The Alabama Supreme Court recently denied a request for a change of venue in a truck accident case involving two commercial truck drivers who collided in Mobile County.
In the lawsuit, Cruz v. J&W Enterprises, LLC, the defendant trucker and his employer requested that the case be moved from Clarke County to Mobile County, on the basis of forum non conveniens – or in other words, what is more convenient to the parties involved.
As Birmingham truck accident lawyers, we recognize that many times, there is more than one appropriate venue, but in those cases, there must be sufficient grounds on which to justify a move before a court will approve it.
A great deal of weight is often given to where the accident occurs. But as the Cruz case illustrates, that’s not the sole factor that the courts will consider.
Here, the action arises from a truck crash that occurred in October 2011 on Interstate 10 in Mobile County. At the time of the crash, the at-fault driver was operating a tractor-trailer rig owned by his employer, whose primary place of business is in Clarke County. The plaintiff driver, who was also operating a tractor-trailer rig, lives in Texas, which is where his employer is also located.
The plaintiff trucker did not seek any medical treatment while in Mobile County following the crash. There were no other witnesses, except a police officer who responded to the scene to file a report.
The plaintiff trucker subsequently filed a lawsuit against the at-fault trucker for negligent and/or wanton operation of a trailer rig, and also against that driver’s employer, for negligently and/or wantonly hiring, retaining or training its driver and negligent entrustment of the tractor-railer rig to the employer.
The lawsuit was filed in Clarke County, where the at-fault driver lives and the employer’s principle office was located.
Soon after, the defendants filed a motion to have the case moved from Clarke County to Mobile County, indicating that such a move was more convenient for all parties and further that it was in the interest of justice.
The plaintiff then filed an opposition to the motion for change of venue, submitting an affidavit from the investigating police officer, who indicated it was not an inconvenience to him to travel to Clarke County in order to offer his testimony. Also, the plaintiff’s attorney was located in Clarke County.
The trial court denied the motion for change of venue, and the defendants subsequently filed a writ of mandamus from the Alabama Supreme Court, requesting a review.
The high court found that in order to approve a change of venue on the basis of the “interest of justice,” the county to which the move is being sought must have a strong connection to the lawsuit, and the county from which it is being moved a weak connection. That means each case is going to be different.
Here, the crash occurred in Mobile County. Beyond that, however, there was no other connection to Mobile. Meanwhile, the connections to Clarke were numerous. Therefore, the defendants’ request to move the case was denied.
Cruz v. J&W Enterprises, LLC, March 28, 2014, Alabama Supreme Court
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