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Reese v. Trail King Industries, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

May 9, 2017



          Michael G. Gotsch, Sr., United States Magistrate Judge

         On November 23, 2016, Defendant, Anderson Trucking Service, Inc. (“ATS”)[1], a Minnesota corporation, filed a motion seeking to transfer this case to the District of Colorado, Colorado Spring Division, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). On January 18, 2017, Plaintiffs, Donald W. Reese, Jr. (“Mr. Reese”) and Mariann Reese (“Ms. Reese”) (collectively “Plaintiffs”), citizens of Indiana, filed a response. On January 25, 2017, ATS filed a reply. Defendant, Trail King Industries, Inc. (“Trail King”), a South Dakota corporation, filed nothing in response to ATS's motion. Therefore, the Court assumes that Trail King has no objection to transfer. Nevertheless, the Court DENIES ATS's motion to transfer for the following reasons.

         I. Relevant Background

         On September 26, 2016, Plaintiffs brought suit in Elkhart Superior Court, but the case was removed to this Court by Trail King on October 19, 2016. The case arises from Mr. Reese's single-vehicle, tractor-trailer accident in Pueblo, Colorado on September 23, 2014. Plaintiffs allege that Mr. Reese was an owner-operator operating a vehicle under ATS's operating authority at the time of the accident. He was hauling a wind turbine tower from Minnesota to Colorado, which was presumably loaded onto his truck in Minnesota. The trailer was designed, manufactured, and sold by Trail King in South Dakota. Plaintiffs allege that because of trailer manufacturing defects, the wind turbine came loose from the trailer and caused the accident in Colorado. Plaintiffs allege that Mr. Reese suffered injuries as a result of the accident and that he received most of his medical treatment in Indiana, his home state.

         Plaintiffs assert claims of strict and negligent products liability against Trail King and claims of negligent provision, supervision, and operation against ATS. In its motion, ATS argues that all of the operative facts occurred in Colorado and therefore transfer to the District of Colorado would be in the interest of justice and more convenient for the parties and witnesses. This Court disagrees.

         II. Analysis

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), a federal district court may transfer any civil action to any other district for the convenience of the parties and witnesses and in the name of justice, if venue is proper in both courts. Therefore, transfer analysis involves separate inquiries into (1) proper venue in both the transferor and transferee courts; (2) the convenience of parties and witnesses; and (3) the interest of justice. Research Automation Inc. v. Schrader-Bridgeport Int'l, Inc., 626 F.3d 973, 978 (7th Cir. 2010). The burden is on the movant to show that transfer is warranted. Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219-20 (7th Cir. 1986). However, the statute allows for a “flexible and individualized” analysis of the unique issues raised in a particular civil action, which therefore places considerable discretion in the transferor court when deciding whether transfer is appropriate. Research Automation, 626 F.3d at 977-78 (citing Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., et al., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988)).

         A. Jurisdiction and venue are proper in the Northern District of Indiana and the District of Colorado.

         Both parties rightly concede that jurisdiction and venue is proper in both districts. [DE 17 at 4; DE 23 at 3]. The case was removed to this District from Elkhart County Superior Court following Trail King's Notice of Removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1446. Jurisdiction and venue are also proper in Colorado. Colorado has jurisdiction based upon its long-arm statute. See C.R.S.A. § 13-1-124(1)(b) (granting jurisdiction if a person commits a tortious act within the state). Venue is proper in the District of Colorado, Colorado Springs Division, as it encompasses Pueblo County, the place of the accident and the place where “a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred.” 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2).

         B. The convenience of the parties and witnesses does not favor transfer.

         In evaluating the convenience element, courts generally consider: (1) the plaintiff's choice of forum; (2) the situs of material events; (3) the relative ease of access to sources of proof; (4) the convenience of witnesses; and (5) the convenience of the parties. Schumacher v. Principal Life Ins. Co., 665 F.Supp.2d 970, 977 (N.D. Ind. 2009). A litigant seeking a transfer of venue has the burden of showing that the transferee court is “clearly more convenient than the transferor court.” Coffey, 796 F.2d at 220.

         1.Plaintiff's choice of forum

         When considering the convenience factor, a plaintiff's choice of forum is entitled to substantial deference, especially when the chosen forum is the plaintiff's home forum. Am. Commercial Lines, LLC v. Ne. Maritime Inst., Inc., 588 F.Supp.2d 935, 945 (S.D. Ind. 2008).

         Unless the balance of factors is strongly in favor of the defendant, the plaintiff's choice of forum should rarely be disturbed. In re Nat'l Presto Indus., Inc., 347 F.3d 662, 664 (7th Cir. 2003). Yet ATS argues that such deference is unwarranted in this case contending that the Indiana forum has no real relationship to this case other than being Plaintiffs' state of residence and the location of some ...

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