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Ex parte Hrobowski

Supreme Court of Alabama

February 23, 2018

Ex Parte Stephen Hrobowski
Stephen Hrobowski and Kevin Ledyard In re: Roosevelt McCorvey

         Lowndes Circuit Court, CV-17-900027


          SHAW, Justice.

         Stephen Hrobowski, one of two named defendants in a civil action pending in the Lowndes Circuit Court, [1] petitions this Court for a writ of mandamus directing the trial court to vacate its August 30, 2017, order denying Hrobowski's motion for a change of venue and to enter an order transferring this action to the Montgomery Circuit Court on the basis of the doctrine of forum non conveniens. We grant the petition and issue the writ.

         Facts and Procedural History

         On May 6, 2015, Hrobowski was involved in a motor-vehicle accident on Interstate 85 in Montgomery during which his vehicle collided with a vehicle being operated by Kevin Ledyard. As a result of the impact, Ledyard's vehicle struck a vehicle being operated by Roosevelt McCorvey. It appears from the materials before us that McCorvey and Ledyard were Montgomery residents. At the time of the accident, Hrobowski's driver's license indicated that he was a resident of Lowndes County.[2]

         In April 2017, McCorvey sued Hrobowski, Ledyard, and various fictitiously named defendants in the Lowndes Circuit Court, alleging claims of "negligence or wantonness" and "negligence per se" stemming from the accident.[3] Hrobowski filed a motion for a change of venue, seeking, pursuant to the forum non conveniens statute, see § 6-3-21.1(a), Ala. Code 1975, to transfer the case to Montgomery County. Hrobowski's motion, which relied on both McCorvey's complaint and an Alabama Uniform Traffic Crash Report ("the accident report"), contended that the only connection of the case to Lowndes County was his alleged residence. According to Hrobowski, Montgomery-based emergency personnel responded to the scene of the accident and the accident report was prepared by an officer employed by the Montgomery Police Department. Hrobowski's motion included authority suggesting that Alabama law and the "interest of justice" favor, in litigation arising from a motor-vehicle accident, transfer from a venue that, although technically proper, [4] has only a weak connection to the accident to the venue where the accident actually occurred.

         McCorvey opposed Hrobowski's motion on the ground that Hrobowski had allegedly failed to demonstrate that Montgomery County was either significantly more convenient or that the interest of justice would, as Hrobowski argued, be served by the transfer. According to McCorvey, the factors cited by Hrobowski as evidencing a stronger connection to Montgomery County, which were allegedly supported only by the accident report, "[did] not outweigh [his] choice of a forum."[5] On August 30, 2017, the trial court, without stating the findings on which its decision was based, denied Hrobowski's motion for a change of venue.

         Thereafter, Hrobowski requested that the trial court "reconsider" its order denying the transfer. In his motion, Hrobowski renewed his reliance on caselaw that, he argued, favored a transfer of the case to the venue where the accident actually occurred. Hrobowski further maintained that, although his initial motion seeking a change of venue had identified him, as did McCorvey's complaint, as a resident of Lowndes County, he was, as demonstrated by accompanying affidavit testimony, instead a resident of Madison County. See note 2, supra. Thus, according to Hrobowski, Lowndes County no longer had even the weak connection to the case, which his initial motion conceded, but, instead, "has no connection to the accident." McCorvey again opposed Hrobowski's motion, arguing that Hrobowski had been successfully served in accordance with the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure at the Lowndes County address listed on his driver's license and on the accident report.[6]

         Hrobowski filed the instant mandamus petition on October 6, 2017.[7] We ordered answers and briefs.

         Standard of Review

"'The proper method for obtaining review of a denial of a motion for a change of venue in a civil action is to petition for the writ of mandamus. Lawler Mobile Homes, Inc. v. Tarver, 492 So.2d 297, 302 (Ala. 1986). "Mandamus is a drastic and extraordinary writ, to be issued only where 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 Integon Corp., 672 So.2d 497, 499 (Ala. 1995). "When we consider a mandamus petition relating to a venue ruling, our scope of review is to determine if the trial court abused its discretion, i.e., whether it exercised its discretion in an arbitrary and capricious manner." Id. Our review is further limited to those facts that were before the trial court. Ex parte American Resources Ins. Co., 663 So.2d 932, 936 (Ala. 1995).' "Ex parte National Sec. Ins. Co., 727 So.2d 788');">727 So.2d 788, 789 (Ala. 1998)."

Ex parte Benton, 226 So.3d 147, 149-50 (Ala. 2016).


         Hrobowski contends that the underlying action should be transferred to Montgomery County under the interest-of-justice prong of § ...

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