Macon Circuit Court. (CV-93-166). Dale Segrest, TRIAL JUDGE.
Rehearing Denied October 14, 1994. Released for Publication January 17, 1995.
Ingram, Almon, Shores, Steagall, and Kennedy, JJ., concur.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ingram
PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS
Hazel Bloodsaw filed a bad faith refusal to pay action against United Insurance Company of America and its subsidiary, Union National Life Insurance Company (hereinafter collectively referred to as "United"), in the Macon County Circuit Court. United removed the case to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. That Court remanded the case to the Macon County Circuit Court. United then moved to transfer the case to Elmore County, pursuant to the Alabama forum non conveniens statute, Ala. Code 1975, § 6-3-21.1; the Macon County Circuit Court granted that motion. Bloodsaw then petitioned this Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Macon County Circuit Court to vacate its order transferring the case to Elmore County. On March 8, 1994, this Court directed the Macon County Circuit Court to enter an order in accordance with Ex Parte Johnson, [Ms. 1930014, January 14, 1994] ___ So. 2d ___ (Ala. 1994). The Macon County Circuit Court held a hearing and then entered another order transferring the case to the Elmore County Circuit Court. Bloodsaw contends that the Macon County Circuit Court abused its discretion in transferring her case to the Elmore County Circuit Court and asks this Court to direct the Macon County Circuit Court to vacate its order transferring her case.
The writ of mandamus is an extraordinary writ that applies "where a party seeks emergency and immediate appellate review of an order that is otherwise interlocutory and not appealable." Rule 21(e)(4), Ala.R.Civ.P. In order for this Court to issue a writ of mandamus, the petitioner must show that there is: "(1) a clear legal right in the petitioner to the order sought; (2) an imperative duty upon the respondent to perform, accompanied by a refusal to do so; (3) the lack of another adequate remedy; and (4) properly invoked jurisdiction of the court." Ex parte Alfab, Inc., 586 So. 2d 889, 891 (Ala. 1991).
It is undisputed that United is a foreign corporation based in Chicago, Illinois; Union, a subsidiary of United, has its headquarters in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Union was purchased by United in 1991. Bloodsaw, a resident of Elmore County, was a Union health insurance policyholder; the Union policy was assumed by United after United purchased Union. Bloodsaw produced witnesses who testified that they had sold United insurance policies in Macon County. Because United conducted business in Macon County, Bloodsaw contends that Macon County is a proper venue for her bad faith insurance action, pursuant to Ala. Code 1975, § 6-3-5. Bloodsaw further argues that United has not adequately shown that it would be inconvenienced by trying the case in Macon County.
United contends that Elmore County is a proper forum because it conducted business there as well as in Macon County. United asserts that it would be inconvenient for it to try the case in Macon County. United has shown that its Alabama regional office and legal counsel are in Jefferson County and that its regional manager lives in Shelby County. United has also shown that there are no documents in Macon County that would pertain to Bloodsaw's action and that certain witnesses important to the case reside in Elmore County. United contends that it would be more convenient to travel to Elmore County for the litigation and that there is no connection between Bloodsaw's case and Macon County "other than the fact that [United has] conducted unrelated business by agent in that county."
Alabama Code 1975, § 6-3-5(a), provides:
"Any person, firm or corporation that issues policies or certificates of insurance of any kind shall be subject to a civil action on any such policy or certificate in the county where the holder of the policy or certificate resides, and the summons may be executed by serving a copy of the summons and complaint upon any officer or agent of the insurer; provided, however, that an action against a foreign insurance corporation shall be commenced only in a county where it does business. "
Alabama Code 1975, § 6-3-21.1(a), provides:
"With respect to civil actions filed in an appropriate venue, any court of general jurisdiction shall, for the convenience of parties and witnesses, or in the interest of Justice, transfer any civil action or any claim in any civil action to any court of general jurisdiction in which the action might have been properly filed and the case shall proceed as though originally filed therein."
To begin our Discussion, we must first note that the trial court should give deference to the plaintiff's proper choice of venue. The trial court should not grant a motion to transfer an action pursuant to § 6-3-21.1 unless the forum to which the case is to be transferred is "'"significantly more convenient" than the forum in which the action is filed, as chosen by the plaintiffs, to justify transfer.'" Ex parte Johnson, supra, at ___, quoting Ex parte ...