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Starnet Insurance Company v. Illinois National Insurance Company

August 22, 2012

STARNET INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ILLINOIS NATIONAL INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Ronald A. Guzman

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

StarNet Insurance Company ("StarNet") has sued Illinois National Insurance Company ("National") for a declaration that National has a duty to defend and indemnify the parties' insured, Wyndham Worldwide, and for more than $17 million in damages. National has filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, to transfer this suit to the District of New Jersey. For the reasons stated below, the Court denies the motion to dismiss and grants the motion to transfer.

Facts

In 2001, Cendant Operations, Inc. ("Cendant") and Jet Aviation Business Jets Inc. entered into a contract pursuant to which Jet Aviation agreed to operate and maintain Cendant's aircraft. (Compl. ¶ 7.) Subsequently, Cendant assigned its interests under the agreement to Wyndham Worldwide. (Id. ¶ 8.)

Pursuant to the agreement, Wyndham Worldwide purchased aircraft liability insurance coverage through Jet Aviation's fleet insurance provider, National. (Id. ¶ 9.) Wyndham Worldwide also purchased a non-owned aircraft policy from StarNet. (Id. ¶ 11.)

In August 2008, a rented airplane piloted by one of Wyndham Worldwide's employees crashed, "resulting in multiple deaths, personal injuries, and property damage." (Id. ¶ 16.) Thereafter, the survivors, the estates of the crash victims and the owners of the damaged property filed suit against Wyndham Worldwide in Oregon and Florida. (Id. ¶ 17.) StarNet has defended and indemnified Wyndham Worldwide with respect to these suits. (Id. ¶ 18.)

In April 2009, National sued Wyndham Worldwide in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey seeking a declaration that Wyndham Worldwide is not entitled to coverage under the National policy. (See Decl. Andrew T. Houghton Supp. Mot. Dismiss ¶ 4.) That case is still pending. (Id. ¶ 11.)

Discussion

Motion to Dismiss

National argues that this case should be dismissed because it is duplicative of the New Jersey suit. See Ridge Gold Standard Liquors v. Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Inc., 572 F. Supp. 1210, 1213 (N.D. Ill. 1983) (stating that a suit in one federal court that involves the same claims, parties and relief as a case pending in another federal court may be dismissed as duplicative). The Court disagrees. Whether National has a duty to defend and indemnify Wyndham Worldwide is at issue in both cases. However, the damages, if any, that National must pay StarNet is only at issue here. Thus, this suit is not duplicative of the one in New Jersey.

Motion To Transfer Venue

"For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought or to any district or division to which all parties consented." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Transfer of venue is proper under § 1404(a) when "(1) venue was proper in the transferor district; (2) venue and jurisdiction would be proper in the transferee district; and (3) the transfer will serve the convenience of the parties and the witnesses as well as the interests of justice." Simonian v. Hunter Fan Co., No. 10 C 1212, 2010 WL 3975564, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 7, 2010). The parties do not dispute that venue is proper in this Court or that venue and jurisdiction would be proper in the District of New Jersey. Therefore, the Court will only consider whether National has shown that a transfer will serve the private and public interests.

Private Interests

The private interest factors include: (1) plaintiff's choice of forum; (2) the situs of material events; (3) the relative ease of access to sources of proof; and (4) the convenience of the parties and witnesses. Id. at *2. "[P]laintiff's choice of forum is generally given substantial deference," unless plaintiff "is not a resident of the forum district." H.B. Sherman Mfg. Co. v. Rain Bird Nat'l Sales Corp., 979 F. Supp. 627, 629-30 (N.D. Ill. 1997). Such is the case here. StarNet is a Delaware corporation ...


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