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Ex parte Reed

Supreme Court of Alabama

September 13, 2019

Ex parte Dara Myelia Reed
v.
Dara Myelia Reed In re: Judy Watwood

          Jefferson Circuit Court, CV-18-904442

          PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS

          SELLERS, Justice.

         Dara Myelia Reed petitions this Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Jefferson Circuit Court to vacate its order denying Reed's motion for a change of venue and to enter an order transferring the underlying action to the Marshall Circuit Court. We grant the petition and issue the writ.

         Facts and Procedural History

         On May 22, 2017, a vehicle driven by Reed collided with a vehicle driven by Judy Watwood, at or near the intersection of Gilliam Springs Road Northwest and U.S. Highway 231 in Marshall County. Reed is a resident of Jefferson County. Watwood is a resident of Cullman County. An officer with the Arab Police Department and emergency personnel from Samaritan Medical Services, Inc., responded to the accident.[1] Samaritan Medical Services transported Watwood from the accident scene to Huntsville Hospital in Madison County for medical treatment. According to the accident report, two persons witnessed the accident; one of the witnesses is a resident of Marshall County and the other is a resident of Blount County.

         On November 5, 2018, Watwood sued Reed in the Jefferson Circuit Court, alleging negligence and wantonness and seeking damages for her accident-related injuries. Reed filed a motion for a change of venue under Alabama's forum non conveniens statute, § 6-3-21.1, Ala. Code 1975, requesting that the action be transferred to Marshall County in the interest of justice. Watwood filed a response in opposition to the motion for a change of venue. Following a hearing on the matter, the circuit court denied the motion. Reed then filed this petition.

         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 National Sec. Ins. Co., 727 So.2d 788, 789 (Ala. 1998).

         Discussion

         Reed contends that the circuit court exceeded its discretion in denying her motion to transfer the underlying action from Jefferson County to Marshall County under the interest-of-justice prong of Alabama's forum non conveniens statute.

         Alabama's forum non conveniens statute states, in pertinent part:

"With respect to civil actions filed in an appropriate venue, any court of general jurisdiction shall, for the convenience of parties and witnesses, or in the interest of justice, transfer any civil action or any claim in any civil action to any court of general jurisdiction in which the action might have been properly ...

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