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Hill-Jackson v. FAF

August 25, 2010

ROLANDA HILL-JACKSON, AS SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF RAFEAL LASHAN HILL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FAF, INC.; FORWARD AIR, INC.; DOUBLE J TRANSPORT; DOUBLE J TRANSPORTATION, INC.; AND ROBERT L. MILLER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marvin E. Aspen, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Rolonda Hill-Jackson originally filed her complaint in the Circuit Court of Cook County against Defendants FAF, Inc., Double J Transport, Double J Transportation, Inc., and Robert Miller, alleging various tort claims. Defendants removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Presently before us is the Defendants' motion to transfer the case to the Southern District of Indiana pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For the reasons discussed below, we grant the motion.

I. BACKGROUND

This case involves claims relating to an automobile accident on December 7, 2009, when Defendant Miller's tractor trailer allegedly struck Rafael LaShan Hill, killing him. The accident occurred on Interstate 65 in Indiana. Hill-Jackson, Hill's mother and special representative of his estate, lives in Chicago, and Hill resided and attended school in Indiana prior to his death.

(Compl. ¶ 1; Mot. Ex. C, Boerger Aff. ¶ 5.) FAF and Forward Air are Tennessee Corporations, Double J Transport is a Wisconsin limited liability corporation, Double J Transportation, Inc., is an Illinois Corporation, and Miller is a resident of Wisconsin. (Compl. ¶¶ 2, 4, 8, 10, 13.)

II. ANALYSIS

A. Leave to File Additional Exhibits and Sur-Reply

Before we begin our analysis, we must address Plaintiff's motions for leave to file additional exhibits and a sur-reply. [Dkt. Nos. 41, 47.] Since Defendants have had the opportunity to respond to the arguments and evidence presented in these filings, we grant Plaintiffs' motions.

B. Motion to Transfer Venue

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), a court may, for the convenience of the parties and witnesses and in the interest of justice, transfer any civil matter to another district where venue is proper. A court may transfer a case if the moving party shows that: (1) venue is proper in the district where the action was originally filed; (2) venue would be proper in the transferee district; and (3) the transfer will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses as well as the interests of justice. See Morton Grove Pharms., Inc. v. Nat'l Pediculosis Ass'n, 525 F. Supp. 2d 1039, 1044 (N.D. Ill. 2007).

The parties appear to concede that venue is proper in either the Northern District of Illinois or the Southern District of Indiana, and we agree. Therefore, we focus on whether a transfer will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and the interests of justice. In doing so, we must weigh both private and public factors, and "unless the balance is strongly in favor of the defendant, the plaintiff's choice of forum should rarely be disturbed." In re Nat'l Presto Indus., Inc., 347 F.3d 662, 664 (7th Cir. 2003) (quoting Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 508, 67 S.Ct. 839, 843 (1947)). The weight afforded to each factor is within the discretion of the district court. Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219 (7th Cir. 1986) ("The weighing of factors for and against the transfer necessarily involves a large degree of subtlety and latitude, and, therefore, is committed to the sound discretion of the trial judge."). "When deciding a motion to transfer venue, the court must accept as true all of the plaintiff's well-pleaded facts in the complaint, unless they are contradicted by affidavits or other appropriate evidence from the defendant." Bankers Life & Cas. Co. v. Case, et al., No. 05 C 6532, 2005 WL 3542523, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 24, 2005) (quoting Andrade v. Chase Home Fin., LLC, No. 04 C 8229, 2005 WL 3436400, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 12, 2005)).

1. Private Factors

Relevant private factors for a motion to transfer venue include: "(1) the plaintiff's choice of forum; (2) the situs of material events; (3) the relative ease of access to sources of proof; (4) the convenience of the parties; and (5) the convenience of witnesses." Morton Grove Pharms., 525 F. Supp. 2d at 1044 (citing Schwartz v. Nat'l Van Lines, Inc., 317 F. Supp. 2d 829, 835 (N.D. Ill. 2004)). We discuss each in turn.

a. Plaintiff's Choice of Forum

The plaintiff's forum choice is generally given great deference, particularly when the plaintiff resides in the chosen district. Vandeveld v. Christoph, 877 F. Supp. 1160, 1167 (N.D. Ill. 1995); Dunn v. Soo Line R.R. Co., 864 F. Supp. 64, 65 (N.D. Ill. 1994); FUL Inc. v. Unified Sch. Dist. No. 204, 839 F. Supp. 1307, 1311 (N.D. Ill. 1993). Because Hill-Jackson resides in the Northern District of Illinois, her chosen forum, this factor weighs against transfer. It can be "overcome only when the private and public interest factors point towards trial in an alternative forum." Van Horn v. Graves, No. 01 C 5186,2002 WL 27658, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 10, 2002) (citing AAR Int'l, Inc. v. Nimeliss Enters., S.A., 250 F.3d 510, 524 (7th Cir. 2001)). Specifically, when the liability ...


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