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Lancer Insurance Co. v. Jet Executive Limousine Service, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division

July 1, 2019




         Before the Court is the consent motion to transfer venue to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division ("Northern District"), pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404. (Consent Mot. to Transfer, Doc. 61.) Although the motion was filed on October 19, 2018, as a consent motion, not all defendants had appeared in the case at that time.[1] In the motion to transfer, the consenting parties acknowledged that Defendant Kent Plowman would not consent to the transfer. (Id. ¶ 22.)

         As of the date of this Order, eighteen of the twenty-four initial defendants have answered Plaintiff's complaint.[2]Therefore, those parties wishing to oppose the motion to transfer were provided adequate time. For the reasons set forth herein, the consent motion to transfer venue is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed the present action on August 27, 2018, to determine coverage obligations for a single-vehicle accident that occurred on April 5, 2018, within the Southern District of Georgia ("Southern District") in Columbia County. (Compl., Doc. 1, ¶ 28.) On October 19, 2018, Plaintiff along with thirteen defendants filed the present consent motion to transfer venue. (See generally Consent Mot. to Transfer.)

         In support of the consent motion to transfer, the movants assert that the transfer is in the interest of all parties in terms of convenience to the witnesses, judicial economy, and expense of litigation. (Consent Mot. to Transfer, ¶¶ 11, 17.) Specifically, according to the movants, all in-state attorneys are located in the Northern District (id. ¶¶ 2, 5), the named insureds are domiciled in the Northern District (id. ¶ 3), all Georgia defendants involved in the accident reside in the Northern District (id. ¶ 4), the insurance policies in question were delivered to the Northern District (id. ¶¶ 3, 18), and the Northern District is the most convenient forum for key expert witnesses (id. ¶ 20).

         To date, Defendant Kent Plowman is the only party to oppose the consent motion to transfer. (Def. Plowman's Resp. Opp'n Consent Mot. to Transfer, Doc. 82.) His response primarily focuses on two arguments: (1) Plaintiff's choice of forum should prevail, and (2) Many of the first responders, medical personnel, and investigators are located in or near Augusta, Georgia. (Id. at 3-7.) The Court analyzes the Parties' competing positions herein.


         A. Legal Standard

         "Venue is governed by the general venue statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1391, special venue statutes, and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1404 and 1406, which address improper venue and change of venue." Peterson v. Smith, No. CV 113-119, 2013 WL 12156416, at *2 (S.D. Ga. Dec. 9, 2013) (citation omitted). A party may request a venue change when: "(1) venue is improper, so a court must then dismiss or transfer the case under section 1406; or (2) venue is proper, but the court should apply section 1404 to transfer the case to another district on convenience grounds.'' Id. Here, the motion seeks transfer on convenience grounds, and the Parties do not dispute that venue is proper in the Southern District. Therefore, the present motion implicates section 1404.

         Section 1404 provides that "[f]or 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." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Interpreting section 1404(a), courts in the Eleventh Circuit employ a two-pronged inquiry. See Dial HP, Inc. v. Clearone Commo'ns, Inc., No. CV 109-100, 2010 WL 3732115, at *5 (S.D. Ga. Sept. 7, 2010) (citation omitted). "First, the alternative venue must be one in which the action could originally have been brought by the plaintiff. The second prong requires courts to balance private and public factors to determine if transfer is justified." Id. (citation omitted). The private and public factors a district court must weigh under the second prong include:

(1) the convenience of the witnesses; (2) the location of relevant documents and the relative ease of access to sources of proof; (3) the convenience of the parties; (4) the locus of operative facts; (5) the availability of process to compel attendance of unwilling witnesses; (6) the relative means of the parties; (7) a forum's familiarity with the governing law; (8) the weight accorded a plaintiff's choice of forum; and (9) trial efficiency and the interests of justice, based on the totality of the circumstances.

Manuel v. Convergys Corp., 430 F.3d 1132, 1135 n.l (11th Cir. 2005) .

         In determining whether transfer is proper, "[s]ection 1404(a) is intended to place discretion in the district court to adjudicate motions for transfer according to an individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness." Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Accordingly, district courts are "permitted a broad discretion in weighing the conflicting ...

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