United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
JOSHUA T. LEWIS
MARQUETTE TRANSPORTATION COMPANY, LLC, ET AL
ORDER & REASONS
the Court is Defendants' Motion to Change Venue, R. Doc.
14. Plaintiff responds in opposition. R. Doc. 20. Having
heard oral argument and considered the parties' briefs
and the applicable law, the Court issues this Order &
case arises from injuries Plaintiff Joshua Lewis sustained
when he slipped and fell while exiting the vessel to the
outside deck of the M/V STEVE RICHOUX. R. Doc. 1 at 2.
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Marquette Transportation
Company, LLC (“Marquette”) and Marquette
Transportation Company Gulf Inland, LLC (“Marquette
Gulf Inland”) owned and operated the M/V STEVE RICHOUX.
R. Doc. 1 at 2. Plaintiff worked for Marquette Gulf Inland
and was assigned to the M/V STEVE RICHOUX in the capacity of
relief mate. R. Doc. 1 at 2. Plaintiff alleges that the deck
of the vessel was not properly coated or covered with a
nonskid surface. R. Doc. 1 at 2. Plaintiff Lewis alleges that
he sustained a knee injury when he fell. Plaintiff alleges
damages of past and future mental and physical pain and
suffering, past and future lost wages, past and future
medical expenses, found, loss of enjoyment of life and any
and all other related damages and expenses allowed by law. R.
Doc. 1 at 3. Plaintiff also demands maintenance and cure. R.
Doc. 1 at 3. Plaintiff brings this claim under the Jones Act
and general maritime law. R. Doc. 1 at 1. Plaintiff has also
filed an amended complaint requesting judgment because the
Defendant has not answered the complaint. R. Doc. 4. The
Court granted Defendants an extension of time to answer the
complaint. R. Doc. 9.
answer the complaint generally denying the allegations. R.
Doc. 11. Defendants also allege the following defenses:
failure to state a claim, contributory negligence, assumption
of risk, failure to mitigate damages, and preexisting
conditions. R. Doc. 11. Defendants also aver that Lewis is
not a Jones Act seaman. R. Doc. 11 at 4. Defendants request
that the Court transfer venue because Plaintiff executed a
Venue Selection Agreement mandating that any future suit
against Marquette arising out of the matters alleged in the
Complaint and First Amending Complaint must be brought in
Kentucky federal or state court. R. Doc. 11 at 5.
has voluntarily dismissed its claims against Marquette. R.
move the Court to transfer the case to the Western District
of Kentucky or dismiss without prejudice. R. Doc. 14.
Defendants allege that Plaintiff signed a forum-selection
agreement covering personal injury/Jones Act claims. R. Doc.
14-1 at 2. Defendants further allege that Plaintiff confirmed
this agreement in deposition testimony. R. Doc. 14-1 at 2.
responds in opposition. R. Doc. 20. Plaintiff argues that the
forum-selection agreement only applies to Defendant Marquette
and not to Defendant Marquette Gulf Inland. R. Doc. 20 at 1.
LAW & ANALYSIS
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 or to any district or division to which all parties
have consented.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Thus, under
28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), there exists a threshold inquiry of
whether the suit originally could have been brought in the
venue where the action is sought to be transferred. In re
Volkswagen AG, 371 F.3d 201, 203 (5th Cir. 2004)
(“In applying the provisions of § 1404(a), we have
suggested that the first determination to be made is whether
the judicial district to which transfer is sought would have
been a district in which the claim could have been
filed.”). After this has been established, the court
must consider whether the transfer would serve the
convenience of the parties and witnesses and the interest of
court is afforded broad discretion in deciding whether good
cause exists such that transfer pursuant to Section 1404(a)
will serve the interest of justice. “The moving party
bears the burden of demonstrating that the case should be
transferred to an alternate forum.” See Laitram
Corp. v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 120 F.Supp.2d 607, 608
(E.D. La. 2000). “[U]nless the balance is strongly in
favor of the defendant . . ., the Plaintiff's choice of
forum is not to be disturbed.” In re
McDonnell-Douglas Corp., 647 F.2d 515, 517 (5th Cir.
it is clear that the balance is strongly in favor of
Plaintiff's choice of forum. The relevant events took
place in Louisiana, all the witnesses are in Louisiana, ...