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Turner v. The Cincinnati Insurance Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Waco Division

January 14, 2020

BLAKELEY TURNER, DAMON BROOKS, DEANDRA SIMPSON, SHAMIYAN WALTON, MICHAEL HARRIS, AND ANITA SIMPSON, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE CINCINNATI INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO TRANSFER

          ALAN D ALBRIGHT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant Cincinnati Insurance Company's (“CIC” or “Defendant”) Opposed Motion to Transfer (ECF No. 2), Plaintiffs Blakeley Turner, Damon Brooks, Deandra Simpson, Shamiyan Walton, Michael Harris, and Anita Simpson's (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) Response (ECF No. 4), and Defendant's Reply (ECF No. 5). After having reviewed the parties' briefs, case file, and applicable law, the Court has determined that Defendant CIC's Motion to Transfer should be DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On September 20, 2019, Plaintiffs brought suit in the 170th Judicial District Court of McLennan County, Texas. Def.'s Not. of Removal and Corporate Disclosure Statement (hereinafter “Notice of Removal”), ECF No. 1. Plaintiffs allege breach of contract claims against CIC relating to a final judgment Plaintiffs obtained in a state court negligence suit against ATI Enterprises, Inc., CIC's insured. Id. at 1. Plaintiffs allege CIC wrongfully denied Plaintiffs' claim for insurance coverage. See ECF No. 1, Ex. 2 ¶¶ 18-27. CIC removed the action to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Notice of Removal at 2.

         After removing the action to this Court, CIC filed a Motion to Transfer under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Def. Cincinnati Insurance Company's Opposed Mot. to Transfer Venue (hereinafter “Mot. to Transfer”), ECF No. 2. In CIC's Motion to Transfer, CIC argues transfer to the Northern District of Texas is proper because: (1) the lawsuit could have been originally filed in the proposed transferee venue and (2) the convenience of the parties and interests of justice weigh in favor of transfer. Id. at 4. On December 10, 2019, Plaintiffs filed a response to CIC's Motion. Pls' Opp'n to Def. The Cincinnati Insurance Company's Mot. to Transfer Venue (hereinafter “Resp.”), ECF No. 4. On December 17, 2019, CIC filed a reply. Def. Cincinnati Insurance Company's Reply in Support of Mot. to Transfer (hereinafter “Reply”), ECF No. 5.

         II. 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 . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Courts maintain discretion to adjudicate motions to transfer venue on an individualized, case-by-case basis that considers convenience and fairness. Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp. 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988).

         The movant in a motion to transfer bears the burden of establishing good cause for the proposed transfer. Humble Oil & Refining Co. v. Bell Marine Serv., Inc., 321 F.2d 53, 56 (5th Cir. 1963); see also In re Volkswagen of Am., 545 F.3d 304, 315 (5th Cir. 2008) (“Volkswagen II”). Good cause, when viewed in the context of § 1404(a), means the movant must clearly demonstrate that a transfer is for the convenience of parties and witness, as well as in the interest of justice, in order for the movant to support its claim for a transfer. Volkswagen II, 545 F.3d at 315. Quite simply, when the movant demonstrates the transferee venue is clearly more convenient by weighing certain private and public interest factors, good cause exists, and the district court should grant the motion. Id. However, if the movant fails to show the proposed venue is clearly more convenient than the plaintiff's chosen venue, the plaintiff's choice should prevail. Id.

         Courts have adopted the private and public interest factors first enunciated in Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501 (1947) to determine whether a § 1404 venue transfer is clearly more convenient and in the interest of justice. Volkswagen II, 545 F.3d at 315. The relevant 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.” Id. (internal quotes omitted). The relevant 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 or in the application of foreign law. Id. (internal quotes omitted). These factors are not necessarily exhaustive nor exclusive. Id. Moreover, a court may cannot say any of the factors alone have dispositive weight. Id.

         Importantly, one listed factor from Gulf Oil carries far less weight in a § 1404 transfer. Gulf Oil stated an interest to consider (and the one most likely pressed) was the private interest of the plaintiff regarding its choice of forum. See Gulf Oil, 330 U.S. at 508. However, Gulf Oil was a fourm non conveniens case, which inherently implicates potential dismissal of the plaintiff's case. See generally Id. Because transfer through § 1404(a) avoids dismissal unlike forum non conveniens, the choice of forum factor set out in Gulf Oil receives far less weight from courts. Humble Oil, 321 F.2d at 56. The difference is such because the “good cause” burden discussed above “reflects the appropriate deference to which the plaintiff's choice of venue is entitled.” Volkswagen II, 545 F.3d at 315.

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Court now turns to examine Defendant CIC's § 1404(a) arguments. CIC argues the Northern District of Texas is both a proper and more convenient venue for this action. Mot. to Transfer at 8-12. CIC must show that the balance between the private interests and public interests described by the Supreme Court in Gulf Oil clearly establishes the Northern District of Texas as a more convenient venue than the present one. See Volkswagen II, 545 F.3d at 315.

         In order to determine whether CIC has clearly shown the transferee venue is more convenient, consequently demonstrating good cause, the Court must weigh the private and public interest factors catalogued in Gulf Oil. If, when added together, the relevant private and public interest factors are in equilibrium, or even if they do not clearly lean in favor of the transferee venue, the motion must be denied. Volkswagen II, 545 F.3d at 315. Once again, the Court's ultimate inquiry is which forum will best serve the convenience of the parties and the interests of justice. Koster v. Am. Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Co., 330 U.S. 518, 527 (1947). In this case, the relevant factors do not support CIC's motion to transfer this case.

         A. Private Interest Factors Do Not Clearly Establish the Northern District of ...


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