United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Eastern Division
ORDER GRANTING, IN PART, MOTION TO DISMISS, OR, IN
THE ALTERNATIVE, TO TRANSFER OR STAY ROCKHILL'S
DECLARATORY ACTION AND TRANSFERRING THIS MATTER PURUSANT TO
28 U.S.C. § 1404
THOMAS ANDERSON CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
March 26, 2018, Plaintiff Rockhill Insurance Company filed a
Complaint for Declaratory Judgment against Defendant J.M.
Drilling, LLC. (ECF No. 2.) Defendant has filed a Motion
to Dismiss, or, in the Alternative, to Transfer or Stay
Rockhill's Declaratory Action. (ECF No. 15.) Plaintiff
has responded to the motion (ECF No. 16), and Defendant has
filed a reply to the response. (ECF No. 19.) The Court finds
that the portion of the motion seeking to transfer the action
is well taken and should be GRANTED, and,
therefore, this matter is hereby TRANSFERRED
to the United States District Court for the Western District
of Louisiana, Lafayette Division. All other portions of
Defendant's motion are DENIED.
has not objected to Defendant's recitation of the
background of this matter. Consequently, the Court will adopt
Defendant's version of the events leading up to the
present lawsuit as follows.
declaratory judgment action in this Court arises out of a
Louisiana personal injury case. In that case, John and Amy
Thibodeaux, individually and on behalf of their daughters,
Gabrielle Thibodeaux and Emily Thibodeaux, filed suit against
J.M. Drilling and others as a result of injuries allegedly
sustained by John Thibodeaux during a work-related accident.
The personal injury case was filed in the 15th Judicial Court
for the Parish of Lafayette, Louisiana, on August 24, 2015.
In January 2017, all defendants in the Underlying Thibodeaux
Lawsuit were dismissed except for J.M. Drilling who remained
as the sole defendant.
March 21, 2018, the Louisiana State Court granted the
Underlying Thibodeaux Plaintiffs' partial motion for
summary judgment on liability and also granted a motion in
limine which effectively found no comparative fault against
John Thibodeaux, leaving only the issue of damages for trial.
A jury trial was held March 26-29, 2018, and the jury
returned a verdict in favor of the Underlying Thibodeaux
Plaintiffs in the amount of $3, 698, 118. On April 6, 2018,
the Louisiana State Court entered judgment against J.M.
Drilling for the amount awarded by the jury and in favor of
Bellsouth Communications, LLC, Intervenor, against J.M.
Drilling for the amount of worker's compensation benefits
paid to John Thibodeaux through the date of the jury trial.
Insurance Company was J.M. Drilling's primary commercial
liability insurer, with limits of $1, 000, 000.00. Admiral
accepted coverage for the allegations in the Underlying
Thibodeaux Lawsuit and retained counsel to defend J.M.
Drilling. J.M. Drilling's excess insurer was Rockhill
Insurance Company. Rockhill's commercial follow form
excess insurance policy had limits of $5, 000, 000.00. The
Rockhill excess policy lists Admiral as the underlying
primary insurer in the Schedule of Underlying Insurance.
March 26, 2018, Rockhill filed this declaratory judgment
action against J.M. Drilling, seeking a declaration that
Rockhill has no duty to defend and indemnify any party for
any of the claims asserted in the Underlying Thibodeaux
Lawsuit. The action was brought by Rockhill under the Federal
Declaratory Judgment Act. The only parties to this suit are
Rockhill and J.M. Drilling.
April 12, 2018, the Underlying Thibodeaux Plaintiffs filed a
separate declaratory judgment action in the United States
District Court for the Western District of Louisiana,
Lafayette Division, Civil Action No. 6:18-0050. In the
Louisiana Federal Action, the Underlying Thibodeaux
Plaintiffs named as defendants J.M. Drilling, Admiral
Insurance Company, Rockhill Insurance Company, and Bellsouth
Telecommunications. Rockhill has filed a Motion to Transfer
the Louisiana Federal Action to this Court, which is opposed
by the Underlying Thibodeaux Plaintiffs, J.M. Drilling, and
Bellsouth. J.M. Drilling has filed a cross-claim against
Rockhill for breach of contract and bad faith in the
Louisiana Federal Action; thus, both declaratory and coercive
claims exist in that case.
J.M. Drilling has moved this Court to dismiss the present
action under Rule 19 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
on the ground that the Underlying Thibodeaux Plaintiffs and
Bellsouth, the workers compensation carrier that intervened
in the Underlying Thibodeaux Action, are necessary and
indispensable parties who have not been joined in this case
and cannot be joined because of this Court's lack of
personal jurisdiction over them. In the alternative,
Defendant asks the Court to decline to exercise its
discretionary jurisdiction over this action in light of the
Louisiana Federal Action pending in the Western District of
Louisiana. Finally, if the Court declines to dismiss the
action, Defendant requests that this case be stayed or
transferred to the Western District of Louisiana.
response addresses the portion of Defendant's motion
seeking to dismiss the action but does not address the
portion seeking to transfer or stay the action.
Court need not decide whether this matter should be dismissed
because the Court finds that the matter should be transferred
to the Western District of Louisiana under 28 U.S.C. §
1404(a). Section 1404(a) provides that, “[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.” The purpose of § 1404(a) is to protect
litigants, witnesses, and the public against unnecessary
expense and inconvenience. See Mardini v. Presidio
Developers, LLC, 2011 WL 111245 at *6 (E.D. Tenn.
Jan.13, 2011) (citing Inghram v. Universal
Indus. Gases, Inc., 2006 WL 306650 at *4 (E.D. Tenn.
Feb. 8, 2006)). The district court has broad discretion over
whether to transfer a case under this section. Phelps v.
McClellan, 30 F.3d 658, 663 (6th Cir. 1994) (citation
transfer an action under § 1404(a) the following three
requirements must be met: “(1) the action could have
been brought in the transferee district court; (2) a transfer
serves the interest of justice; and (3) transfer is in the
convenience of the witnesses and parties.”
Applied Energy Techs., Inc. v. Solar Liberty
Energy Sys., Inc., 2009 WL 2777079 at *5 (E.D. Mich.
Aug. 27, 2009) (citation omitted). Moreover, deciding a
motion to transfer venue under § 1404(a) requires
consideration of certain “case-specific factors.”
Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29
(1988) (citing Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612,
A district court should consider the private interests of the
parties, including their convenience and the convenience of
potential witnesses, as well as other public-interest
concerns, such as systemic integrity and fairness, which ...