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Cooper v. FCA U.S. LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

December 20, 2019

TAMMY COOPER, surviving spouse and heir at law of GARY COOPER, deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
FCA U.S. LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR CHANGE OF VENUE

          GREG KAYS, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         This case arises out of a motor-vehicle collision in Caplinger Mills, Cedar County, Missouri. Plaintiff Tammy Cooper alleges that Defendant FCA US's 2008 Dodge Ram 3500 Pickup Truck was defective in design (Doc. 1). This defect led to a roll-over accident, killing Gary Cooper. Now before the Court is Defendant FCA US's Motion for Change of Venue (Doc. 5). Defendant requests transfer from the Western Division to the Southern Division of the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion for transfer of venue is DENIED, and its motion to stay is DENIED AS MOOT.

         Background

         On August 23, 2019, Plaintiff filed her complaint in the Western Division alleging proper jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 because complete diversity exists among the parties and the matter in controversy exceeds $75, 000 exclusive of interest and costs. Venue is proper in this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(1) (2012). Defendant is an LLC, and its residency is determined under § 1391(c)-(d). Defendant “shall be deemed to reside” in any judicial district where it would be subject to personal jurisdiction. Id. Local Rule 3.2(b)(1) allows divisional venue of a single defendant in the division where Defendant resides. While Defendant does not dispute that divisional venue is proper in the Western Division under both § 1391 and L.R. 3.2, Defendant filed a motion for change of venue under 28 U.S.C. § 1404 (2012) (Doc. 5).

         Standard

         Section 1404 governs transfer of venue. It requires the district court to consider “the convenience of parties and witnesses” and the “interest of justice” when deciding whether to “transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). A change-in-venue determination requires a “case-by-case evaluation of the particular circumstances at hand” and is not limited to the above factors. Terra Int'l, Inc. v. Miss. Chem. Corp., 119 F.3d 688, 691 (8th Cir. 1997) (citations omitted). A change of venue is within the discretion of the district court and should not be freely granted. Id.

         “In general, federal courts give considerable deference to a plaintiff's choice of forum and thus the party seeking transfer under section 1404(a) typically bears the burden of proving that transfer is warranted.” In re Apple, Inc., 602 F.3d 909, 913 (8th Cir. 2010) (citing Terra Int'l, 119 F.3d at 695). In making its determination, the court weighs a variety of factors, including the convenience of the parties; the convenience of the witnesses; the availability of the judicial process to compel the attendance of unwilling witnesses; governing law; ease of access to sources of proof; the possibility of delay or prejudice if the transfer is granted; and practical considerations determining where the case can be tried more expeditiously and inexpensively. Houk v. Kimberly-Clark Corp., 613 F.Supp. 923, 927 (W.D. Mo. 1985). Only where the balance of relevant factors weighs strongly in favor of the movant should the motion to transfer should be granted. Id.

         Discussion

         The threshold question in deciding a motion to transfer venue is whether the proposed forum is one where the plaintiff could have filed the case. Hoffman v. Blaski, 363 U.S. 335, 344 (1960). Here, Plaintiff could have filed this suit in the Southern Division. But after reviewing whether the “convenience of the parties and witnesses” and “the interest of justice” support transferring the case to the Southern Division, 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), the Court finds Defendant cannot meet its burden of proving that the balance of interests weighs heavily in favor of transfer.

         I. The convenience factors do not favor transfer.

         The Eighth Circuit has elaborated on the convenience factors and considers the following when deciding a motion to transfer venue:

(1) the convenience of the parties, (2) the convenience of the witnesses-including the willingness of witnesses to appear, the ability to subpoena witnesses, and the adequacy of deposition testimony, (3) the accessibility to records and documents, (4) the location where the conduct complained of occurred, and (5) the applicability of each forum state's substantive law.

Terra Int'l, Inc., 119 F.3d at 696. A review of these factors shows that, on balance, transfer will not significantly increase convenience for the parties or witnesses.

         First, the Court considers the convenience to the parties. Plaintiff resides in the Western Division. Both parties have retained counsel from Kansas City, located within the Western Division. Johnson v. Burlinton-Northern, Inc., 480 F.Supp. 259, 260 (W.D. Mo. 1979) (considering location of counsel as “[a]n important consideration” in a motion to transfer). Were the Court to transfer this case, Plaintiff and ...


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