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Shrewsbury v. American Red Cross Mid Atlantic Region

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division

May 25, 2018

ALEXIA SHREWSBURY, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN RED CROSS MID ATLANTIC REGION, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          THOMAS E. JOHNSTON, CHIEF JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Defendant Raleigh County Board of Education's (“RCBOE”) renewed motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, motion to transfer venue to the Beckley Division of the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. (ECF No. 6.) For the reasons discussed more fully below, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART RCBOE's motion. (ECF No. 6.)

         I.BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of Plaintiff's donation of blood to Defendant American National Red Cross (“Red Cross”) at a blood drive hosted by RCBOE at Independence High School, located in Coal City, Raleigh County, West Virginia. (ECF No. 1-1 at ¶ 5 (Compl.).) Plaintiff alleges that she was not provided adequate time to recover from her blood donation and, as a result, she fainted and struck her head which has led to the development of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder. (See Id. at ¶ 6.)

         On February 28, 2018, Plaintiff filed the present action in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, West Virginia, alleging negligence against Red Cross and RCBOE. (See ECF No. 1-1.) On March 30, 2018, RCBOE filed its motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, motion to transfer venue to Raleigh County, West Virginia. (See ECF No. 1-1 at 6 (Mot. to Dismiss).) A hearing on this motion was scheduled for May 22, 2018 in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County. However, on April 5, 2018, the Red Cross removed the case to this Court. (ECF No. 1.)

         On April 19, 2018, RCBOE filed the present renewed motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, motion to transfer venue to the Beckley Division. (ECF No. 6.) Plaintiff timely responded to RCBOE's motion, (ECF No. 8), and RCBOE timely replied. (ECF No. 9.) As such, RCBOE's motion is fully briefed and ripe for adjudication.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         “For 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 or to any district or division to which all parties have consented.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Such a transfer, however, is dependent upon the “weighing . . . [of] a number of case-specific factors.” Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988). The Fourth Circuit has established four factors that a district court should consider in deciding motions to transfer under § 1404(a): “(1) the weight accorded to plaintiff's choice of venue; (2) witness convenience and access; (3) convenience of the parties; and (4) the interest of justice.” Trs. of the Plumbers & Pipefitters Nat'l Pension Fund v. Plumbing Servs., Inc., 791 F.3d 436, 444 (4th Cir. 2015). Additionally, prior to the Fourth Circuit's decision in Trustees, this Court has considered a slightly more detailed list of factors such as the following: “(1) ease of access to sources of proof; (2) the convenience of compulsory process; . . . (5) the possibility of a view; (6) the interest in having local controversies decided at home; and (7) the interests of justice.” AFA Enters., Inc. v. Am. States Ins. Co., 842 F.Supp. 902, 909 (S.D. W.Va. 1994); see also Heuvel v. Navy Fed. Credit Union, No. 3:16-cv-1839, 2016 WL 7155769, at *2 n.3 (S.D. W.Va. Dec. 7, 2016).

         “It is well settled that the decision whether to transfer a matter to another district is committed to the sound discretion of the district court.” AFA Enters., Inc. v, 842 F.Supp. at 908 (citations omitted). “The party seeking transfer carries the burden of showing that the current venue is inconvenient.” See Leonard v. Mylan, Inc., 718 F.Supp.2d 741, 745 (S.D. W.Va. 2010) (citing N.Y. Marine & Gen. Ins. Co. v. Lafarge N. Am., Inc., 599 F.3d 102, 113‒14 (2d Cir. 2010)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         In its motion, RCBOE argues that this action should be dismissed for improper venue. (See ECF No. 7 at 3.) Specifically, RCBOE argues that venue is improper because, under West Virginia Code § 29-12A-13(a), actions against political subdivisions such as the RCBOE must “be brought in the county in which the situs of the political subdivision is located or the county in which the cause of action arose, ” which here would be Raleigh County, West Virginia. (See id.) RCBOE further argues that, in the alternative to dismissal, this action should be transferred to the Beckley Division pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).[1] (See Id. at 4-8.)

         As a preliminary matter, the Court notes that this action could have been brought in the Circuit Court of Raleigh County and removed to the Beckley Division of this Court. Determining whether venue is proper is generally guided by 28 U.S.C. § 1391, which provides, in pertinent part, that “[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.” 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2). “Venue is proper in each district that is the situs of a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim, ” and, as such, “venue may lie in more than one district.” C.H. James & Co. v. Fed. Food Marketers Co., 927 F.Supp. 187, 189 (S.D. W.Va. 1996) (citation omitted).

         Here, Plaintiff's injuries stem from Defendants' alleged negligence in caring for Plaintiff after she donated blood in Raleigh County, West Virginia. (See ECF No. 1-1 at ¶ 5.) Raleigh County, West Virginia, is encompassed by the Beckley Division of the Southern District of West Virginia. As such, all contested acts or omissions giving rise to Plaintiff's claim occurred in the Beckley Division. Accordingly, venue in the Beckley Division is proper. See Leonard, 718 F.Supp.2d at 744 (finding that venue lied in the transferee district where “[t]he events or omissions giving rise to the plaintiffs' claims all occurred in the [transferee district]”).

         Additionally, the above cited factors weigh in favor of transferring this action to the Beckley Division. First, although the Court recognizes that ordinarily great weight is given to a plaintiff's choice of forum, Plaintiff here does not contest or even address any of RCBOE's arguments for transferring venue. (See supra note 1.) Additionally, none of the allegations in Plaintiff's Complaint have any connection to the present venue. Furthermore, neither Plaintiff nor Defendants reside or have their principal place of business in the present venue. See Heuvel, 2016 WL 7155769, at *2. (See also ECF No. 1-1 at ¶¶ 1-3.) Therefore, the Court applies this presumption in favor of Plaintiff's forum choice with less force. See Klay v. AXA Equitable Life Ins. Co., No. 5:08cv118, 2009 WL 36759, at *3 (N.D. W.Va. Jan. 6, 2009) (“‘[W]here the plaintiff's choice of forum is a place where neither the plaintiff nor the defendant ...


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