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Parker v. United Financial Casualty Co.

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia

August 22, 2017

MICHAEL PARKER and BETH PARKER, Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED FINANCIAL CASUALTY COMPANY and PROGRESSIVE CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS FOR IMPROPER VENUE OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, MOTION TO TRANSFER

          FREDERICK P. STAMP, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Procedural History

         The plaintiffs, Michael Parker and his wife, Beth Parker, filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Ohio County, West Virginia, alleging claims of breach of contract and bad faith against the defendants, United Financial Casualty Company (“United”) and Progressive Casualty Insurance Company (“Progressive”). The defendants thereafter removed this civil action to this Court and filed a motion to dismiss for improper venue or, in the alternative, motion to transfer. Specifically, the defendants request that this Court dismiss the plaintiff's complaint for improper venue pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3) or, alternatively, to transfer the case to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1404(a) or 1406(a).

         The issues presented in the defendants' motions are now fully briefed and ripe for decision. After a review of the parties' memoranda and the applicable law, this Court finds that the defendants' motion to dismiss for improper venue and motion to transfer must be denied.

         II. Facts [1]

         The case arises out of Michael Parker's claim to United for underinsured motorist benefits after he was injured in a car wreck on March 1, 2016. The car wreck took place in Warren Township, Jefferson County, Ohio, which is located within the Southern District of Ohio. Mr. Parker was driving the vehicle within the course and scope of his employment with Rare Properties, Inc., and the vehicle was also owned by Rare Properties, Inc. Thus, Mr. Parker was covered by Rare Properties' insurance policy on the vehicle, which was issued by United, an affiliate of Progressive. After Mr. Parker reached a settlement with the tortfeasor, United refused to pay Mr. Parker's subsequent claim for underinsured motorist benefits. The plaintiffs are residents of Belmont County, Ohio, and both defendants are Ohio corporations that are licensed to conduct business in West Virginia. Rare Properties, Inc. is a West Virginia corporation.

         Count I of the complaint alleges that underinsured motorist benefits are due and owing under the United policy and that United's failure to pay constitutes a breach of contract. Count II alleges that Progressive is guilty of common law and statutory bad faith in its handling of the claim.

         III. Applicable Law

         A. Venue

         Where jurisdiction of a civil action is based solely on diversity of citizenship, 28 U.S.C. § 1391 provides that the action may be brought (1) where any defendant resides if all defendants reside in the same state, (2) where a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or (3) where any defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction at the time the action is commenced, “if there is no district in which the action may otherwise be brought.” 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). A defendant that is a corporation is deemed to reside in any judicial district in which it is subject to personal jurisdiction at the time the action is commenced.

         “To survive a motion to dismiss for improper venue when no evidentiary hearing is held, the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of venue.” Mitrano v. Hawes, 377 F.3d 402, 405 (4th Cir. 2004). Of course, venue may be proper in multiple districts. However, in determining whether events or omissions are sufficiently substantial to support venue, a court should not focus only on those matters that are in dispute or that directly led to the filing of the action, but should review the entire sequence of events underlying the claim. Id.

         B. Transfer

         A motion to transfer a case to another venue is subject to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), “a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought” where such transfer is made “[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). This rule is intended to allow a court to transfer venue in order to “make trial of a case easy, expeditious and inexpensive.” Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 508 (1947)(superceded by statute on other grounds).

         The decision to transfer venue is left to the sound discretion of the trial court. Southern Ry. Co. v. Madden, 235 F.2d 198, 201(4th Cir. 1956). In ...


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