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Burton v. The Travelers Ins. Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana

January 27, 2017

BRENDA BURTON
v.
THE TRAVELERS INS. CO., ET AL

          RULING AND ORDER

          BRIAN A. JACKSON, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendant Justin Akins's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction (Doc. 4) and a Motion to Dismiss for Improper Venue or Alternatively Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Section 1406 or to Transfer Pursuant to 1404 (Doc. 5) filed by all Defendants. Defendant Justin Akins seeks to have all claims filed against him dismissed on the basis that personal jurisdiction does not exist in courts located in the State of Louisiana. (Doc. 4 at p. 1). Further, all Defendants seek to have claims against them either dismissed or transferred to another district on the ground that venue is improper in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana. (Doc. 5 at p. 1). For reasons explained fully herein, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction (Doc. 4) is DENIED and Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Improper Venue or Alternatively Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Section 1406 or to Transfer Pursuant to 1404 (Doc. 5) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises from an automobile accident that occurred on January 24, 2015. (Doc, 5 at p. 2). The accident occurred on the Mississippi River Bridge, a bridge connecting Vicksburg, Mississippi to Delta, Louisiana. (Doc. 11 at p. 1). Johnny Burton, deceased husband of Plaintiff Brenda Burton, was traveling from Delta, Louisiana to Vicksburg, Mississippi when his vehicle was struck from behind by a vehicle driven by Defendant Justin Akins, an employee of Defendant Kansas City Southern Railway Company. (Id. at 1-2).

         The claims are brought against Defendant Atkins, The Kansas City Southern Railway Co., as well as The Travelers Ins. Co., Travelers Property Cas. Corp., The Travelers Indemnity Co. ("The Travelers"). (Doc. 1 at p. 1). Justin Atkins is and was a resident of Oklahoma on the day of the accident. (Doc. 5-1, at p. 3). The Kansas City Southern Railway Co. is domiciled in Missouri and has its principle place of business in Missouri. (Id. at 4). It is licensed to do business in Louisiana, and its principle place of business is in Shreveport-which is situated within the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana ("Western District"). (Id.). The Travelers are part of a Connecticut insurer that also has its principle place of business in Connecticut. (Id.). It is licensed to do business in Louisiana, and its principle place of business in Louisiana is situated in Caddo Parish, in the confines of the Western District. (Id.)

         The Mississippi River Bridge-on which the accident occurred-is less than 2 miles long. (Doc. 11 at p. 5). Delta, Louisiana is situated within the Western District. While an exact location of the accident is unknown, the Court is satisfied that Plaintiff has, for purposes of the motions sub judice, presented prima facie evidence that the collision likely occurred in Louisiana.

         Plaintiff, the wife of Decedent, filed this suit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana. (Doc. 1). Subsequently, Defendant Atkins filed a motion to have the action dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction, and all Defendants filed a motion to dismiss or transfer the action to the Western District or to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, Jackson, (Doc. 5-1 at p. 9).

         II. Discussion

         A. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction

         "When a nonresident defendant presents a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing the district court's jurisdiction over the nonresident." Stuart v. Spademan, 772 F.2d 1185, 1192 (5th Cir.1985). "He need not, however, establish personal jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence; prima facie evidence of personal jurisdiction is sufficient." Wyatt v. Kaplan, 686 F.2d 276, 280 (5th Cir. 1982) (internal citation omitted). "Moreover, on a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, uncontroverted allegations in the plaintiffs complaint must be taken as true, and conflicts between the facts contained in the parties' affidavits must be resolved in the plaintiffs favor for purposes of determining whether a prima facie case for personal jurisdiction exists." Wilson u. Belin, 20 F.3d 644, 648 (5th Cir. 1994) (quoting Bullion v. Gillespie, 895 F.2d 213, 217 (5th Cir. 1990)). In other words, the Court must determine, in a light favorable to Plaintiff, whether personal jurisdiction exists.

         "Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a federal district court in a diversity case may exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant residing outside the state in which it sits only to the extent permitted by state law." Wyatt v. Kaplan,, 686 F.2d 276, 279 (5th Cir. 1982). "The Louisiana long-arm statute authorizes the exercise of jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant as far as is permitted by due process." Lancer Ins. Co. v. Patel, 102 F.Supp.2d 704, 707 (W.D. La. 2000) (citing La.Rev.Stat.Ann. § 13:3201(B)). Thus, the question here is whether the exercise of jurisdiction in the Middle District comports with due process, which only "permits a court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a foreign defendant when (1) that defendant has purposefully availed himself of the benefits and protections of the forum state by establishing minimum contacts with the forum state and (2) the exercise of jurisdiction over that defendant does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." Clemens v. McNamee, 615 F.3d 374, 378 (5th Cir. 2010).

         First, Defendants have established minimum contacts with the forum state to support specific jurisdiction. "Specific jurisdiction is appropriate when the nonresident defendant's contacts with the forum state arise from, or are directly related to, the cause of action." Wilson, 20 F.3d at 647. "Even a single purposeful contact is sufficient to satisfy the due process requirement of 'minimum contacts' when the cause of action arises from the contact." Thompson v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 755 F.2d 1162, 1172 (5th Cir. 1985). Here, the contacts with Louisiana arise from Defendant Atkins act of traveling through Louisiana and, while traveling from Louisiana towards Mississippi, committing acts or omissions that allegedly led him to collide with the back of Decedent near the Louisiana border. (Doc. 11 at p. 5). Thus, the contact with the forum are directly related to the collision that forms the cause of action, and the first prong of due process is met.

         Second, the exercise of jurisdiction over this case does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. In making this determination, courts measure the following factors; "[1] whether the forum state has any special interest in exercising jurisdiction, and [2] whether the convenience of the parties favors litigating in another state." Austin v. North American Forest Products, 656 F.2d 1076, 1090 (5th Cir.1981). Both factors weigh in favor of recognizing that personal jurisdiction is properly exercised by courts situated in Louisiana.

         As to the first factor of traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice, states have an "exceptionally strong interest in providing a forum for the redress of injuries to its residents occurring within its borders." DeMelo v. Toche Marine, Inc.,711 F.2d 1260, 1272 (5th Cir. 1983). Because Plaintiff presents prima facie evidence that the accident occurred in ...


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