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Ex parte Quality Carriers, Inc.

Supreme Court of Alabama

June 5, 2015

Ex parte Quality Carriers, Inc., and Bennie Hugh Orcutt;
v.
Quality Carriers, Inc., Bennie Hugh Orcutt, and Desmond Rachard Woods In re: Robert Speer, as administrator of the Estate of Kimberly Shonta Livingston, deceased

Page 938

          (Dallas Circuit Court, CV-14-900079).

         WISE, Justice. Stuart, Bolin, Parker, Shaw, Main, and Bryan, JJ., concur. Moore, C.J., dissents.

          OPINION

Page 939

         PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS

         WISE, Justice.

         Quality Carriers, Inc., and Bennie Hugh Orcutt, two of the defendants below, filed a petition for a writ of mandamus requesting this Court to direct the Dallas Circuit Court to vacate its order denying their motion to transfer the underlying action to the Autauga Circuit Court and to enter an order granting the motion. We grant the petition and issue the writ.

         Facts and Procedural History

         On February 9, 2014, Desmond Rachard Woods was driving northbound on Interstate 65 in Autauga County in a Ford Crown Victoria automobile; Kimberly Shonta Livingston, Tory Danta Cooper, Marquita Shonay Speer (" Marquita" ), and Aaron Randall Jones were passengers in the automobile. The automobile Woods was driving had a mechanical problem and stalled in the right travel lane; it was nighttime, and the lights on the automobile were not on. Woods, Cooper, and Jones got out of the automobile and started looking under the hood. Livingston and Marquita remained in the automobile.

         Orcutt, who was employed by Quality Carriers, was also traveling northbound on Interstate 65 in a tractor-trailer rig that was owned by Quality Carriers. The tractor-trailer rig Orcutt was driving collided with the back of the automobile, which was stalled in the roadway. Both vehicles caught fire. Livingston and Marquita, who were in the automobile when it caught fire, were pronounced dead at the scene by Malvin O. Barber, the Autauga County coroner. Woods and Cooper were transported to Prattville Hospital. According

Page 940

to the accident report, marijuana was found on Woods's person at the hospital. At the time the accident report was filed, toxicology results were pending to determine whether Woods was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the crash.

         The deputy sheriff who was the first responder to the scene worked in Autauga County. Additionally, a member of the Autauga County Rescue Squad also responded to the scene and assisted in the care of the injured individuals. The Autauga County coroner also responded to the scene and pronounced Livingston and Marquita dead. Kenneth Barber and Catherine Ricketts, who were both assistant Autauga County coroners, also responded to the scene. In his affidavit, Kenneth Barber stated that he was also the chief of the Marbury Volunteer Fire Department (" MVFD" ); that he was a resident of Autauga County; and that he directed the MVFD's work and assisted with the pronouncements of death in this case. In her affidavit, Ricketts stated that she was also the assistant chief of the MVFD; that she also assisted in the pronouncements of death; and that she also assisted with MVFD's work.

         Livingston and Marquita were both residents of Autauga County. At all material times, Orcutt was a resident of Pensacola, Florida. Quality Carriers is an Illinois corporation, with its principal place of business in Tampa, Florida. Quality Carriers has never been an Alabama corporation and has never had its principal place of business in Alabama.

         On March 19, 2014, Robert Speer (" Speer" ), as administrator of Livingston's estate, filed a complaint in the Dallas Circuit Court against Quality Carriers, Orcutt, and Woods. Speer, a resident of Autauga County, asserted claims of negligence and wantonness against all the defendants. With regard to Woods, Speer asserted that Woods had negligently and wantonly failed to move his automobile out of the lane of traffic, which resulted in the collision. He asserted that Woods had breached his duty of care by

" failing to pay proper attention to the roadway and the traffic, failing to obey the laws and rules of the State of Alabama, failing to control the vehicle in order to avoid a collision, and failing to move his vehicle out of the lanes of traffic when stalled which resulted in a collision. Further, Defendant Woods was not fit to safely operate a motor vehicle at the time of the incident in question."

         Speer also asserted claims of negligent entrustment, negligent hiring, and negligent supervision against Quality Carriers. Woods subsequently answered the complaint and filed cross-claims against Quality Carriers and Orcutt.

         On May 12, 2014, Quality Carriers and Orcutt filed a motion to transfer the action from Dallas County to Autauga County based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens, as codified in § 6-3-21.1, Ala. Code 1975. On August 19, 2014, Speer filed his first amended complaint and a response in opposition to the motion to transfer. In his amended complaint, Speer amended his negligence and wantonness claims against Woods to add the allegation that Woods had " negligently and wantonly inspected his vehicle." On August 19, 2014, Woods filed a " Joinder in Opposition to the Motion to Transfer Venue." On October 15, 2014, the trial court denied the motion to transfer. This petition followed.

         Standard of Review

" A petition for a writ of mandamus is the appropriate 'method for obtaining review of a denial of a motion for a change of venue' pursuant to ยง 6-3-21.1. Ex parte National Sec. ...

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