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Brandner v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 19, 2018

MICHAEL BRANDNER, JR.
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE CO., ET AL.

          RULING AND ORDER

          BRIAN A. JACKSON, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the Motion to Transfer (Doc. 31) filed by Defendant, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. ("State Farm"), seeking to transfer this action to the Eastern District of Louisiana. Plaintiff, Michael Brandner, Jr., opposes the motion (Doc. 51). Oral argument is not necessary. For the following reasons, the Motion to Transfer is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, and his two daughters, all residents of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, were involved in a vehicular accident in Jefferson Parish. (Doc. 1-4 at ¶ 3; Doc. 31-1 at p. 2). Defendant, Mirna Velasquez, a resident of Orleans Parish (Doc. 27 at pp. 2-3), allegedly struck the rear of Plaintiff s vehicle while it was at a complete stop. (Doc. 1-4 at ¶¶ 5-7). Plaintiff brought negligence claims in the 19th Judicial District Court, Parish of East Baton Rouge, Louisiana, (Id. at p. 1), which Defendants removed to the Middle District of Louisiana, (Doc. 1). Defendants subsequently filed this motion to transfer the case to the Eastern District.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), "[f]or 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." First, the district court must determine "whether the judicial district to which transfer is sought qualifies under the applicable venue statutes as a judicial district where the civil action 'might have been brought.'" In re Horseshoe Entm't, 337 F.3d 429, 433 (5th Cir. 2003) (per curiam). Second, the district court must determine whether transfer is warranted "[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).

         A district court has "broad discretion in deciding whether to order a transfer." In re Volkswagen of Am., Inc. (Volkswagen II), 545 F.3d 304, 311 (5th Cir. 2008) (en banc) (quoting Balawajder v. Scott, 160 F.3d 1066, 1067 (5th Cir. 1998)). In seeking to change venue, the movant must show "good cause" for the transfer by establishing that the transferee "venue is clearly more convenient than the venue chosen by the plaintiff." Id. at 315. "The 'good cause1 burden reflects the appropriate deference to which the plaintiffs choice of venue is entitled." Id. To make this determination, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit requires consideration of several private and public interests factors. Id. "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, expeditious and inexpensive.'" Id. (quoting In re Volkswagen AG (Volkswagen I), 371 F.3d 201, 203 (5th Cir. 2004)). "The public interest factors are: '(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. (quoting Volkswagen I, 371 F.3d at 203). These factors are "not necessarily exhaustive or exclusive" and "none ... can be said to be of dispositive weight." Id. (citing Action Indus., Inc. v. U.S. Fid. & Guar. Corp., 358 F.3d 337, 340 (5th Cir. 2004)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Initial Determination

         As an initial matter, the Court must determine whether the Eastern District is a venue where the action could have been brought initially. See 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Section 1391(b)(2) provides that "[a] civil action may be brought ... in a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred." All events giving rise to this negligence action occurred in the Eastern District of Louisiana; therefore, the Court will proceed to the next step and determine whether the proposed forum is "clearly more convenient." See Volkswagen II, 545 F.3d at 315.

         B. Private Interest Factors

         i. Ease of access to sources of proof

         The first private interest factor, ease of access to sources of proof weighs in favor of transfer. The accident site and the physical evidence relating to the accident are in the Eastern District. See Rivers v. Union Pac. R.R., No. 16-CV-673, 2017 WL 379447, at *2 (M.D. La. Jan. 26, 2017) (Brady, J.). Although Plaintiff argues that two Defendants, Nautilus and State Farm, have their principal place of business in the Middle District, (Doc. 51 at p. 3), it appears that this statement is incorrect. Both Nautilus and State Farm are out-of-state defendants, and only maintain their designated agents for service of process in Baton Rouge, pursuant to Louisiana law. (See Doc. 1-4 at ¶ 1).

         2. Ability to secure the ...


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