United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Corpus Christi Division
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE
S. MORALES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
are the Motions to Transfer Venue filed by Defendants Louis
Ghoundep Tzemenka Shalo ("Shalo") and Halliburton
Energy Services, Inc. ("Halliburton") on September
23, 2019, and September 27, 2019, respectively. (D.E. 6, 9).
Plaintiff filed a response on October 10, 2019. (D.E. 10).
Defendants Shalo, Halliburton, and W&W Energy Services,
Inc. ("W&W Energy") supplemented the motion to
transfer on October 25, 2019, (D.E. 13), and Plaintiff
supplemented her response on November 1, 2019 (D.E. 14). The
parties do not dispute that the Corpus Christi Division of
the Southern District of Texas is an appropriate venue for
this case. Defendants seek a transfer, however, to the
Houston Division under 28 U.S.C. § 1404. (D.E. 6, p.
1-2; D.E. 13, p. 2). As discussed below, the Court finds that
the motions to transfer should be GRANTED.
are ordinarily allowed to select whatever forum they consider
most advantageous (consistent with jurisdictional and venue
limitations), [and the Supreme Court has] termed their
selection 'the plaintiffs venue privilege.'"
Atl. Marine Constr. Co., Inc. v. U.S. Dist.
Court for W. Dist. of Tex., 571 U.S. 49, 63 (2013)
(citing Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 635
(1964)). However, 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) permits the
transfer of any civil action "[f]or the convenience of
parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice . .. to any
other district or division where it might have been
brought." A § 1404 analysis applies "as much
to transfers between divisions of the same district as to
transfers from one district to another." In re
Radmax, Ltd., 720 F.3d 285, 288 (5th Cir. 2013) (per
curiam). If the civil action "might have been
brought" in the transferee venue, then a § 1404(a)
motion to transfer venue should be granted if "the
movant demonstrates that the transferee venue is clearly more
convenient." In re Volkswagen of Am., Inc.
(Volkswagen II), 545 F.3d 304, 315 (5th Cir. 2008).
"[T]he Fifth Circuit has enumerated a number of factors
which, although they are neither exhaustive of exclusive,
guide the Court's exercise of discretion." City
of El Cenizo v. Texas, No. SA-17-CV-404-OG, 2017 WL
6402990, at *2 (W.D. Tex. Aug. 15, 2017) (citing
Volkswagen II, 545 F.3d at 315). The Court considers
the following private and public interest factors first
outlined in Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501,
(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; ... (4) all other practical problems that make
trial of a case easy, expeditious and inexpensive[;] ... (5)
the administrative difficulties flowing from court
congestion; (6) the local interest in having localized
interests decided at home; (7) the familiarity of the forum
with the law that will govern the case; and (8) the avoidance
of unnecessary problems of conflict of laws [or in] the
application of foreign law.
Volkswagen II, 545 F.3d at 315 (internal numbering
altered); see also In re Radmax, 720 F.3d at 288.
According to the Fifth Circuit, however, balancing these
factors involves more than "a raw counting of the
factors in each side, weighing each the same and deciding
transfer on the resulting 'score.'" In re
Radmax, 720 F.3d at 290 n.8. The Fifth Circuit also
instructed courts to be cautious when denying transfers where
only the plaintiffs choice weighs in favor of denying the
transfer. Id. at 290 (noting that "[t]he main
guidance from the en banc court in Volkswagen IF is
that district courts should be "fully aware of the
inadvisability of denying transfer where only the plaintiffs
choice weighs in favor of denying transfer and where the case
has no connection to the transferor forum and virtually all
of the events and witnesses regarding the case ... are in the
case, the parties do not dispute that, under 28 U.S.C. §
1391, this case "might have been brought" in the
Houston division of this District. Thus, transfer pursuant to
§ 1404(a) is appropriate if Defendants demonstrate that
the Houston division is "clearly more convenient"
than the Corpus Christi division in light of the
Gilbert factors listed above. See Volkswagen
II, 545 F.3d at 315. As explained below, the Court finds
that the factors favor transferring this case to the Houston
lawsuit stems from a motor vehicle collision in New Mexico
and involves four parties. (D.E. 10, p. 1). Plaintiff is a
resident of New Mexico. (D.E. 1, p. 1). Two of the
defendants, Shalo and Halliburton, are residents of Houston,
Texas, and the third defendant, W&W Energy, resides in
Odessa, Texas. (D.E. 1, p. 1-2). Defendants argue that
Houston is more convenient than Corpus Christi to litigate
this case because travel between West Texas and Houston is
easier than between West Texas and Corpus Christi, no
witnesses or evidence are in Corpus Christi, and the only tie
to Corpus Christi that this case holds is that Plaintiffs
counsel is located here. (D.E. 6, p. 2-4). Nevertheless,
Plaintiff argues that Defendants have not carried their
burden in showing Houston is clearly more convenient than
Corpus Christi. (D.E. 10, p. 5-9; D.E. 14, p. 4-6).
the Gilbert factors, first, the Court sees no
difference between the ease of access to evidence in Houston
than to evidence in Corpus Christi. Defendants contend that
there is no evidence in Corpus Christi (D.E. 6, p. 3), but
neither is there any in Houston.Indeed, Defendants agree that
"all evidence in this matter would likely be in New
Mexico, as that is where Plaintiff is domiciled, where
Plaintiff is receiving medical care, and . . . where the
accident occurred." (D.E. 6, p. 3). Taking Defendants at
their word, the Court finds that the first factor is neutral.
the costs of attendance for willing witnesses, Defendants do
not detail which witnesses they are expecting to
call. Plaintiff argues that the cost of
attendance for witnesses is immaterial because the key
non-party witnesses that Plaintiff names are in New Mexico or
West Texas, and counsel will have to travel to the witnesses
for depositions regardless of whether Corpus Christi or
Houston holds this case. (D.E. 10, p. 7; D.E. 14, p. 5). Be
that as it may, the witnesses would have to appear in Corpus
Christi for the trial. The fact that flights from New Mexico
and West Texas to Houston are shorter in duration, more
numerous, more frequent, and less expensive than those to
Corpus Christi weighs in favor of transfer. (D.E. 6, p. 3;
D.E. 13-2, p. 3-33). As such, the Court finds the third
factor weighs in favor of transfer.
all other practical problems that make trial of a case easy
and inexpensive, Defendants contend that litigating this case
in Corpus Christi would increase the overall cost for them.
(D.E. 6, p. 3; D.E. 13, p. 3-5). Attached to Defendants'
Supplement are two affidavits. The first, from Travis A.
Johnson at Halliburton, states that "travel within the
Houston area would be substantially less costly than travel
to Corpus Christi" for matters related to this
litigation, and "the time and expense to attend
depositions, hearings, mediation and trial, would be
exponentially increased" if personnel had to travel to
Corpus Christi. (D.E. 13-1, p. 1). The second, from Brian
Wallace at W&W Energy, states that "significantly
less time, effort, and expense will be required" to
attend proceedings in Houston. (D.E. 13-2, p. 2). Wallace
attached flight schedules to his affidavit showing the
frequency and duration of flights from Midland-Odessa to both
Houston and Corpus Christi. There are no non-stop flights to
Corpus Christi from Midland-Odessa but several each day to
Houston from Midland-Odessa. (D.E. 13-2, p. 3-33).
insists that pre-trial travel is immaterial because
depositions will likely take place in New Mexico and West
Texas regardless of which division has this case. (D.E. 10,
p. 7). She also attached an affidavit explaining that she
chose Corpus Christi because she has family and a doctor in
San Antonio, and the Houston traffic frightens her since her
accident. (D.E. 14-1).
case moves toward trial, Defendants will have to make court
appearances in Corpus Christi. So if the Court denies the
transfer of this case, two parties must travel to Corpus
Christi from Houston. Conversely, no party will have to
travel from Corpus Christi to Houston if the Court grants
transfer,  and it is much less time intensive for
W&W Energy to travel to Houston than to Corpus Christi.
But the Court finds that much of the weight favoring transfer
for Defendants is countered by Plaintiffs concerns ...