Ex parte Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc.
Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. In re: Gregory K. Nix
PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS Jefferson Circuit Court,
U.S. International, Inc. ("MBUSI"), petitions this
court for a writ of mandamus directing the Jefferson Circuit
Court ("the trial court") to enter an order
transferring the underlying workers' compensation action
to the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court. For the reasons set forth
below, we deny the petition.
and Procedural History
produces certain models of Mercedes-Benz vehicles. On August
22, 2017, Gregory K. Nix filed in the trial court a complaint
against MBUSI seeking workers' compensation benefits. Nix
claimed that he was injured in the course of his employment
as an assembly worker at MBUSI's facility in Tuscaloosa
County. On September 22, 2017, MBUSI filed an answer,
alleging, among other things, that venue was improper in
Jefferson County, and a motion to change venue, contending
that venue was proper only in Tuscaloosa County but that,
even if venue was proper in Jefferson County, the venue
should be changed to Tuscaloosa County under the doctrine of
forum non conveniens.
September 25, 2017, Nix filed a response opposing the motion
to change venue. In his response, he asserted that he was a
resident of Jefferson County and that MBUSI does business in
Jefferson County as well as in Tuscaloosa County. Nix
submitted a copy of property-tax records from Jefferson
County indicating that his address was in Jefferson County
and a copy of a Web page from the Alabama Secretary of
State's Web site indicating "Birmingham,
Alabama" as MBUSI's principal address. Nix asserted
that MBUSI's products are sold in Jefferson County
through Mercedes-Benz of Birmingham ("the automobile
dealership") and that some of MBUSI's major parts
suppliers such as Kamtek, Inc., are located in Jefferson
County. In support of his assertions, Nix referred to
MBUSI's Web site and attached news articles regarding
Kamtek. Nix also attached to his response an affidavit in
which he testified that all medical treatments for the
claimed injury were received in Jefferson County and that
potential trial witnesses reside in Jefferson County.
September 29, 2017, MBUSI filed a supplement to its motion to
change venue. In the supplement, MBUSI argued that the
automobile dealership and Kamtek are not its agents through
which it does business in Jefferson County. MBUSI asserted
that the circumstances of its relationship with Kamtek do not
constitute that of an agent for venue purposes and that it
has no connection with the automobile dealership in Jefferson
County because all the automobiles MBUSI produces are sold
directly to a separate legal entity, Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC
("MBUSA"), which has sole control and contact with
the automobile dealership and other dealerships. MBUSI
attached to its supplement the affidavit of Richard Clementz,
general counsel for MBUSI, in which he testified, in relevant
"2. MBUSI is a corporation that is organized under the
laws of the State of Alabama, with its headquarters,
principal place of business and principal office located at 1
Mercedes Drive, Vance, Alabama, located in Tuscaloosa County.
MBUSI's current registered agent for service of process
is attorney Edward R. Christian of Burr & Forman, LLP, in
Jefferson County, Alabama. However, Mr. Christian is not an
employee of MBUSI and MBUSI maintains no office at Burr &
"3. To the extent the Secretary of State website lists
'Birmingham, AL' as MBUSI's 'principal
address, ' such listing is inaccurate. MBUSI has no
corporate offices in Jefferson County, Alabama.
"4. MBUSI's manufacturing facility is located at 1
Mercedes Drive, Vance, Tuscaloosa County, Alabama. The
plaintiff's employment with the defendant was located at
MBUSI's manufacturing facility in Tuscaloosa County, and
any alleged work injury would have occurred there as well.
"5. The vehicles manufactured by MBUSI for sale in the
United States are all sold to Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC
('MBUSA'). MBUSA is a separate corporate entity with
its principal place of business in Atlanta, Georgia.
"6. MBUSI is not involved in, and does not control
distribution or sale of Mercedes-Benz vehicles to consumers
anywhere in the world, including the United States. For all
vehicles sold in the United States, MBUSA takes delivery,
title and possession of the vehicles and MBUSA transports,
delivers and sells all vehicles in the United States.
"7. MBUSI has no relationship, contractual or otherwise,
with any Mercedes-Benz dealership located in Alabama, nor
does MBUSI have control over the actions, rights or
obligations of any such dealers.
"8. Kamtek is an auto supplier which provides some parts
for MBUSI. Kamtek is a separate and unrelated corporation.
Upon information and belief, Kamtek is owned by a Canadian
Corporation. The parts supplied by Kamtek are delivered by
Kamtek to MBUSI at 1 Mercedes Drive, Vance, AL. MBUSI does
not take delivery of parts from Kamtek or any other supplier,
at any location other than 1 Mercedes Drive, Vance, AL.
"9. MBUSI does not do business by agent in Jefferson
County, Alabama. The Mercedes Benz Automobile dealership
located in Hoover, Alabama is not affiliated with, owned by,
or franchised from MBUSI. MBUSI does not sell vehicles to the
Mercedes Benz automobile dealership located in Hoover,
Alabama, and has no contractual relationship with the
automobile dealership in Hoover, Alabama. MBUSI has no
ownership interest in Kamtek, and does not accept delivery of
parts from Kamtek in Jefferson County, Alabama."
supplement, MBUSI further argued that the doctrine of
forum non conveniens required a transfer of the
action to the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court. MBUSI asserted that
Tuscaloosa County was a more convenient forum because, it
stated, potential witnesses to the alleged injury and
Nix's supervisors were employed in Tuscaloosa County and
the alleged injury occurred there. MBUSI also asserted that
Tuscaloosa County has a substantial interest in the action
because it is the county in which the alleged injury occurred
and that the only connection Jefferson County has to the
action is Nix's residency there.
October 13, 2017, the trial court entered an order denying
MBUSI's motion to change venue. On November 21, 2017,
MBUSI filed the present petition ...