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Patterson v. Carpenter

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

August 27, 2019

KIRSTEN PATTERSON, Executrix of the Estate of Mary Cae Henderson, Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS J. CARPENTER, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          THOMAS E. JOHNSTON, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Transfer Venue. (ECF No. 14.) For the reasons discussed more fully below, the Court DENIES the motion. (ECF No. 14.)

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff brings this action on behalf of her deceased mother, Mary Cae Henderson, alleging that her mother died as a result of Defendant's negligence in treating her while she was at Thomas Memorial Hospital in Charleston, West Virginia. (See ECF No. 1-1 (Compl.).) Plaintiff is a resident of Parker, Colorado, and Defendant is a resident of Largo, Florida. (See Id. at 2, ¶¶ 2-3.)

         Plaintiff filed this action in this District on March 19, 2019, alleging a single count against Defendant for medical malpractice. (See Id. at 3-4.) On June 3, 2019, Defendant filed the present motion to transfer this case to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. (ECF No. 14.) Plaintiff timely responded to the motion, (ECF No. 16), and Defendant timely replied, (ECF No. 20.) As such, the 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

         As a preliminary matter, although the Parties do not dispute it, the Court notes that this action could have been brought in the Middle District of Florida as that is where Defendant resides. See 21 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(1) (“A civil action may be brought in (1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides . . . .”).

         Turning to the above factors, first, although Plaintiff is not from this District, her choice of forum still weighs against transfer. It is undisputed that all of the events that gave rise to this action took place in this District. Further, Plaintiff brings this action on behalf of the estate of her late mother who resided in this District. Accordingly, Plaintiff's choice of forum is not completely irrelevant such that it does not deserve the great deference generally afforded a plaintiff's forum choice. See Teva Pharm USA, Inc. v. Mylan Pharm., Inc., No. 1:17-cv-7, 2017 WL 958324, at *6 (N.D. W.Va. Mar. 10, 2017) (finding that an out of state plaintiff's forum choice was still entitled to great weight where the plaintiff sued in the forum where the “nucleus of operative facts” took place). Cf. Shrewsbury v. Am. Red Cross Mid. Atl. Region, No. 2:18-cv-00531, 2018 WL 2392546, at *3 (S.D. W.Va. May 25, 2018) (giving little weight to plaintiff's forum choice where plaintiff did not reside and none of the underlying events occurred in the chosen forum).

         Second, as to convenience of witnesses, Defendant asserts that the only identified witnesses in this action reside outside of the District, and thus transferring venue to the Middle District of Florida would not cause any additional inconvenience. (See ECF No. 14 at 3-4.) However, Defendant has not met his burden of showing that this venue is inconvenient for the witnesses. See Samsung Elec. Co, Ltd., v. Rambus, Inc., 386 F.Supp.2d 708, 718 (E.D. Va. 2008) (“[t]he party asserting witness inconvenience has the burden to proffer, by affidavit or otherwise, sufficient details respecting the witnesses and their potential testimony to enable the court to assess the materiality of evidence and the degree of inconvenience.”). This District is closer for Plaintiff's expert witness, who resides in Maryland, than the Middle District of Florida. Further, the Court would be remiss to ignore that potential witnesses such as supervisors, co-workers, and other physicians who worked with Defendant at the hospital where Plaintiff's mother was treated likely still remain in this District.[1] See, e.g., Holley v. CSX Transp., Inc., No. 3:08-cv-0065, 2008 WL 4091037, at *1 (S.D. W.Va. Aug. 28, 2008) (finding that the convenience of unidentified, potential liability witnesses weighed against transfer). Defendant states that he will minimize the need of these witnesses to appear in person; however, should their attendance be necessary, there will be a burden for these witnesses to travel outside of this District. Thus, this factor weighs against transfer.

         Additionally, as to ease of access to sources of proof, Defendant concedes that a substantial part, if not all, of the relevant evidence in this matter is located in this District. (See ECF No. 14 at 3-4.) Defendant attempts to circumvent this fact by asserting that this information can be transmitted electronically. However, even if true, this simply makes neither venue more convenient than the other. Further, if any source of proof is unable to be transmitted electronically, this ...


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