Indiana Insurance Company v. Gies et al
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION by Senior Judge Thomas B. Russell on 1/4/2017; re 20 MOTION to Change Venue filed by D.C., Katie Chamberlain ; a separate order shall issue.cc:counsel (KJA) [Transferred from kywd on 1/5/2017.]
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
CIVIL ACTION NO. 5:16-CV-00159-TBR
INDIANA INSURANCE CO.
CHRISTOPHER GIES, et al.
This matter is before the Court upon a motion to transfer venue by
Defendants Katie Chamberlain and D.C., her minor child. [DN 20.] Plaintiff
Indiana Insurance Company (IIC) has responded, [DN 23], and the time for filing a
reply has passed.
Fully briefed, Defendants’ motion is ripe for review, and for the
following reasons, it is GRANTED.
I. Facts and Procedural History
A catastrophic three-vehicle traffic accident on March 27, 2016 severely
injured Katie Chamberlain and her minor son, D.C.
On that date, Chamberlain,
D.C., and Haley Arnold were traveling northbound on the AA Highway in Bracken
County in Chamberlain’s 2000 Oldsmobile Alero.
[DN 1 at 5.]
While they were
stopped to make a left turn, Chamberlain’s vehicle was rear-ended by a 2003
Chrysler Town & Country Minivan driven by Christopher Gies. [Id.]
along with Gies were Analeen Jones, Gies’ girlfriend, and Jones’ five minor children.
The collision pushed Chamberlain’s Oldsmobile into oncoming traffic,
whereupon it was struck by a tractor-trailer owned by Paschall Truck Lines (PTL)
and driven by Donald McGowen.
As this case is in its infancy, the full
extent of the parties’ damages is unknown to the Court; Chamberlain claims that
she suffered “severe permanent damage to her legs,” and that her son sustained a
brain injury. [DN 20 at 3.]
Analeen Jones, the minivan’s owner, had recently purchased the vehicle from
Advantage Used Cars.
[DN 1 at 5.]
The car dealership was insured by Indiana
Massachusetts. [Id. at 3, 5.] IIC brought this statutory interpleader action
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1335 seeking to determine to whom the proceeds of
Advantage Used Cars’ $300,000 insurance policy should be distributed. See [id. at
IIC named as defendants all parties involved in the accident: Gies, Jones, and
Jones’ minor children, all residents of Pendleton County, Kentucky; Chamberlain
and D.C., residents of Robertson County, Kentucky; Arnold, a resident of Bracken
County, Kentucky; McGowen, a Harris County, Texas resident; Paschall Truck
Lines, a Kentucky corporation headquartered in Calloway County, Kentucky; and
Great West Casualty Company, PTL’s Nebraska insurance company headquartered
in Dakota County, Nebraska. [Id. at 3-4.]
IIC filed this action in the Western District of Kentucky, Paducah Division,
the district and division that embraces Calloway County, PTL’s headquarters.
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), Chamberlain and D.C. now seek to transfer venue to the
Eastern District of Kentucky, Northern Division at Covington, the district and
division in which all the occupants of Jones’ minivan and Chamberlain’s sedan
They point out that ten of the thirteen interpleader defendants, including
six minor children, reside in the Eastern District, while only one defendant, PTL,
resides in the Western District. See [DN 20 at 2.]
Additionally, the accident
occurred in the Eastern District, so all pertinent evidence and witnesses are located
IIC opposes Chamberlain and D.C.’s motion, contending that the
convenience of the parties and the interests of justice do not weigh in favor of
transfer. See [DN 23 at 2.]
II. Legal Standard
For “the convenience of the parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a
district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it
might have been brought.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).
In deciding whether to transfer a
case, § 1404(a) requires a two-part analysis. The Court must first determine if the
action could have originally been filed in the transferee district. Van Dusen v.
Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964).
If so, the Court must then determine “whether,
on balance, a transfer would serve ‘the convenience of the parties and witnesses’
and otherwise promote ‘the interest of justice.’” Atl. Marine. Constr. Co. v. U.S.
Dist. Court for the W. Dist. of Tex., __ U.S. ___, 134 S. Ct. 568, 581 (2013) (quoting
28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)).
The second step in the Court’s analysis requires it to evaluate various
private- and public-interest factors, typically “giv[ing] some weight to the
[plaintiff’s] choice of forum.” Id.
Factors relevant to the parties' private interests
include (1) the convenience of the parties, (2) the convenience of the witnesses, (3)
the accessibility of relevant evidence, (4) the availability of compulsory process to
make reluctant witnesses testify, (5) the cost of obtaining willing witnesses'
testimony, and (6) any other practical problems that make trial of a case easy,
expeditious, and inexpensive. Reese v. CNH Am. LLC, 574 F.3d 315, 320 (6th Cir.
2009); see also Atl. Marine, 134 S. Ct. at 581 n.6. Relevant public-interest factors
include (1) administrative difficulties flowing from court congestion, (2) the local
interest in deciding the controversy at home, and (3) in a diversity case, the interest
of having the trial in a forum familiar with governing law. Atl. Marine, 134 S. Ct.
at 581 n.6.
While this list of factors is non-exhaustive, it is illustrative of the
issues typically considered by the courts of this Circuit.
“As the permissive
language of the transfer statute suggests, district courts have ‘broad discretion’ to
determine when party ‘convenience’ or ‘the interest of justice’ make a transfer
appropriate.” Reese, 574 F.3d at 320.
The movant bears the burden of showing
that transfer is appropriate. Boiler Specialists, LLC v. Corrosion Monitoring
Servs., Inc., No. 1:12-CV-47, 2012 WL 3060385, at *2 (W.D. Ky. July 26, 2012)
The Federal Interpleader Act of 1936, 49 Stat. 1096, codified at 28 U.S.C. §§
1335, 1397, 2361, “entitles a person holding money or property, concededly
belonging at least in part to another, to join in a single suit two or more persons
asserting mutually exclusive claims to the fund.” Mudd v. Yarbrough, 786 F.
Supp. 2d 1236, 1240 (E.D. Ky. 2011) (quoting White v. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp., 19
F.3d 249, 251 (5th Cir. 1994)). Among other things, the Act provides that any
interpleader action brought under 28 U.S.C. § 1335 “may be brought in the judicial
district in which one or more of the claimants reside.”
28 U.S.C. § 1397.
Chamberlain and D.C. do not contend that venue in this Court is improper.
Interpleader Defendant PTL, a Kentucky corporation headquartered in Calloway
County, resides in the Western District of Kentucky, Paducah Division. See Local
Rule (LR) 3.1(b)(4). The interpleader venue statute, 28 U.S.C § 1397, thus allows
IIC to maintain its interpleader action in this Court.
However, this Court is not the only court in which IIC could have filed its
Rather, pursuant to § 1397, IIC could have brought this action in any
district where one or more of the interpleader defendants resides.
Chamberlain and D.C. seek transfer to the Eastern District of Kentucky, Northern
Division at Covington, the district and division embracing their Robertson County
home. See LR 3.1(a)(1)(B). That same division also encompasses Pendleton
County, where Gies, Jones, and Jones’ minor children call home, and Bracken
County, Arnold’s residence.
Therefore, § 1397 provides that venue would have also
been proper in the Eastern District of Kentucky, Northern Division at Covington.
Because this action could have originally been filed in the transferee district,
the Court’s next step is to determine “whether, on balance, a transfer would serve
‘the convenience of the parties and witnesses’ and otherwise promote ‘the interest of
justice.’” Atl. Marine. Constr. Co. v. U.S. Dist. Court for the W. Dist. of Tex., __ U.S.
___, 134 S. Ct. 568, 581 (2013) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)). When weighing the
relevant private- and public-interest factors, the Court must ordinarily give some
weight to the plaintiff’s choice of forum. Id.
However, “in an interpleader action
‘where the [p]laintiff is nothing more than a disinterested stakeholder’ that will
likely be dismissed at an early stage of the proceedings, the plaintiff’s initial choice
of forum is not given the same weight and consideration.” Reliastar Life Ins. Co. v.
Damon, Case No. 2:16-cv-304-FtM-29CM, 2016 WL 4254088, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Aug.
12, 2016) (quoting Orsek, P.A. v. Servicios Legales de Mesoamerica A De R.L., 699 F.
Supp. 2d 1344, 1353 (S.D. Fla. 2010)); see also Williams v. Lincoln Nat. Life Ins. Co.,
121 F. Supp. 3d 1025, 1036 (D. Or 2015) (“In considering motions to transfer venue
in interpleader cases, courts do not defer to the third-party plaintiff’s choice of
forum as in other civil actions.”).
Thus, the Court’s first step is to weigh the
appropriate private-interest factors.
Here, those factors weigh in favor of transfer.
All but one of the in-state
interpleader defendants reside in the Covington jury division of the Eastern District
As for the out-of-state parties, Great West Casualty and Donald
McGowen, it should make little difference to them whether they litigate this case in
the Eastern District or Western District. IIC points out that although it named
thirteen interpleader defendants, only Chamberlain, D.C., and PTL have viable
claims against the policy proceeds. See [DN 23 at 3.]
The other parties involved
in the accident, IIC says, sustained no damages and will not be making claims.
Indeed, motions for default are pending against several of these disinterested
But even if IIC’s assertions regarding the other parties prove true,
that still leaves Chamberlain and D.C.’s bodily injury claims in the Eastern District
weighing against PTL’s Western District property damage claims.
IIC also argues that because this is an interpleader action, there should be no
need for the parties or their attorneys to physically appear in the Western District.
[Id. at 4.]
In its complaint, IIC claims that “[under] Kentucky law, the insurance
proceeds should be distributed on a pro rata basis to all Defendants with valid
claims against an insured under the Policy.”
this case is in its infancy.
[DN 1 at 7.]
While that may be true,
The precise nature and extent of the interpleader
defendants’ claims against the insurance proceeds are unknown to the Court at this
time, so it is impossible to say with certainty that the parties and their attorneys
will never have to appear.
And if such an appearance is necessary, Chamberlain
and D.C. have explained that making a trip across the state would impose upon
them significant hardships because of their injuries.
[DN 20 at 3.]
corporation, is unlikely to experience the same difficulty traveling in the opposite
The convenience of the parties weighs in favor of transfer, at least
The other relevant private interest factors also counsel that this case
should be transferred.
Any witnesses and evidence pertaining to this accident will
likely be located in the Eastern District. In short, because this accident occurred in
the eastern part of the state, and a substantial majority of the parties are located
there, the parties will be able to more easily litigate this case in the Eastern
Similarly, the Eastern District has a more heightened local interest in
deciding the controversy at home than does this Court. Atl. Marine, 134 S. Ct. at
The Western District’s only connection to this case is the presence of PTL
within the district. While this is sufficient to render this Court a proper venue, it
does not follow that this is the most appropriate venue.
The Eastern District has a
particularly strong interest in hearing this case; after all, the accident occurred on
its soil, involved several of its residents, and inflicted substantial bodily harm upon
The public interest is also served by transferring this case.1
For the foregoing reasons, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED:
Interpleader Defendants Chamberlain and D.C.’s motion to transfer venue
[DN 20] is GRANTED.
The Clerk is directed to transfer the above-captioned action
to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, Northern
Division at Covington.
An appropriate order will follow.
January 4, 2017
CC: Counsel of Record
The parties have not addressed the issue of administrative difficulties flowing from court
congestion. Atl. Marine, 134 S. Ct. at 581 n.6. Even if they had, the Court sees no reason why this
factor should weigh substantially in either direction.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?