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SCCI Hospitals of America LLC v. Auto-Owners Insurance Co.

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

April 23, 2019



          Michael G. Gotsch, Sr. United States Magistrate Judge

         On February 4, 2019, Defendant, Auto-Owners Insurance Company (“Auto-Owners”), [1] a Michigan corporation, filed a motion seeking to transfer this case to the Western District of Michigan, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). On February 18, 2019, Plaintiff, SCCI Hospitals of America d/b/a Kindred Hospital Northern Indiana (“Kindred”), filed a response. Defendants DISH Network Corporation Employee Benefits Health and Welfare Plan and DISH Network Corporation (together “the DISH Defendants”) filed nothing in response. On February 25, 2019, Auto-Owners filed a reply. The Court DENIES Auto-Owners' motion to transfer for the following reasons.

         I. Relevant Background

         On October 24, 2018, Kindred sued all the defendants based upon Defendants' failure to pay for services rendered to a patient (the “Patient”) in its long-term acute care hospital in Mishawaka, Indiana. The Patient, a resident of Niles, Michigan, held an automobile insurance policy from Auto-Owners and was the beneficiary of an employee healthcare plan through the DISH Defendants. The Auto-Owners policy was negotiated, issued, and delivered in Michigan.

         The Patient was treated at Kindred following a sequence of events that began on September 25, 2017, in Niles, Michigan, where she experienced a medical event while driving that led to a one-vehicle crash. The Patient's husband, also a Niles resident, was on the phone with her at the time of the crash. A Niles police officer responded to the crash, which was witnessed by one person who resides in nearby Buchanan, Michigan. After the accident, the Patient was initially treated at Lakeland Hospital in St. Joseph, Michigan, then transferred to University of Chicago Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, and finally transferred into long-term care at Kindred in Mishawaka, Indiana.

         Kindred now sues Auto-Owners pursuant to the Michigan No-Fault Insurance Act, MCL § 500.3101, et seq., for payment of automobile insurance benefits for the Patient's care and treatment at Kindred in Mishawaka, Indiana, after the crash. Kindred is also suing the DISH Defendants under ERISA for payment for its care and treatment of the Patient. Through the instant motion, Auto-Owners seeks a transfer of venue to the Western District of Michigan under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). In support, Auto-Owners argues that transfer would be in the interest of justice and more convenient for the parties and witnesses because the medical event and vehicle crash at issue took place in Michigan, the majority of key witnesses are in Michigan, and the dispute involves construction of a Michigan-issued insurance policy and the Michigan No-Fault Insurance Act. 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 in the Northern District of Indiana and the Western District of Michigan

         No party challenges the jurisdiction of either district. Therefore, the Court's only question is the propriety of venue in both districts.

         As relevant here, “[a] civil action may be brought in . . . a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the subject of the action is situated.” 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2). Auto-Owners notes that venue is “technically proper” in the Northern District of Indiana, but suggests it is “debatable” whether a “substantial part” of the events giving rise to the claim occurred in this district. [DE 20 at 8].

         Auto-Owners contends that the Patient's medical event and vehicle crash in Michigan are the relevant “substantial part” of the events giving rise to Kindred's claim here while Kindred argues that the key events giving rise to this suit are the services rendered to the Patient, for which Defendants have not paid, in this District. In the end, the Court need not reach any conclusion about the “debatable” question of “substantial part of events” because events in both Michigan and Indiana are historical predicates to this lawsuit. See Johnson v. Masselli, No. 2:07 CV 214 PPS, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1293, at *12 (N.D. Ind. Jan. 4, 2008) (citing Moore v. Dixon, 460 F.Supp.2d 931, 936 (E.D. Wis. 2006)) (finding that determining where a “substantial part” of the events or omissions that gave rise to the claim occurred “is more of a qualitative, rather than quantitative inquiry” and that the critical question is whether the events in the forum “were part of the historical predicate for the instant suit.”)

         B. Convenience of the Witnesses and Parties

         In evaluating the private interests reflected in 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 ...

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