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Garrett v. Hanson

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Marshall Division

December 19, 2019

ADRIANNE GARRETT, GARRETT LONDOFF, Plaintiffs,
v.
ERIC HANSON, CHANDRA HANSON, ELIAS HANSON, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          RODNEY GILSTRAP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendants Eric Hanson, Chandra Hanson, and Elias Hanson's (collectively, “Defendants”) 12(b)(3) Motion to Dismiss for Improper Venue or, in the Alternative, Motion to Transfer Venue (the “Motion”). (Dkt. No. 4.) Having considered the same and for the reasons set forth below, the Court is of the opinion that the Motion should be and hereby is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of a car accident between Plaintiffs Adrianna Garrett and Garrett Londoff (“Plaintiffs”) and Defendants-Eric Hanson (“Eric”), Chandra Hanson (“Chandra”), and minor Elias Hanson (“Elias”)-occurring on eastbound Interstate 20 in Shreveport, Caddo Parish, Louisiana. (Dkt. No. 1 at 2.) At the time of the accident, Elias-a 15-year-old with a Montana learner's permit-was driving the Defendants' vehicle. (Id. at 2-3.) On September 11, 2019, Plaintiffs filed the present suit alleging negligence against Elias, vicarious liability against Eric and/or Chandra, and negligent entrustment by Eric and Chandra. (Id. at 3-6.) Plaintiffs allege in their complaint that Chandra negligently entrusted the Defendant's vehicle to Elias while in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas. (Id. at 6.)

         Defendants filed the present Motion to Dismiss for Improper Venue or, in the Alternative, Motion to Transfer Venue on October 18, 2019. (Dkt. No. 4.) Defendants do not appear to dispute that venue is proper in the Eastern District of Texas.[1] Rather they argue that venue is not proper in the Marshall Division and that the case should have been brought in the Tyler Division. (See id. at ¶¶15, 17, 30; Dkt. No. 9 at ¶6.)

         II. 12(b)(3) DISMISSAL FOR IMPROPER VENUE

         Defendants allege that venue in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas is improper because, according to the Defendants, the appropriate judicial division is the Tyler Division of the Eastern District of Texas, given that the Plaintiffs live in the Tyler Division. As noted above, Defendants appear to agree that the Eastern District of Texas is a proper judicial district.[2]

         Plaintiffs respond that “28 U.S.C. § 1391 defines venue as being proper in a specific district but does not further refine the propriety of venue to a specific division.” (Dkt. No. 7 at 1.)

         The Court concludes that the Marshall Division is an appropriate venue under 28 U.S.C. § 1391. This issue presents a relatively straightforward question of statutory interpretation. “The task of statutory interpretation begins and, if possible, ends with the language of the statute.” United States v. Lauderdale Cty., 914 F.3d 960, 964 (5th Cir. 2019). “[W]hen decoding language, judges ‘must be attentive not to words standing alone but to surrounding structure and other contextual cues that illuminate meaning.'” Weaver v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 939 F.3d 618, 626 (5th Cir. 2019). “The meaning of a statutory provision ‘is often clarified by the remainder of the statutory scheme . . . .'” Ramos-Portillo v. Barr, 919 F.3d 955, 960 (5th Cir. 2019) (quoting Util. Air Regulatory Grp. v. EPA, 573 U.S. 302, 321 (2014)). Thus, courts “ought to ‘consider the entire text, in view of its structure and of the physical and logical relation of its many parts.'” In re Lopez, 897 F.3d 663, 670 n.5 (5th Cir. 2018) (quoting Antonin Scalia & Bryan A. Garner, Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts 167 (2012)).

         The foregoing principles make clear that venue is proper in the Marshall Division. The venue statute which governs this case does not distinguish between judicial divisions, and instead is addressed to only judicial districts. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391. Specifically, § 1391 provides that a “civil action may be brought in” one of the following three locations:

(1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the State in which the district is located;
(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) if there is no district in which an action may otherwise be brought as provided in this section, any judicial district in which any defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction with respect to such action.

Id. (emphasis added). Defendants do not seem to dispute that venue is proper in the Eastern District of Texas under § 1391.[3] Instead, Defendants seek to impose an additional requirement on the statutory text-a requirement related to judicial divisions-in an effort to compel transfer from the Marshall Division to the Tyler Division. Defendants' argument is misplaced.

         For the past thirty years, the federal courts have uniformly held that because § 1391 “does not distinguish between the divisions of a judicial district, venue properly lies in any division” of an otherwise-appropriate judicial district. Griffin v. Tyson Foods, Inc., No. 2:16-cv-734-JRG-RSP, 2017 WL 345926, at *2 (E.D. Tex. Jan. 24, 2017); see also, e.g., Battee v. Ben E. Keith Co., No. 2:17-cv-00161-JRG-RSP, 2017 WL 1832043, at *1 (E.D. Tex. May 5, 2017); McKee v. Grantham, No. 2:16-cv-00184-RSP, 2016 WL 3567038, at *1 (E.D. Tex. July 1, 2016); Walker v. IBEW, No. 2:15-cv-01283-JRG-RSP, 2015 WL 5783802, at *2 (E.D. Tex. Sept. 30, 2015); Monroe v. Walmart Stores Tex., LLC, No. 2:11-cv-329-JRG, 2012 WL 3887006, at *2 (E.D. Tex. Sept. 6, 2012); Johnson v. Merchant, 628 F.Supp.2d 695, 696-97 (N.D. Miss. 2009) (“‘[I]f there is no local rule, venue need be set only on a district basis, disregarding divisions.” (citing Jordon v. Bowman Apple Prods. Co., 728 F.Supp. 409 (W.D. Va. 1990))); Crumrine v. NEG Micon USA, Inc., 104 F.Supp.2d 1123, 1126 (N.D. Iowa 2000) (“Furthermore, in 1988, Congress repealed the federal statute that formerly established ‘divisional venue' in civil cases in federal court, 28 U.S.C. § 1393 . . . When 28 U.S.C. § 1393 was repealed . . . the concept of divisional venue disappeared.” (quoting Bishop v. C & P Trucking Co., Inc., 840 F.Supp. 118, 119 (N.D. Ala. 1993) (quotation marks omitted))).

         The text of § 1391 only imposes restrictions on the judicial district in which a case may be filed; it does not impose any restriction on the division within such district where a case may be filed. See Griffin, 2017 WL 345926, at *2. The statute which previously imposed a divisional venue requirement, 28 U.S.C. § 1393, was repealed more than thirty years ago in 1988. Thus, under § 1391, a division is only improper when it falls within an improper judicial district. Id. ...


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