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Pruitt v. Bruce Oakley, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 11, 2019


         SECTION "L" (2)

          ORDER & REASONS

          Eldon E. Fallon, U.S. District Court Judge

         Before the Court is a Motion to Transfer this Case to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi filed by Defendants Bruce Oakley, Inc. and Jantran, Inc. R. Doc. 21. The motion is opposed. R. Doc. 24. Defendants have filed a reply. R. Doc. 27. The Court rules as follows.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Robbie Pruitt alleges that on or about July 12, 2018, he sustained injuries during the course and scope of his employment with Defendant JANTRAN. R. Doc. 1 at ¶ 4. Plaintiff contends that, while serving as a deckhand aboard the M/V CONCORDIA, he sustained “disabling injuries to his left leg, left foot, bilateral shoulders, back, and other parts of his body as a result of the negligence of Defendants, BRUCE OAKLEY, INC. and JANTRAN, INC., and the unseaworthiness of the CONCORDIA.” Id. at ¶ 6. According to the complaint, the crew was untying a barge when the barge started to swing out. Id. at ¶ 7. Plaintiff claims that, without warning, a fellow crewmember kicked a ratchet to release tension on the line, causing the ratchet and the line attached to it to kick back and impale Plaintiff's left foot. Id. Based on this factual background, Plaintiff brings negligence and unseaworthiness claims and seeks maintenance and cure benefits. Id. at ¶¶ 8-23.


         On April 16, 2019, Defendants filed a motion to transfer this case to the Northern District of Mississippi. R. Doc. 21-1. In their motion, Defendants argue venue in the Eastern District of Louisiana is not proper because the relevant facts and witnesses surrounding this case bear no relation to Louisiana. Id. at 1. In his opposition, Plaintiff contends the Northern District of Mississippi is no more convenient than the Eastern District of Louisiana, and therefore argues Defendants have failed to demonstrate “good cause” for the transfer. R. Doc. 24 at ¶ X.


         As an initial matter the Court first addresses the issue of whether this Court may exercise personal jurisdiction over Defendants. Notably, in their motion seeking to transfer this case, Defendants appear to couch many of their arguments in favor of transfer in personal jurisdiction terms. At no point, however, do Defendants move to dismiss this action for lack of personal jurisdiction.

         Pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(g) and (h), a party must raise all defenses arising under 12(b)(2)-(5) in one motion; otherwise, the party waives his right to later raise these unraised defenses. These consolidation and waiver rules serve to eliminate unnecessary delay and prevent piecemeal litigation of various defenses. See 5C Charles Alan Wright. et al., Federal Practice and Procedure § 1384 (3d ed. Apr. 2019). When a successive Rule 12 motion is based on “essentially the same . . . facts upon which [the party] ground[ed] his [first] motion, ” the issue raised in the second motion has been waived. See, e.g., Sangdahl v. Litton, 69 F.R.D. 641, 642 (S.D.N.Y. 1976); see also Lewis & Clark Regional Water System, Inc. v. Carstensen Contracting, Inc., 355 F.Supp.3d 880, 887 (D.S.D. 2018).

         Although case law is divided as to whether § 1404(a) and forum non conveniens are subject to the consolidation and waiver rules, see Elderberry of Weber City, LLC v. Living Centers-Se., Inc., No. 6:12-CV-00052, 2013 WL 1164835, at *3 (W.D. Va. March 20, 2013), “the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has characterized motions raising forum non conveniens grounds as being brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(3), ” Vietnam Land v. Tran, No. 14-957, 2016 WL 1085101, at *5 (S.D. Tex. Feb. 18, 2016) (citing Albany Ins. Co. v. Almacenadora Somex, S.A., 5 F.3d 907, 909 (5th Cir. 1993)). Moreover, “a motion under section 1404(a) of Title 28 presupposes initial proper jurisdiction . . . in the transferor court . . . .” Dekalb Genetics Corp. v. Syngenta Seeds, Inc., No. 06-1191, 2007 WL 1223510, at *5 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 24, 2007) (quoting Sangdahl, 69 F.R.D. at 642)).

         In this case, Defendants JANTRAN and Bruce Oakley filed a motion to transfer venue under § 1404(a). R. Doc. 21. Neither have filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, despite both having raised it as a defense in their answers. R. Doc. 13; R. Doc. 14. Moreover, the arguments underlying Defendant JANTRAN and Bruce Oakley's motion to transfer are seemingly the same as the ones they would use in a subsequent motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.[1] Therefore, in filing a motion to transfer venue under § 1404(a), Defendants JANTRAN and Bruce Oakley have waived personal jurisdiction, and thus any subsequent motion for lack of personal jurisdiction would be moot.

         Having determined Defendants have waived their right to challenge personal jurisdiction, the Court addresses Defendants' motion to transfer. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), “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.” A motion to transfer venue is “committed to the sound discretion” of the district court. See Jarvis Christian College v. Exxon Corp., 845 F.2d 523, 528 (5th Cir. 1988) (citation omitted). When considering a motion to transfer, district courts engage in a two-step analysis. See In re Volkswagen AG, 371 F.3d 201, 203 (5th Cir. 2004). First, the court determines whether the case could have been brought in the transferee court. 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Next, the court considers whether the moving party has demonstrated “good cause” for the transfer by proving that the transferee venue is “clearly more convenient” than the current venue. See, e.g., In re Volkswagen of Am., Inc., 545 F.3d 304, 315 (5th Cir. 2008). This requires the court to consider private and public interest factors, engaging in a case by case analysis of convenience and fairness. See Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988). Failure to establish either prong is fatal to a motion to transfer. See In re Volkswagen AG, 371 F.3d at 203.

         A. Whether this action may be maintained in the Northern ...

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