United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KEITH WATKINS, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the court is an Order and Recommendation of the Magistrate
Judge recommending that the case be transferred to the U.S.
District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. (Doc. #
24.) The Magistrate Judge has summarized well the pending
motions, facts, and procedural posture of the case, and that
summary is incorporated by reference. The Recommendation
addresses only the motion for change of venue (Doc. # 8)
filed by Defendants Common Bond Title, LLC, and Preferred
Title Agents, Inc., although the Magistrate Judge granted
Defendants' motion to strike the third paragraph of
Plaintiff James Snellgrove's declaration (Doc. # 18) in
the same filing as the Recommendation (the
“Order” in “Order and Recommendation of the
Magistrate Judge”). Because the Magistrate Judge found
that the case should be transferred to another district, the
two motions to dismiss were not addressed in the
Recommendation. That was proper in view of the ultimate
recommendation, and this opinion addresses only the motions
addressed in the Recommendation.
recommending a transfer of venue, the Magistrate Judge
reasoned that jurisdiction of the federal cause of action
lies, arguably, in both the Middle and Northern Districts of
Alabama, and the convenience of the parties and witnesses
counsels transfer from the former to the latter. Although
there is no objection to the Recommendation - Plaintiff
“respectfully defers to the Court regarding this
issue” (Doc. # 16, at 3) - it is due to be rejected for
the reasons following.
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
court has subject-matter jurisdiction over this action under
28 U.S.C. § 1331 and § 1367. The parties do not
contest personal jurisdiction. Venue is discussed below.
Defendant contractually undertook to examine title and
provide title insurance and other real estate closing
services for Plaintiff and his lender on real estate in
Dothan, Houston County (which is in the Middle District of
Alabama), 200 miles from the Defendants' offices in
Mountain Brook, Jefferson County (which is in the Northern
District of Alabama). Preferred Title Agency, Inc., did so in
2010 when Plaintiff bought the real estate. Common Bond
Title, LLC - a successor entity to Preferred Title Agency,
Inc. - did so in 2012 when Plaintiff refinanced the real
the first closing for the purchase of the subject property by
Plaintiff, performed entirely in Houston County, a defendant
inexplicably failed to file the deed transferring the
property to Plaintiff, and the mortgage he just signed to pay
for it, for eighteen days from the date of closing, that is,
from February 26, 2010, until March 16, 2010. During that
eighteen days, on March 8, a judgment against the seller of
the property was recorded by Compass Bank for $84, 072.85 in
the Houston County Courthouse. This lien took priority over
Plaintiff's deed and mortgage, which had not yet been
recorded. No. defendant discovered this judgment or disclosed
it to Plaintiff or his mortgagee before the refinance closing
in 2012. Plaintiff did not discover the judgment until 2016.
It was a valid prior lien on Plaintiff's property.
wish now to compel Plaintiff, his lawyers, and the Houston
County witnesses to litigate the dispute in the Northern
District of Alabama in Jefferson County. Having twice found
it convenient to conduct a closing 200 miles away in Houston
County, Defendants all of a sudden (by modern litigation time
frames) find Houston County and the Middle District of
Alabama to be inconvenient to resolve a contractual and other
disputes over title to real estate located in Houston County
and a closing in Houston County involving Houston County
title records and witnesses. It is a brassy move, one that
Defendants should have a really compelling reason to make.
They do not. Their Motion to Transfer Venue (Doc. # 8) is
therefore due to be denied.
28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), a district court may transfer a
civil action to any other district in which it might have
been brought “[f]or the convenience of the parties and
witnesses, ” and “in the interest of
justice.” Id. Because federal courts usually
accord deference to a plaintiff's choice of forum, the
burden is on the movant to show that the suggested forum is
more convenient or that litigation there would be in the
interest of justice. In re Ricoh Corp., 870 F.2d
570, 573 (11th Cir. 1989). Some lower courts have found,
however, that the deference afforded to a plaintiff's
choice of forum is somewhat diminished in a removal case.
See, e.g., First Fin. Bank v. CS Assets,
LLC, No. 08-0731-WS-M, 2009 WL 1211360, at *6 (S.D. Ala.
May 4, 2009). But “[a] [plaintiff's geographic]
choice does not lose all relevance solely because [plaintiff]
initially brought the case in state court and [defendant]
chose to remove it to the federal court encompassing that
county.” Id. (second, third, and fourth
alterations in original) (quoting Superior Precast, Inc.
v. Safeco Ins. Co. of Am., 71 F.Supp.2d 438, 446 (E.D.
a district court has “broad discretion in weighing the
conflicting arguments as to venue, ” England v. ITT
Thompson Indus., Inc., 856 F.2d 1518, 1520 (11th Cir.
1988), and must engage in an “individualized,
case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness,
” Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S.
22, 29 (1988) (quoting Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376
U.S. 612, 622 (1964)).
1404(a) mandates a two-step analysis. First, the court must
determine whether the case originally could have been brought
in the proposed transferee district. § 1404(a);
C.M.B. Foods, Inc. v. Corral of Middle Ga., 396
F.Supp.2d 1283, 1286 (M.D. Ala. 2005). Second, the court must
analyze whether, “[f]or the convenience of the parties
and witnesses” and “in the interest of justice,
” the action should be transferred. § 1404(a);
Corral of Middle Ga., 396 F.Supp.2d at 1286.
Where This Action ...