Davila v. Alcoa Inc.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER denying 80 Motion for Inter-Divisional and Intradistrict Transfer.(Signed by Judge Nancy F Atlas) Parties notified.(TDR, 4)
United States District Court
Southern District of Texas
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
ANTHONY DAVILA, et al.,
ALCOA WORLD ALUMINA LLC,
January 09, 2017
David J. Bradley, Clerk
CIVIL ACTION NO. V-14-0051
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This case is before the Court on the Motion for Inter-Divisional and Intradistrict
Transfer (“Transfer Motion”) [Doc. # 80] filed by Plaintiffs Anthony and Michelle
Davila. Defendant Alcoa World Alumina LLC (“Alcoa”) filed a Response [Doc.
# 82], and Plaintiffs filed a Reply [Doc. # 83].1 Having reviewed the record and the
applicable legal authorities, the Court denies the Transfer Motion.
Anthony Davila (“Davila”), a resident of Port Lavaca, Texas, worked as a
supervisor for W-S Industrial Services, Inc. (“WSI”). Alcoa hired WSI to perform
industrial cleaning services at Alcoa’s facility in Point Comfort, Texas. Port Lavaca
and Point Comfort are located in the Victoria Division of the Southern District of
Defendant, without seeking or obtaining leave of Court, filed a Sur-Reply [Doc. # 84].
Texas. On October 23, 2013, Davila was seriously injured while working for WSI at
the Alcoa facility.
On December 31, 2013, Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit in state court in Calhoun
County, Texas. Defendant filed a timely Notice of Removal [Doc. # 1], removing the
case to the Victoria Division, in which Calhoun County is located. On November 29,
2016, Plaintiffs filed the pending Transfer Motion seeking transfer of this case from
the Victoria Division to the Houston Division.2 The Transfer Motion has been fully
briefed and is now ripe for decision.
APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARD
“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 . . ..”3 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Subject to the provisions of
Plaintiffs state in the Transfer Motion that the Court “gave the parties the option of
trying this case in either division.” See Transfer Motion, ¶ 2. Consistent with the
Court’s general practice in cases over which it presides in the Victoria Division, the
Court gave the parties the option of agreeing to try this case in the Houston Division.
The Court has not, however, indicated that it would transfer the case to Houston over
the objection of either party.
The preliminary issue in the § 1404(a) analysis is whether the movant seeks transfer
to a district or division where it might have been brought. See 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).
This case was removed from the District Court of Calhoun County, Texas. Venue in
a removed case is governed by the removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1441. See Polizzi v.
Cowles Magazines, Inc., 345 U.S. 663, 665 (1953). Such cases are removed “to the
district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place
§ 1404(a), district courts have “broad discretion in deciding whether to order a
transfer.” In re Volkswagen of Am., Inc., 545 F.3d 304, 311 (5th Cir. 2008) (en banc).
The party seeking to transfer venue bears the burden to “satisfy the statutory
requirements and clearly demonstrate that a transfer is ‘[f]or the convenience of
parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice.’” Id. at 315. Transfer is appropriate
if the movant demonstrates that the transferee venue is a clearly more convenient
venue. See In re Radmax, Ltd., 720 F.3d 285, 288 (5th Cir. 2013); In re Volkswagen,
545 F.3d at 315. To “clearly demonstrate” that transfer is proper, the movant must
support the transfer request with detailed sworn statements addressing the relevant
§ 1404(a) factors discussed below. See Jelec USA, Inc. v. Safety Controls, Inc., 2006
WL 3358896, *5 (S.D. Tex. Nov. 17, 2006) (Miller, J.).
To determine whether the movant has satisfied the burden to demonstrate good
cause for a transfer of venue, the Court considers certain private and public interest
factors. See In re Volkswagen, 545 F.3d at 315. The private interest 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,
where such action is pending.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Nonetheless, a party may
request a discretionary transfer to a more convenient division. 28 U.S.C. § 1404(b).
expeditious and inexpensive.” Id. The Court also considers the public interest
factors: “(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. These factors “are not
necessarily exhaustive or exclusive” and “none . . . can be said to be of dispositive
Additionally, the Court “must also give some weight to the plaintiffs’ choice
of forum.” Atl. Marine Constr. Co., Inc. v. United States Dist. Court for Western Dist.
of Tex., __ U.S. __, 134 S. Ct. 568, 581 n.6 (2013); see also Weber v. PACT XPP
Tech., AG, 811 F.3d 758, 767 (5th Cir. 2016).
Plaintiffs’ Choice of Venue
In this case, Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit in Calhoun County, in the Victoria
Division of the Southern District of Texas, where they resided at the time and where
they currently reside. Now, more than three years after the lawsuit was filed in a state
court in the Victoria Division, Plaintiffs seek to change their choice of venue and have
the case transferred to Houston. Particularly in light of Plaintiffs’ status as movant,
the Court will give some weight to their original choice of venue.
Private Interest Factors
Plaintiffs concede that the relative ease of access to sources of proof is a neutral
factor, and that there are unlikely to be unwilling witnesses who are required to testify
at trial. As a result, these factors do not weigh in favor of transfer.
Plaintiffs have presented their attorney’s Declaration stating generally that there
are willing witnesses who reside in Victoria, in Houston, and in other cities. See
Declaration of Jane S. Leger [Doc. # 80-1], ¶ 3. Leger states that Davila’s treating
physicians and expert witnesses are located in Houston and Victoria, but she does not
state that any of the Houston witnesses are expected to testify live at trial. Leger states
that WSI’s “former safety man” was living in Beaumont when he was deposed, but
she does not state where he lives currently or that he will testify live at trial. Leger
states that “Mr. Contreras” and other members of Davila’s WSI crew have “relocated”
but does not identify any crew member’s current residence. The general statements
in the Leger Declaration do not demonstrate that Houston is clearly more convenient
than Victoria for willing trial witnesses.
Plaintiffs argue that the cost for willing witnesses to attend trial would be less
if the case were transferred to Houston. Although it would clearly be less expensive
for those willing witnesses who reside in Houston, it would become more expensive
for those willing witnesses who reside in Victoria. As to the witnesses who reside in
cities other than Victoria or Houston, Plaintiffs argue that the airport in Houston is
larger and there are more hotel options in Houston. Plaintiffs have not, however,
demonstrated that the total cost to travel to Victoria and to stay in a hotel there during
trial would be less for those witnesses if the case were transferred to Houston. Indeed,
there are a variety of comfortable hotels in Victoria that are conveniently located to
the federal courthouse. It is unlikely that these hotels in Victoria are more expensive
than similar hotels in Houston. This factor does not weigh in favor of transfer.
The final private interest factor relates to practical issues that would make the
trial more easy, expeditious, and inexpensive. Plaintiffs argue that it will be easier for
counsel to travel to Houston, and note that the Court’s chambers and staff are located
Initially, the Court notes that the relevant consideration is the
convenience of the parties and witnesses, not the convenience of counsel and the
Court. Moreover, the Court finds that the trial can be handled more expeditiously in
Victoria, for the convenience of the parties and witnesses, because the Court will not
be required to handle matters on its Houston docket during the trial. The Court’s time
can be dedicated to the trial, thereby shortening the number of days needed for the
trial. This factor weighs against transfer.
The private interest factors regarding ease of access of proof, the availability
of obtaining unwilling witnesses at trial, and the cost for willing witnesses to attend
trial are neutral and do not favor transfer. The trial can be handled more expeditiously
in Victoria and, as a result, the practical issues factor weighs against transfer.
Public Interest Factors
Most of the public interest factors are either neutral or inapplicable in this case
because this Court will retain the case on its docket whether the case remains in
Victoria or is transferred to Houston. Those factors – the administrative difficulties
flowing from court congestion, the familiarity of the forum with the law that will
govern the case, and the avoidance of unnecessary problems of conflict of laws or
foreign law – do not favor transfer to the Houston Division.
The local interest in having localized disputes decided at home, however,
weighs heavily against transfer. Plaintiffs reside in the Victoria Division, Defendant
resides in the Victoria Division, and Plaintiff Davila was injured in the Victoria
Division. Some, but not all, counsel in the case, reside in Houston. Some, but not all,
of Plaintiffs’ witnesses reside in Houston. Otherwise, the Houston Division has no
relationship to this case. The Court finds that the Victoria Division has the local
interest, and that it would be inequitable to require citizens of the Houston Division
to expend their time to serve as jurors in this Victoria dispute.
Most of the public interest factors are neutral and do not weigh in favor of
transfer. The local interest factor, however, weighs heavily against transfer.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
Plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that the Houston Division is clearly more
convenient than the Victoria Division, and have failed to demonstrate that transfer
would benefit the parties and witnesses. Accordingly, in the exercise of the Court’s
discretion, it is hereby
ORDERED that Plaintiffs’ Motion for Inter-Divisional and Intradistrict
Transfer [Doc. # 80] is DENIED.
SIGNED at Houston, Texas, this 9th day of January, 2017.
NAN Y F. ATLAS
STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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