Beal v. Honeywell International, Inc.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER: it is hereby ORDERED as follows: 1) The 26 Motion to Dismiss Plf's Complaint for Improper Venue is DENIED but, in the interest of justice, pursuant to 28 USC § 1406(a), the case is due to be transferred; 2) The Clerk is DIRECTED to take the necessary steps to transfer this case to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. Signed by Honorable Judge W. Harold Albritton, III on 12/8/2015. (wcl, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
DARLA R. BEAL, etc.
HONEYWELL INTERNATIONAL , INC.,
Individually and d/b/a HONEYWELL
AEROSPACE, a Division of Honeywell,
Case No. 2:15cv580-WHA
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This cause is before the court on a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint for Improper
Venue (Doc. #26).
The Plaintiff, Darla R. Beal (“Beal”) filed a Complaint in this case on August 10, 2015,
bringing a claim for negligence (Count I), a claim under the Alabama Extended Manufacturer
Liability Doctrine (Count II), and claim for breach of warranty (Count III). In the Complaint,
Beal alleges diversity subject matter jurisdiction and that venue is proper under 28 U.S.C.
§1391(b)(1) and (c)(2) because Defendant Honeywell International, Inc. (“Honeywell”) maintains
a registered agent in this district and division and is subject to personal jurisdiction here.
The Defendant filed a Motion Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(3), asking the court to dismiss the
case for improper venue.
For reasons to be discussed, the Motion to Dismiss is due to be denied, but the court will
order transfer in the interest of justice.
II. STANDARD FOR MOTION TO DISMISS FOR IMPROPER VENUE
Rule 12(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a party may assert a
defense of improper venue by motion. Pursuant to § 1391(b), venue is proper in:
(1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are
residents of the State in which the district is located;
(2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions
giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the
subject of the action is situated; or
(3) if there is no district in which an action may otherwise be brought as
provided in this section, any judicial district in which any defendant is
subject to the court's personal jurisdiction with respect to such action.
28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). If venue is improper, the district court “shall dismiss, or if it be in the
interest of justice, transfer such case to any district or division in which it could have been
brought.” 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a).
According to the allegations of the Complaint, Plaintiff Beal is the surviving spouse of
Cerea Beal, Jr. and a resident of North Carolina. Cerea Beal, Jr. was the pilot of a UPS Airbus
A300-600F, which impacted the ground and crashed on its approach to Runway 18 at the
Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Birmingham, Alabama. Cerea Beal, Jr. died
as a result of this crash.
The Complaint alleges that the aircraft was equipped with an Enhanced Ground Proximity
Warning System (“EGPWS”) designed and manufactured by Honeywell. The EGPWS is alleged
to have lacked the ability to provide timely "Sink Rate," "Pull Up," or "Too Low Terrain" warning
alerts to the flight crew of the UPS Flight 1354 as it flew the instrument approach to Runway 18 at
the airport. (Doc. #1 at ¶32). The EGPWS is manufactured by Honeywell in the State of
Washington. The Complaint alleges that Honeywell is organized under the laws of Delaware and
has its principal place of business in Delaware and is a domiciliary of either Delaware or New
The Complaint states that Honeywell is authorized to do business, and was doing business
in this judicial district. The Complaint pleads that Honeywell has a registered address in
Montgomery, Alabama, which is within the Middle District of Alabama.
Honeywell relies on 28 U.S.C. §1391(d)1 in moving for dismissal, and points out that it
only has a registered agent in Alabama. Honeywell argues that it does not maintain sufficient
contacts with this district to authorize the exercise of personal jurisdiction. Honeywell states that
the crash occurred in Birmingham, AL which is in the Northern District of Alabama, and that the
conduct alleged relative to the EGPWS occurred in the State of Washington. Honeywell has
provided the Declaration of John Eller to establish that Honeywell does not maintain any offices or
manufacturing facilities in the Middle District of Alabama, and that the EGPWS at issue has had
no contact with the Middle District of Alabama. (Doc. #26-2).
While Beal does not explicitly concede that venue is not proper here, in her response brief
she does not contest these factual points. Beal argues instead that venue is proper in the Northern
For purposes of venue under this chapter, in a State which has more than one judicial district and
in which a defendant that is a corporation is subject to personal jurisdiction at the time an action is
commenced, such corporation shall be deemed to reside in any district in that State within which
its contacts would be sufficient to subject it to personal jurisdiction if that district were a separate
State, and, if there is no such district, the corporation shall be deemed to reside in the district within
which it has the most significant contacts.
28 U.S.C. §1391(d).
District of Alabama pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1391(b)(2).
As set forth above, under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2), venue is proper in any “judicial district in
which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred.” “The
statute's language is instructive,” so that “[o]nly the events that directly give rise to a claim are
relevant. And of the places where the events have taken place, only those locations hosting a
‘substantial part’ of the events are to be considered.” Jenkins Brick Co. v. Bremer, 321 F.3d 1366,
1371 (11th Cir. 2003).
Beal argues that the interest of justice is served by transfer to the Northern District of
Alabama, citing 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a), which provides that “[t]he district court of a district in which
is filed a case laying venue in the wrong division or district shall dismiss, or if it be in the interest
of justice, transfer such case to any district or division in which it could have been brought.”
Beal’s position is that because a claim for wrongful death under Alabama law must be commenced
within two years, and the time period cannot be tolled, if the court were to dismiss her Complaint,
her claims would be barred. Beal also argues that the Northern District of Alabama is the most
convenient transferee district because the crash and resulting investigation occurred there. Beal
alternatively states that the case could be transferred to the Western District of Washington.
In Goldlawr, Inc. v. Heiman, 369 U.S. 463 (1962), the Supreme Court explained that
Congress enacted § 1406(a) to “avoid[ ] the injustice which had often resulted to plaintiffs from
dismissal of their actions merely because they had made an erroneous guess with regard to the
existence of some elusive fact of the kind upon which venue provisions often turn.” Id. at 466.
The plaintiff in Goldlawr would have suffered an injustice had the court dismissed its case because
the statute of limitations had run on the majority of its claims. See id.
Honeywell argues against a transfer, arguing that the standard for transfer in the interest of
justice has not been met and that the case should be dismissed. Honeywell cites to Nuckols v.
Stevens, No. 2:14cv705-WKW, 2014 WL 5197205 (M.D. Ala. Oct. 14, 2014), for the proposition
that transfer is not warranted if the plaintiff fails to show she made an erroneous guess as to an
elusive fact. One of the dispositive factors in the Nuckols decision, however, was that the statute
of limitations would not bar the plaintiff’s claim if the case were dismissed. Id. at *4.
Honeywell also disputes that Beal’s claims are time-barred, pointing out that the State of
Washington has a three year statute of limitations for products liability and a three year statute for
The issue of whether the statute of limitations would bar Beal’s claim if the case were
dismissed is a complicated one. Although Honeywell argues that applying conflict of laws
principles, Washington’s three-year statute would apply in the instant case, without further
briefing from the parties on Washington law, the court is not persuaded that that conclusion can be
definitively drawn. In a case in which a wrongful death action was brought in Washington but the
State of Kansas was the place of the accident and death, the Washington court looked to each
state’s relationship with the case and then considered each state’s interest in the case, before
concluding the Washington law applied. See Johnson v. Spider Staging Corp., 55 P.2d 997
(Wash. 1976). It is unclear to this court how the factors would be balanced in this case by a
Washington court. It also appears that the mere fact that the statute of limitations has passed in a
forum is not a factor in the conflict of laws analysis. Rice v. Dow Chem. Co., 875 P.2d 1213, 1219
(Wash. 1994) (stating “[w]e follow a number of courts in other jurisdictions which have not been
deterred from applying the statute of repose of the nonforum state, even where such application
would bar plaintiff's claim from accruing and where plaintiff's claim would not have been barred
under forum law.”).
Honeywell also cites to Manley v. Engram, 755 F.2d 1463, 1472 (11th Cir. 1985), for the
proposition that §1406 is not intended to “sanction open and blatant forum-shopping by plaintiffs
who knowingly file suit in their preferred forum without a good faith belief that venue is proper
there.” Honeywell disputes that the Northern District of Alabama is a convenient forum, stating
that neither party is a resident of Alabama, and stating that National Transportation and Safety
Board accident-related documents are posted on the internet.
While Beal has not offered an explanation for why her case was filed in the Middle District
of Alabama, nothing before the court indicates she lacked a good faith belief that venue was proper
here, given that she pled facts in her Complaint regarding Honeywell’s registered agent in
Alabama. Because the court cannot conclude based on the record that Beal’s claims will not be
time-barred if the court were to dismiss her Complaint the court finds that, in the interest of justice,
this case should be transferred to the Northern District of Alabama, where the crash occurred and
For the reasons discussed, it is hereby ORDERED as follows:
1. The Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint for Improper Venue is DENIED but, in
the interest of justice, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ' 1406(a), the case is due to be transferred.
2. The Clerk is DIRECTED to take the necessary steps to transfer this case to the United
States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.
Done this 8th day of December, 2015.
/s/ W. Harold Albritton__________________
W. HAROLD ALBRITTON
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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