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Clark v. Winston Trans Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Jasper Division

January 10, 2019

STEVEN W. CLARK, Plaintiff,
v.
WINSTON TRANS, INC., et al., Defendants. ELAM LANG, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
WINSTON TRANS, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          R. DAVID PROCTOR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case is before the court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion to Transfer Venue pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). (Doc. # 8).[1] For the convenience of the parties and witnesses, Defendants request that the court either dismiss these cases without prejudice or transfer them to the United States District for the Eastern District of Oklahoma. (Id.). The Motion has been fully briefed (Docs. # 9, 12, 17, 18) and is ripe for review. After careful review, and for the reasons explained below, the court concludes that the Eastern District of Oklahoma is a more appropriate and convenient forum for these cases. Accordingly, Defendants' Motion to Transfer (Doc. # 8) is due to be granted.

         I. Background

         Two separate lawsuits have been filed which arise out of a collision that occurred on January 9, 2018 at 4:30 a.m. near Muskogee, Oklahoma (Doc. # 12 at 2). (Clark v. Winston Trans Inc., et al., 6:18-cv-1820-RDP; Lang v. Winston Trans Inc., et al., 6:18-cv-1837-RDP). These cases each allege that Defendant Clyde Savage, an Alabama resident, was driving a loaded 18-wheeler tractor trailer rig owned by Defendant Winston Trans, Inc., an Alabama corporation. (Clark, Doc. # 1 at ¶ 6). While Defendant Savage attempted to turn left onto Highway 16, Plaintiffs Clark and Lang, both residents of Oklahoma, drove their cars into the driver's side of Defendant Savage's trailer. (Id. at ¶¶ 8, 11; Lang, Doc. # 1 at ¶¶ 9, 11). Plaintiffs allege they suffered significant personal injuries as a result of the collision, particularly Plaintiff Lang who claims she sustained permanent neurological damage. (Id. at ¶ 14; Id. at ¶ 13).

         Plaintiffs have filed suit against Defendants asserting claims for negligence/wantonness, negligence and/or wantonness per se, and negligent/wanton hiring, training and supervision. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-28; Id. at ¶¶ 14-26). Plaintiffs have also alleged loss of consortium and property damage. (Lang, Id. at ¶¶ 27-32).

         On November 11, 2018, Defendants' filed the subject Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion to Transfer Venue. (Doc. # 8). They argue that the Eastern District of Oklahoma would be a more convenient forum for the parties and witnesses. (Doc. # 8). In support of their Motion, Defendants point to the following:

1. After the collision, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported to the scene and conducted an audio-recorded statement of Defendant Savage. (Doc. # 12 at 4).
2. Two other Oklahoma residents also drove into Defendant Savage's rig-Kaili Brock and Michael Rivera. (Id.). Brock has filed suit against Defendants in the District Court of Muskogee County, Oklahoma. (Id. at 5).
3. Plaintiffs were treated by several Oklahoma medical providers, including St. John Medical Center, WH Hastings Hospital, Ortho & Trauma Service of Oklahoma, and The Orthopaedic Center. (Id. at 4).
4. The parties have retained experts residing in Oklahoma. (Id. at 5).

         The court granted Defendants' Unopposed Motion to Consolidate the Clark and Lang cases for pretrial purposes only. (Doc. # 21). As a result and by agreement of the parties, the court's ruling on the pending Motion (Doc. #8) applies equally to both cases and Defendant need not file a similar motion in the Lang case.

         II. Analysis

         Section 1404(a) provides that “[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought or to any district or division to which all parties have consented.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Section 1404(a) is “merely a codification of the doctrine of forum non conveniens for the subset of cases in which the transferee forum is within the federal court system; in such cases, Congress has replaced the traditional remedy of outright dismissal with transfer.” Atl. Marine Const. Co. v. U.S. Dist. Court for W. Dist. of Texas, 571 U.S. 49, 60 (2013) (citing Sinochem Int'l Co. v. Malaysia Int'l Shipping Corp., 549 U.S. 422, 430 (2007)). Consistent with this precedent, the court agrees that, if this Motion is granted, transfer rather than dismissal is the preferred remedy here.

         District courts have broad discretion in deciding whether to transfer a case. A.J. Taft Coal Co. v. Barnhart, 291 F.Supp.2d 1290, 1307 (N.D. Ala. 2003). However, the burden rests on the party invoking transfer to overcome the presumption in favor of the plaintiff's choice of forum. In re Ricoh Corp., 870 F.2d 570, 573 (11th Cir. 1989) (noting that a plaintiff's choice of forum is traditionally given considerable deference). In deciding whether Section 1404(a) transfer is appropriate, the court considers whether (1) there is an adequate alternative forum, (2) the public and private factors weigh in favor of transfer and (3) ...


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