road Services, Inc. ("United") to transfer this case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan or, in the alternative, to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee (Doc. 43). Defendant Cottrell, Inc. has joined in the motion (Doc. 49). Plaintiffs Dale Presnell and Lori Presnell (collectively, "the Presnells") have responded to the motion agreeing that the case should be transferred but asking that it be transferred to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia or, in the alternative, "to a Court in Tennessee of plaintiff's [sic] choice" (Doc. 51). United has filed a reply to the Presnells' response (Doc. 54).

I. Background

Plaintiff Dale Presnell was an over-the-road truck driver employed by URS Midwest, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of United. On December 18, 2008, he was delivering vehicles at Buff Whelan Chevrolet in Sterling Heights, Michigan. In the process of making the delivery, he allegedly fell from a car-hauler rig and was injured. An employee of Buff Whelan Chevrolet found him on the ground after his alleged fall. An ambulance transported Presnell to a hospital in Troy, Michigan, where he was treated in the emergency room and admitted to the hospital for a five-day stay. All this occurred in the Eastern District of Michigan.

When Presnell returned to his home in Gray, Tennessee, he continued to receive treatment for his injuries from at least seven other medical providers, all located in or around Johnson City, Tennessee. Presnell's father, who was also at Buff Whelan Chevrolet at the time of Presnell's alleged fall, lives in Johnson City. Gray and Johnson City are within the Eastern District of Tennessee. At the time of Presnell's alleged fall, his employment with URS Midwest, Inc. was based in Spring Hill, Tennessee, although that terminal has since closed.*fn1

The Presnells filed suit to recover for Dale Presnell's injuries. They originally filed this case in the Circuit Court for the Twentieth Judicial Circuit in St. Clair County, Illinois. They allege that Cottrell and United designed, tested, manufactured and/or altered the car-hauler rig at issue in this case. Presnell alleges that the defendants are liable for his injuries under theories of products liability, negligence, breach of implied warranty, fraud and willful and wanton injury. Lori Presnell also seeks to recover for loss of consortium. Cottrell removed the case to federal court under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), relying on the Court's original diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).

United now asks the Court to transfer this case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan or, in the alternative, to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. The Presnells agree that the case should be transferred but to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, where Cottrell's engineers and other witnesses are located, or, in the alternative, "to a Court in Tennessee of plaintiff's [sic] choice." United is a citizen of Delaware and Michigan, Cottrell is a citizen of Georgia, and the Presnells are citizens of Tennessee.

II. Transfer Standards

United does not contest that venue is proper in the Southern District of Illinois under 28 U.S.C. § 1391 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). Instead, United 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 Presnells' concession that the case should not be tried in Illinois, the Court finds that transfer is appropriate. Indeed, there are no substantial connections between Illinois and this controversy, and trying the case in any of the three districts contemplated by the parties would be clearly more convenient than trying the case in the Southern District of Illinois. Furthermore, the interests of justice strongly weigh against trying this case in a district that has no colorable interest in the controversy.

That leaves the question of the proper forum to which this case should be transferred. Venue appears to be proper and jurisdiction appears to exist over all defendants in the Eastern District of Michigan, the Eastern District of Tennessee and the Northern District of Georgia. In answering the venue question, the Court looks to the same factors used to answer the threshold question of whether transfer is proper. In light of the particular circumstances of this case, the Court finds that United has met its burden of showing that the Eastern District of Michigan is ...


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