United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. BORDEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
before the court is the Motion to Transfer Venue (Doc. 25)
filed by Defendant New Hampshire Insurance Company
(“NHIC”). With the parties' briefing now
complete, NHIC's motion is ripe for the court's
review. After careful consideration of the parties'
filings and the relevant law, and for the reasons stated
below, the court concludes that the Motion to Transfer Venue
(Doc. 25) is due to be DENIED. This case will remain pending
within the Northern Division of the Middle District of
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
court has subject matter jurisdiction over the claims in this
lawsuit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. NHIC and
Stephenson do not contest personal jurisdiction, nor do they
contest that venue is proper in the Middle District of
Alabama, and the court finds adequate allegations to support
both jurisdiction and venue. The instant dispute, however,
centers on whether the lawsuit was filed in the proper
division within the Middle District.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Michelle Stephenson asserts claims for underinsured motorist
(“UIM”) benefits, breach of contract, and
wrongful death relating to a motor vehicle accident
involving her husband, Gerald W. Stephenson, who is deceased.
Docs. 1 & 22. The following is a recitation of the facts
as alleged in the complaint and amendment to complaint.
February 24, 2017, Gerald Stephenson was driving southbound
on County Road 49 in Geneva County near a four-way stop. Doc.
1 at 2. At the same time, Donald Harry Rhein was driving
eastbound at an unlawful speed. Doc. 1 at 2. Rhein failed to
halt at the stop sign and collided with Stephenson's
vehicle, causing Stephenson's vehicle to be struck by
another vehicle driven by Lindsay Sparks. Doc. 1 at 2. All
three vehicles caught on fire. Doc. 1 at 2. The collision
seriously injured Stephenson and he ultimately died as a
result of his injuries. Doc. 1 at 2.
time of the collision, Gerald Stephenson was employed by
GroSouth, Inc. (“GroSouth”), a company located in
Montgomery, Alabama, and was driving a vehicle issued to him
by his employer. Doc. 1 at 3. That vehicle was covered by
NHIC under an insurance policy issued to GroSouth. Doc. 1 at
4. Stephenson asserts that NHIC breached its duty under the
terms of the contract to tender its policy limits after the
wrongful death of her husband. Doc. 22 at 4. NHIC denies that
it had a specific duty to tender the policy limits, that it
breached this duty, and that Rhein acted negligently and
wantonly. Doc. 28 at 4-6.
filed this case in the Northern Division of the Middle
District of Alabama, and she contends that this is the
appropriate venue for this action because it is the venue
where NHIC issued the subject insurance policy. Doc. 41. NHIC
argues that the Southern Division, where the collision
occurred, is the appropriate venue. Doc. 38.
is appropriate in a judicial district where any defendant
resides if all defendants are residents of the State in which
the district is located; in the judicial district where a
substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to
the claim occurred; or, if there is no district in which a
civil action may otherwise be brought, in any judicial
district where the defendant is subject to the court's
personal jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). “Upon
motion, consent or stipulation of all parties, any action,
suit or proceeding of a civil nature or any motion or hearing
thereof, may be transferred, in the discretion of the court,
from the division in which pending to any other division in
the same district.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(b). While
federal courts enjoy discretion in venue determinations,
Fedonczak v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 2010 WL
1856080 at *1 (M.D. Ala. May 4, 2010), a plaintiff's
choice of forum is due considerable deference. Whitford
v. Sub-Line Assocs., Inc., 2015 WL 13646717, at *1 (N.D.
Ala. Dec. 18, 2015). “In evaluating a request to
transfer venue, a plaintiff's choice of forum should not
be disturbed unless it is clearly outweighed by other
considerations.” Callwood v. Phenix City,
Ala., 2016 WL 1122681, at *2 (M.D. Ala. Mar. 22, 2016).
As a result, the movant bears the burden to “show that
the forum it suggests is more convenient or that litigating
the case there would be in the interest of justice.”
Id. (internal citations omitted).
question of whether to transfer venue is a two-pronged
inquiry, first requiring that the alternative venue be one in
which the action could have been brought. C.M.B. Foods,
Inc. v. Corral of Middle Ga., 396 F.Supp.2d 1283, 1286
(M.D. Ala. 2005); 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). “The second
prong requires courts to balance private and public factors
to determine if transfer is justified.”
Callwood, 2016 WL 1122681, at *1. In making this
determination, courts have considered a number of factors:
(1) the convenience of the witnesses; (2) the location of
relevant documents and the relative ease of access to sources
of proof; (3) the convenience of the parties; (4) the locus
of operative facts; (5) the availability of process to compel
the attendance of unwilling witnesses; (6) the relative means
of the parties; (7) a forum's familiarity with the
governing law; (8) the weight accorded a plaintiff's