United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING UNIVERSITY OF
SOUTH ALABAMA'S MOTION TO DISMISS AND SAFECO'S MOTION
TO TRANSFER VENUE
GUIROLA, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
THE COURT are the  Motion to Dismiss for Lack
of Jurisdiction filed by the defendant University of South
Alabama (âUSAâ) and the  Motion to Change Venue filed by
the plaintiff, Safeco Insurance Company of Illinois, in this
interpleader action. The parties have finished briefing the
Motions. After reviewing the submissions of the parties, the
record in this matter, and the applicable law, the Court
finds that both motions should be granted.
February 10, 2016, Arthur Campbell was involved in a motor
vehicle collision with five other vehicles near the
intersection of Highway 49 South and Mississippi Highway 53
in Harrison County, Mississippi. The accident allegedly
caused the deaths of three persons - Concepcion Matute,
Rosalinda Matute, and Julisa Matute. Several others claim
they suffered injuries in the accident. These individuals and
the estates of the decedents claim that Campbell's
negligence caused the accident.
time of the accident, Campbell and his wife were insured by
an automobile liability policy issued by Safeco. The policy
limits are $50, 000 per person and $100, 000 per accident.
Faced with numerous claims that exceeded the policy limits,
Safeco filed this interpleader action and deposited $100, 000
into the Court registry. The defendants to the interpleader
action included the Estates of the three decedents, the
persons who allegedly suffered injuries in the accident, and
several medical providers and insurers who claimed to have
Safeco's Motion, the Court entered an  Order
discharging Safeco from liability and dismissing Safeco with
prejudice as a party to this interpleader action. Several
defendants were also dismissed from the action. After
numerous lengthy negotiations, the remaining parties reached
a tentative settlement, pending Chancery Court approval of
the settlement in the various estates and guardianship
proceedings. However, USA Medical Center had previously filed
a probate claim in the Chancery Court of Harrison County in
the Estate of Julisa Matute, seeking to recover payment for
its treatment of Julisa Matute's accident-related
injuries. The Chancery Court found that USA was not entitled
to any recovery from the settlement proceeds and USA
afterwards, Arthur Campbell filed a Motion to join USA as a
defendant to this interpleader action. Campbell noted that
USA had threatened to sue Safeco, himself, and others in
Alabama. This Court granted the Motion. The Court also
granted Safeco's request to be reinstated as a party to
this interpleader action and permitted Safeco to amend its
Complaint to name USA as a defendant.
filed the present Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction
on the basis of sovereign immunity. Safeco then filed the
present Motion to Transfer Venue to Alabama. USA has not
opposed the Motion to Transfer Venue, but several defendants,
including the Estates of Julisa, Rosalinda, and Concepcion
Matute, opposed the transfer of venue.
Eleventh Amendment of the United States Constitution
The Judicial power of the United States shall not be
construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced
or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of
another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign
State. The Fifth Circuit has explained that “[t]he
Eleventh Amendment bars citizens of a state from suing their
own state or another state in federal court . . . .
Raj v. La. State Univ., 714 F.3d 322, 328 (5th Cir.
2013). “The state need not be the named party in a
federal lawsuit, for a state's Eleventh Amendment
immunity extends to any state agency or entity deemed an
‘alter ego' or ‘arm' of the state.”
Perez v. Region 20 Educ. Serv. Ctr., 307 F.3d 318,
326 (5th Cir. 2002). Similarly, the Alabama Constitution
provides that “the State of Alabama shall never be made
a defendant in any court of law or equity.” Ala. Const.
Art. I, § 14.
Medical Center is a hospital operated by the University of
South Alabama, a state university. See generally
Sarradett v. Univ. of S. Ala. Med. Ctr., 484 So.2d 426
(Ala. 1986). The Alabama Supreme Court has held that
“[t]he operation of a hospital by a State university
falls within the realm of sovereign immunity.”
Health Care Auth. v. Davis, 158 So.3d 397, 427 (Ala.