Hines et al v. Cooper Tire & Rubber Company
ORDER granting 7 Motion to Change Venue. Signed by Neal B. Biggers on 4/18/2011. (llw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
CLEMMIE HINES AND GLORIA HINES,
Individually and On Behalf of Their
Deceased Daughter, Mona Hines, et. al.
CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:10CV283-B-D
COOPER TIRE & RUBBER COMPANY
ORDER TRANSFERRING CASE
This cause comes before the court upon the defendant’s motion to change venue and
transfer this case to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana. Upon
due consideration of the motion, response, exhibits, and supporting and opposing authority, the
court is ready to rule.
The plaintiffs bring this products liability action alleging that the tread of a defective tire
manufactured by the defendant, Cooper Tire & Rubber Company, separated and caused a deadly
automobile accident on November 28, 2009, on Interstate 10 in Ascension Parish, Louisiana.
The plaintiffs’ vehicle collided with another vehicle, entered the median, and rolled several
times. As the vehicle rolled, thirteen passengers were completely ejected. The accident resulted
in the deaths of five children and one adult.
Title 28 U.S.C. § 1404 provides for a change of venue in civil actions. The section
states: “For the convenience of 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). To determine whether venue is proper in a particular district, the court
looks to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a), which states:
A civil action wherein jurisdiction is founded only on diversity of citizenship
may, except as otherwise provided by law, be brought in (1) a judicial district
where any defendant resides, if all defendants reside in the same State, (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) a judicial district in which any defendant is subject to
personal jurisdiction at the time the action is commenced, if there is no district in
which the action may otherwise be brought.
The Fifth Circuit has provided further guidance in determining whether a transfer of venue is
proper. According to the court, a determination of “the convenience of parties and witnesses”
mentioned in Section 1404(a) “turns on a number of private and public interest factors, none of
which are given dispositive weight.” In re Volkswagen AG, 371 F.3d 201, 203 (5th Cir. 2004).
“The private concerns include: (1) the relative ease of access to sources of proof; (2) the
availability of compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses; (3) the cost of
attendance for willing witnesses; and (4) all other practical problems that make trial of a case
easy, expeditious, and inexpensive.” Id. The public concerns to be considered are: “(1) the
administrative difficulties flowing from court congestion; (2) the local interest in having
localized interests decided at home; (3) the familiarity of the forum with the law that will govern
the case; and (4) the avoidance of unnecessary problems of conflict of laws of the application of
foreign law.” Id.
In the present case, venue is proper in the Middle District of Louisiana pursuant to
Section 1391(a)(2) because it is the “judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or
omissions giving rise to the claim occurred.” In determining whether to transfer this case, the
court has examined the factors set forth by the Fifth Circuit and finds that all of the private
factors point to the Middle District of Louisiana. All persons involved in the accident were
Louisiana residents. The subject vehicle, a 2000 GMC Safari minivan, owned by Gloria Hines
and operated by Mona Hines, was licensed and registered in Louisiana. The accident was
investigated by the Louisiana State Police. Nine of the passengers involved in the accident were
transported to two Louisiana hospitals – Our Lady of the Lake Hospital and Baton Rouge
General Hospital – both located in Ascension Parish. The Ascension Parish coroner examined
decedents at the scene, and the bodies were taken to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital Morgue in
Ascension Parish. The subject vehicle was towed by a local towing company. The defendant
has named 118 individuals, all of whom appear to be resident citizens of Louisiana and all of
whom, the defendant alleges, have relevant information about the accident based on their
presence at the scene or their involvement afterwards. The locus of operative facts is clearly
Ascension Parish, Louisiana. In fact, the sole connection between this case and the Northern
District of Mississippi is the fact that the tire at issue was manufactured at the defendant’s plant
in Tupelo. The relative ease of access to witnesses, physical evidence, and relevant documents –
indeed all aspects of convenience of the parties and witnesses in this case – weigh heavily in
favor of transfer.
The public factors also point to Louisiana. Under Mississippi’s choice of law
jurisprudence, the laws of the state that “has the most significant relationship to the occurrence
and the parties” should apply. Church v. Massey, 697 So. 2d 407, 410 (Miss. 1997). Factors to
be taken into account include “the place where the injury occurred, the place where the conduct
causing the injury occurred, the domicile, residence, nationality, place of incorporation and place
of business of the parties, [and] the place where the relationship, if any, between the parties is
centered.” Id. In the case sub judice, it is clear that the laws of Louisiana should apply; thus, the
third and fourth public factors – the familiarity of the forum with the law that will govern the
case and the avoidance of unnecessary conflict of laws problems in the application of foreign law
– weigh in favor of transfer.
The other public factors favor transfer as well. Louisiana clearly has the predominant
interest in this case. As mentioned above, the only connection between this action and the
Northern District of Mississippi is the location of the plant where the subject tire was
manufactured. This tenuous nexus to the State of Mississippi does not warrant this court’s
retention of the case, and it should be transferred.
For the foregoing reasons, the court finds that the defendant’s motion to change venue is
well taken and should be granted.
It is, therefore, ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the defendant’s motion to change
venue is GRANTED, and this case is hereby TRANSFERRED to the United States District
Court for the Middle District of Louisiana.
This, the 18th day of April, 2011.
/s/ Neal Biggers
NEAL B. BIGGERS, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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