Stalter v. RWI TRANSPORTATION LLC et al
MEMORANDUM ORDER. Signed by Magistrate Judge Roy S. Payne on 10/3/2016. (ch, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
RWI TRANSPORTATION LLC, RONALD
§ Case No. 2:16-cv-00667-JRG-RSP
This matter comes before the Court upon the Motion to Transfer Venue filed by
Defendant RWI Transportation LLC (“RWI”), requesting that this case be transferred to the
Sherman division of the Eastern District of Texas pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Dkt. No. 8.
For the reasons explained below, the Court will DENY Defendant’s Motion to Transfer Venue.
Plaintiff Charles Stalter filed this diversity suit against Defendants Ronald Hannibal and
his employer, RWI, based on a trailer-truck accident that occurred at a Pilot Travel Center in
Sulphur Springs, Texas, on November 11, 2014. Sulphur Springs is located in Hopkins County
within the Sherman division. 28 U.S.C. § 124(c)(3). Plaintiff resides in Florida, Defendant
Hannibal resides in Pennsylvania, and Defendant RWI is a Kentucky corporation.
Section 1404(a) provides that “[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 or division
where it might have been brought.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The first step in a Court’s transfer
analysis is deciding “whether the judicial district to which transfer is sought would have been a
district in which the claim could have been filed.” In re Volkswagen AG, 371 F.3d 201, 203 (5th
Cir. 2004) (“Volkswagen I”).
If that threshold is met, the Court then analyzes public and private factors relating to the
convenience of parties and witnesses and the interests of particular venues in hearing the case.
Id. at 203. The private factors are: 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 factors 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 or in the application of foreign law. Id.
The plaintiff’s choice of venue is not a factor in this analysis. In re Volkswagen of Am.,
Inc., 545 F.3d 304, 314–15 (5th Cir. 2008) (“Volkswagen II”). Rather, the plaintiff’s choice of
venue contributes to the defendant’s burden of proving that the transferee venue is “clearly more
convenient” than the transferor venue. Volkswagen II, 545 F.3d at 315. Although the private and
public factors apply to most transfer cases, “they are not necessarily exhaustive or exclusive,”
and no single factor is dispositive. Volkswagen II, 545 F.3d at 314–15.
Timely motions to transfer venue should be “should [be given] a top priority in the
handling of [a case]” and “are to be decided based on ‘the situation which existed when suit was
instituted.’” In re Horseshoe Entm’t, 337 F.3d 429, 433 (5th Cir. 2003).
RWI relies upon the fact that the trailor-truck accident occurred within the Sherman
division. This fact might ordinarily have some import in a tort case involving non-party
fact witnesses, but it has minimal relevance here. Hopkins County sits on the eastern edge
of the Sherman division and borders the western edge of the Marshall division. The accident
occurred at a Pilot Travel Center that is only about 20 miles closer to the Sherman courthouse
than it is to the Marshall courthouse. This results in a neutral transfer analysis.
With respect to the private Volkswagon I factors, neither party identifies any specific
witness or source of proof other than party witnesses in Florida and Pennsylvania, and RWI
Transportation in Kentucky. Although the Sherman courthouse is about 170 miles from the
Marshall courthouse (satisfying Volkswagon I’s 100-mile threshold for weighing the third factor
regarding witness costs, see 371 F.3d at 204-05) RWI Transportation fails to identify a
specific witness that would be inconvenienced. Witnesses local to Sulphur Springs would suffer
minimal, if any, inconvenience from driving at most a few additional miles.
Much of the parties’ dispute appears to be about airports. RWI argues that Sherman is
more convenient and less costly than Marshall because of Sherman’s proximity to “major
airports and transportation services.” Dkt. No. 6 at 5. The Sherman courthouse is about 70 miles
from the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, but as Plaintiff explains, Marshall is only
about 40 miles the Shreveport, Louisiana airport. As for cost, RWI did not submit evidence
suggesting that travel to Sherman would be less costly than travel to Marshall. Finally, the Court
does not find RWI’s arguments concerning the public interest factors persuasive. Accordingly,
RWI has not established that Sherman is “clearly more convenient” than Marshall. See
Volkswagen II, 545 F.3d at 315.
The Court finds, based on the consideration of both private and public interest factors,
that the Marshall division is just as convenient to the parties and witnesses as the Sherman
Division. The Court therefore DENIES RWI’s Motion to Transfer Venue.
SIGNED this 3rd day of January, 2012.
SIGNED this 3rd day of October, 2016.
ROY S. PAYNE
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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