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Ex parte KKE, LLC

Supreme Court of Alabama

September 13, 2019

Ex parte KKE, LLC, and Ronny Sanders
v.
KKE, LLC, et al. In re: DeWillis Rivers, as father of Londyn Rivers, deceased, and Keisha Rivers, as the personal representative of the Estates of Tarlanda Davenport, deceased, and Makiyah Davenport, deceased

          (Bibb Circuit Court, CV-17-900094)

          PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS

          MITCHELL, JUSTICE.

         Ronny Sanders and his employer KKE, LLC, seek to transfer a wrongful-death case filed against them in Bibb County to Chilton County, where the automobile accident giving rise to the case occurred. We deny their petition.

         Facts and Procedural History

         KKE is a trucking company with its principal place of business in Bibb County. On June 8, 2016, Sanders, a Bibb County resident, was driving a logging truck owned by KKE eastbound on U.S. Highway 82 in Chilton County when the truck collided with a westbound vehicle being driven by Destini Davis. Davis and her three passengers -- Londyn Rivers, Tarlanda Davenport, and Makiyah Davenport -- were killed in the collision.

         On September 19, 2017, DeWillis Rivers, as the father of Londyn Rivers, and Keisha Rivers, as the personal representative of the estates of Tarlanda and Makiyah Davenport, sued Sanders, KKE, and fictitiously named defendants in the Bibb Circuit Court. The Riverses alleged that Sanders was operating the logging truck in a negligent and wanton manner at the time of the accident and that KKE had acted negligently in hiring, training, and supervising Sanders. Sanders and KKE moved the trial court to transfer the action to the Chilton Circuit Court under § 6-3-21.1, Ala. Code 1975, Alabama's forum non conveniens statute, arguing that the transfer was required both "for the convenience of parties and witnesses" and "in the interest of justice." Sanders and KKE emphasized the following facts in their motion to transfer:

(1) The accident that gave rise to the action occurred in Chilton County;
(2) The Riverses are both residents of Montgomery County;
(3) The Alabama State Trooper who investigated the accident is based in Montgomery County; and
(4) The Chilton Circuit Court had already adjudicated another action stemming from the same automobile accident, an interpleader action filed by the insurer of the vehicle struck by the KKE logging truck for the purpose of determining who should receive the proceeds of the policy covering that vehicle.

         The Riverses opposed the motion to transfer and submitted to the trial court two affidavits from individuals who had witnessed Sanders driving at what they considered to be an excessive rate of speed several minutes before the accident. Both witnesses lived in Montgomery County, where they were employed by the Alabama Department of Transportation. They both stated in their affidavits that they traveled throughout the state as part of their jobs and that there was no significant difference to them between traveling to Bibb County or to Chilton County for the purpose of testifying.

         On September 10, 2018, the trial court denied the motion to transfer without providing a rationale for the denial. On October 22, 2018, Sanders and KKE petitioned this Court for a writ of mandamus directing the trial court to vacate its order denying their motion to transfer and to enter a new order granting that motion.

         Standard of Review

"'The proper method for obtaining review of a denial of a motion for a change of venue in a civil action is to petition for the writ of mandamus. Lawler Mobile Homes, Inc. v. Tarver, 492 So.2d 297, 302 (Ala. 1986). "Mandamus is a drastic and extraordinary writ, to be issued only where there is (1) a clear legal right in the petitioner to the order sought; (2) an imperative duty upon the respondent to perform, accompanied by a refusal to do so; (3) the lack of another adequate remedy; and (4) properly invoked jurisdiction of the court." Ex parte Integon Corp., 672 So.2d 497, 499 (Ala. 1995). "When we consider a mandamus petition relating to a venue ruling, our scope of review is to determine if the trial court [exceeded] its discretion, i.e., whether it exercised its discretion in an arbitrary and capricious manner." Id. Our review is further limited to those facts that were before the trial court. Ex parte American Resources Ins. Co., 663 So.2d 932, 936 (Ala. 1995).'"

Ex parte Southeast Alabama Timber Harvesting, LLC, 94 So.3d 371, 373 (Ala. 2012) (quoting Ex parte National Sec. Ins. Co., 727 ...


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