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Engle v. J&S Contracting, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 11, 2019

CHARLES ENGLE
v.
J&S CONTRACTING, LLC, ET AL.

         SECTION: “H”

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court are Defendant J&S Contractors, Inc.'s (“J&S”) Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction and Improper Venue and Alternative Motion for Transfer of Venue (Doc. 9) and Defendant Kirby Inland Marine, L.P.'s (“Kirby”) Motion to Dismiss for Improper Venue and Alternative Motion for Transfer of Venue (Doc. 10). For the following reasons, Defendants' Alternative Motion to Transfer Venue is GRANTED, and Defendants' other Motions are DENIED as moot.

         BACKGROUND

         This personal injury suit arises out of Plaintiff Charles Engle's fall on Defendant Kirby's tug, the M/V OLD PUSH (“Old Push”). On May 4, 2015, Plaintiff was working for Defendant J&S in Freeport, Texas and moving from a barge operated by J&S to the Old Push when he lost his balance atop the tug's bulwarks and fell about three feet onto a “steel bit.”[1] The fall caused rib fractures, spleen injuries, internal bleeding, a collapsed lung, “and injuries to other parts of [Plaintiff's] body.”[2] On May 3, 2018, Plaintiff filed this maritime suit against J&S and Kirby as a Jones Act seaman seeking general and special damages, maintenance and cure, and punitive damages.

         On June 19, 2018, Defendant J&S filed its instant Motion to Dismiss or Alternative Motion to Transfer Venue to the Southern District of Texas.[3] Defendant Kirby followed a day later by adopting J&S's Motion and seeking to dismiss or transfer this suit on improper venue grounds.[4] Plaintiff opposes the Motions.[5]

         Because this Court finds that the interests of justice warrant transfer of this suit to the Southern District of Texas, it need not specifically address Defendants' requests for dismissal of this case on personal jurisdiction and improper venue grounds.[6] Instead, the Court will simply analyze why transfer is warranted.

         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 or to any district or division to which all parties have consented.”[7] District courts possess broad discretion when deciding whether to order a transfer of venue.[8] The Fifth Circuit has held that in the interest of respecting forum choices by plaintiffs, a party moving for transfer must show “good cause.”[9] “When the movant demonstrates that the transferee venue is clearly more convenient . . . it has shown good cause and the district court should therefore grant the transfer.”[10]

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Courts in the Fifth Circuit must consider eight factors-four public factors and four private factors-when deciding whether good cause exists to transfer a case to a different venue on convenience grounds.[11]

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.
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.[12]

         I. Private Factors

         The application of the private factors weighs heavily in favor of transferring this case to the Southern District of Texas.

         a. Relative Ease of Access to Sources of Proof

         Defendant contends that “[a]ll potential witnesses are believed to reside in the Southern District of Texas.”[13] This makes sense. Defendant J&S is “a small, family-owned corporation located in Sweeny, Texas, between Galveston and Corpus Christi, ” which is in the Southern District of Texas.[14] Its yard and dock-where Plaintiff's fall allegedly occurred-are in the Southern District of Texas.[15] Kirby's principal place of business is Houston, Texas, which also is in the Southern District of Texas.[16] Further, the hailing port of the Old Push is in the Southern District of Texas. Finally, Plaintiff lives in the Southern District of Texas.

         Because virtually all known sources of proof are in the Southern District of Texas and there is no reason to believe any significant portion of these sources are in the Eastern District of Louisiana, the relative ease of access factor weighs heavily in favor of transferring this suit.[17]

         b. Availability of Compulsory Process to Secure the Attendance of Witnesses

          Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45(c) provides:

(1) For a Trial, Hearing, or Deposition. A subpoena may command a person to attend a trial, hearing, or deposition only as follows:
(A) within 100 miles of where the person resides, is employed, or regularly transacts ...

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