Jones et al v. Total Transportation of Mississippi, LLC et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER -. Signed by Judge Rodney Gilstrap on 3/13/2013. (ch, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
LANA JONES, Individually and As Next
Friend of L A, Minor; CIERA HOPKINS;
CESTA AYERS, As Next Friend of T A,
Minor; and CHANDRIKIAH JONES,
As Next Friend of M J, Minor,
TOTAL TRANSPORTATION OF
MISSISSIPPI, LLC and JAMES TRIPLETT,
CASE NO. 2:12-cv-38-JRG
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Pending before the Court is Defendants Total Transportation of Mississippi, LLC and
James Triplett’s (collectively, “Defendants”) motion to transfer venue. (Dkt. No. 6.) Defendants
contend that the Northern District of Texas (NDTX) is a more convenient forum than the Eastern
District of Texas (EDTX) and seek to transfer venue to the NDTX pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1404(a). In the alternative, Defendants seek to transfer venue from the Marshall Division of
EDTX to the Texarkana Division of EDTX. The Court, having considered this venue motion and
the related briefing, DENIES the Defendants’ motion to transfer venue and finds that the balance
of the “private” and “public” convenience factors demonstrate that the transferee venue is not
“clearly more convenient” than the current venue. See In re Nintendo Co., 589 F.3d 1194, 119798 (Fed. Cir. 2009); In re Genentech, Inc., 566 F. 3d 1388, 1342 (Fed. Cir. 2009); In re TS Tech
USA Corp., 551 F.3d 1315, 1319 (Fed. Cir. 2008); In re Volkswagen of Am., Inc. (Volkswagen
II), 545 F.3d 304, 315 (5th Cir. 2008) (en banc).
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
This case arises out of a three vehicle collision that occurred on January 31, 2011 on
Interstate 30 in Titus County, Texas. Plaintiffs allege they sustained injuries as a result of a
motor vehicle accident and collision with a vehicle driven by Defendant James Triplett and
owned by Defendant Total Transportation of Mississippi, LLC. Plaintiffs allege that the law
enforcement officers that investigated the collision work and/or reside in EDTX, and the
Plaintiffs were initially treated for their injuries in EDTX.
At the time this action was filed, Plaintiff Lana Jones, Minor Plaintiff L A, Plaintiff Ciera
Hopkins, Minor Plaintiff T A and Minor Plaintiff M J (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) were residents
of Dallas County, Texas. Defendant Total Transportation of Mississippi, LLC is a limited
liability company with its principal offices in Richland, Mississippi, and at the time of the
incident, defendant James Triplett was employed by Total Transportation of Mississippi, LLC.
Change of venue is governed by 28 U.S.C § 1404(a). Under § 1404(a), “[f]or the
convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any
civil action to any other district court or division where it might have been brought.” 28 U.S.C. §
1404(a). But a motion to transfer venue should only be granted upon a showing that the
transferee venue is “clearly more convenient” than the venue chosen by the plaintiff. Nintendo,
589 F.3d at 1197; Genentech, 566 F.3d at 1342; TS Tech., 551 F.3d at 1319; Volkswagen II, 545
F.3d at 315.
The initial question in applying the provisions of § 1404(a) is whether the suit could have
been brought in the proposed transferee district. In re Volkswagen AG (Volkswagen I), 371 F.3d
201, 203 (5th Cir. 2004). If the transferee district is a proper venue, then the court must weigh
the relative public and private factors of the current venue against the transferee venue. Id. In
making such a convenience determination, the Court considers several “private” and “public”
interest factors, none of which are given dispositive weight. Id. The “private” interest factors
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.”
Nintendo, 589 F.3d at 1198; Genentech, 566 F.3d at 1342; TS Tech., 551 F.3d at 1319;
Volkswagen II, 545 F.3d at 315. The “public” interest factors include: “(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 [in] the application of foreign law.”
Nintendo, 589 F.3d at 1198; Genentech, 566 F.3d at 1342; TS Tech., 551 F.3d at 1319;
Volkswagen II, 545 F.3d at 315.
Plaintiffs do not dispute that this case could have been brought in the NDTX, so the
initial threshold in this case has been met. An analysis of the public and private interests cited
above must next be considered and weighed.
Private Interest Factors
Relative Ease of Access to Sources of Proof
Analysis of the private interest factors starts with a discussion of relative ease of access to
sources of proof. In this case, many of the sources of proof related to the incident in question are
located in or near Titus County, Texas. For example, the incident forming the basis of this
lawsuit occurred in Titus County, the law enforcement officers that investigated the incident
work and/or reside in Titus County, certain non-law enforcement fact witnesses are situated in
Titus County, and the Plaintiffs were initially treated for their injuries in Titus County. Titus
County is within EDTX and is located less than 75 miles from the Federal Courthouse in
Marshall. Movant argues that since the Plaintiffs are residents of Dallas, this weighs in favor of
transfer. However, Plaintiffs obviously chose to file this action in EDTX when they would easily
have filed it in NDTX. Weighing in favor of transfer is that the Plaintiff’s treating physicians and
medical records are located in Dallas. On balance, the Court finds that this factor weighs against
transfer to NDTX due to the greater number of third-party witnesses and sources proof that are
located in EDTX.
Availability of Compulsory Process
The second private interest factor is the availability of compulsory process to secure the
attendance of witnesses. Defendants’ contend that key third-party witnesses, such as Plaintiffs’
treating physicians, cannot be compelled to testify in person at trial in EDTX and that this factor
therefore favors transfer. The Court disagrees. The incident giving rise to this action occurred in
Titus County, Texas (within EDTX) and more potential third-party witnesses subject to
compulsory processes – including police officers and emergency physicians – are located within
EDTX. Accordingly, this factor weighs against transfer.
Cost of Attendance for Willing Witnesses
The third private interest factor is the cost of attendance for willing witnesses. Defendants
assert the travel costs for all witnesses, treating physicians, experts, and employees of
Defendants who work and/or reside in NDTX favors transfer, but Defendants fail to identify the
names of any specific persons affected. In addition, several non-party witnesses, including the
law enforcement officers that investigated the collision and the doctors who initially treated
Plaintiffs after the incident, reside in and/or work in EDTX. As at least some witnesses will still
have to travel to NDTX if the case is transferred, this factor is neutral.
Other Practical Problems
The last private interest factor is all other practical problems that make trial of a case
easy, expeditious and inexpensive. Defendants point to a potential for delay to try this case more
than 100 miles from the Plaintiffs’ residence, the residence of the witnesses, the Plaintiffs’ likely
places of employment, and where medical records, medical bills and other documents are
located. These points have already been addressed above. As Defendants provide no additional
evidence of a specific nature supporting a potential of delay, such assertions are conclusory at
best. The Court finds that this is not a significant factor and is neutral as regards transfer.
Public Interest Factors
Defendants contend the only public interest factor supporting transfer is the local interest
in having localized issues decided at home; the other public interest factors are neutral.
The Court must consider local interest in the litigation, because “[j]ury duty is a burden
that ought not to be imposed upon the people of a community which has no relation to the
litigation.” Volkswagen I, 371 F.3d at 206 (5th Cir. 2004). Here, the collision that is the basis of
this lawsuit occurred on Interstate 30 in Titus County, which is located in EDTX. Many citizens
of EDTX travel along Interstate 30 on a regular basis and have an actual and substantial interest
in the safety of such a major roadway within their community. So, this factor weighs against
transfer to NDTX.
In conclusion, this is not a case where transfer to NDTX is clearly more convenient.
Defendants seek, in the alternative, to transfer this case from the Marshall Division to the
Texarkana Division of EDTX. This too is not clearly more convenient. Mt. Pleasant is both the
county seat of Titus County and the location of the accident in question. Mt. Pleasant is located
almost equidistant from the Federal Courthouses in Marshall and Texarkana (65.4 and 63.1
miles, respectively). The Court finds no justification for an inter-district transfer of this case to
the Texarkana Division.
The Northern District of Texas is not a clearly more convenient forum than the Eastern
District of Texas. Likewise, there is no material justification for an inter-district transfer as
alternatively requested. For the reasons set forth above, Defendants’ motion to transfer venue is
DENIED in all respects.
SIGNED this 19th day of December, 2011.
So ORDERED and SIGNED this 13th day of March, 2013.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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