United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division
MARY ELIZABETH BUTLER, individually and as surviving spouse of BRIAN KEVEN BUTLER, deceased, and on behalf of the wrongful death beneficiaries BRIAN EDWARD BUTLER and LEIGH ANN BUTLER DANIELS, Plaintiffs,
SCHWERMAN TRUCKING CO.; TANKSTAR USA, INC.; BULK LOGISTICS, INC.; and RICHARD ALLEN KELPINE, Defendants.
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO PLACE THIS
CIVIL ACTION ON THE DYERSBURG TRIAL DOCKET
THOMAS ANDERSON CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Plaintiffs Mary Elizabeth Butler, Brian Edward
Butler, and Leigh Ann Butler Daniels's Motion to Place
this Civil Action on the Dyersburg Trial Docket (ECF No. 8)
filed on February 26, 2018. Defendants Schwerman Trucking
Co.; Tankstar USA, Inc.; Bulk Logistics, Inc.; and Richard
Allen Kelpine have responded in opposition. For the reasons
set forth below, Plaintiffs' Motion is
January 25, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint in the Circuit
Court for Dyer County, Tennessee, alleging claims in tort for
the wrongful death of their decedent Brian Keven Butler.
According to the Complaint, on July 17, 2017, Mr. Butler was
operating a John Deere farm tractor or mowing machine on
Highway 155 in Dyer County. The farm tractor was owned by
Dyer County, and Mr. Butler was acting in the course of his
employment with Dyer County. Defendant Richard Allen Kelpine
was operating an 18-wheeler on the same highway when his
tractor trailer collided with the rear of Mr. Butler's
mower, causing serious injuries and death to Mr. Butler.
Plaintiffs allege that Kelpine acted negligently and seek to
hold Kelpine and the other Defendants named in the Complaint
liable for the wrongful death of Mr. Butler. Plaintiffs seek
$10 million in damages. On February 14, 2018, Defendants
removed this action from state court pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1446 on the basis of the diversity of citizenship
among the parties and the total amount in controversy.
now ask the Court to place their case on the Court's
Dyersburg trial docket. Plaintiffs do not contest venue but
rely for support on Local Rule 3.3(e), which permits a party
to any civil action pending in the Eastern Division at
Jackson to request that the trial occur in Dyersburg.
Plaintiffs argue that trying their case in Dyersburg will be
more convenient for the parties and witnesses. Plaintiff Mary
Elizabeth Butler resides in Dyer County. Defendant Kelpine is
a resident of Kentucky, and the trucking company Defendants
are all Wisconsin corporations. A trial in Jackson will also
burden the emergency responders and medical professionals who
are witnesses to the events and who reside in and around
Dyersburg. The relevant events all occurred in Dyer County.
As such, Plaintiff argues that “the defendants
responsible for her husband's needless death [should be]
tried in the county in which his death occurred by a jury of
Dyersburg, Tennessee.” Pls.' Mot. for Transfer
have responded in opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion.
Defendants argue that upon removal, Plaintiffs' action
was correctly assigned to the Eastern Division at Jackson.
And nothing in Plaintiffs' Motion shows on balance why
the Court should try the case in Dyersburg. Defendants deny
that trial in Dyersburg would be more convenient for them.
Transfer would not enhance any party's access to proof or
witnesses or cure any other practical problem posed by trial
in Jackson. With respect to non-party witnesses, Defendants
point out that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agents
who performed toxicology tests are located in Memphis.
Defendants contend then that no factor favors moving the
trial of this matter from Jackson to Dyersburg.
to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), “for the convenience of
the parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a
district court may transfer any civil action to any district
or division where it might have been brought.” 28
U.S.C. § 1404(a). “Section 1404(a) is merely a
codification of the doctrine of forum non conveniens
for the subset of cases in which the transferee forum is
within the federal court system; in such cases, Congress has
replaced the traditional remedy of outright dismissal with
transfer.” Atl. Marine Const. Co. v. U.S. Dist.
Court for W. Dist. of Texas, 134 S.Ct. 568, 580 (2013).
Describing § 1404(a) as a “housekeeping”
statute, the Supreme Court has found from the legislative
history of the statute “that Congress had enacted the
statute because broad venue provisions in federal Acts often
resulted in inconvenient forums and that Congress had decided
to respond to this problem by permitting transfer to a
convenient federal court under § 1404(a).”
Ferens v. John Deere Co., 494 U.S. 516, 522˗23
(1990) (citing Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612,
district court is granted broad discretion when deciding a
motion to transfer. Among the relevant factors, the Court
should consider (1) the convenience of the parties and
witnesses, (2) the accessibility of evidence, (3) the
availability of process to make reluctant witnesses testify,
(4) the costs of obtaining willing witnesses, (5) the
practical problems of trying the case most expeditiously and
inexpensively, and (6) the interests of justice. Reese v.
CNH America LLC, 574 F.3d 315, 320 (6th Cir.
2009) (citing Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487
U.S. 22, 30 (1988) (other citations omitted)). The last
factor concerns the public interest in transfer, particularly
systemic integrity and fairness of transfer. Moore v.
Rohm & Haas Co., 446 F.3d 643, 647, n.1 (6th Cir.
2006) (quoting Moses v. Bus. Card Exp., Inc., 929
F.2d 1131, 1137 (6th Cir. 1991)). Ultimately, the decision to
transfer under § 1404(a) will “turn on
considerations of convenience and the interest of justice . .
. .” In re Dow Corning Corp., 778 F.3d 545,
550˗51 (6th Cir. 2015) (quoting Ferens, 494
U.S. at 523).
issue presented is whether transfer of this matter to the
Court's Dyersburg trial docket will serve the convenience
of the parties and the interests of justice. Pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 123, Dyersburg, Tennessee is a designated place
for holding court in the Western District of Tennessee. 28
U.S.C. § 123(c)(1) (“Court for the Eastern
Division shall be held at Jackson and Dyersburg.”). As
Plaintiffs correctly note, Local Rule 3.3(e) allows a party
to request that the Court hold the trial of a civil action
assigned to the Eastern Division at Jackson in Dyersburg.
Local R. 3.3(e). Nevertheless, the Court finds that a trial
of this matter in Dyersburg is not warranted under the
Plaintiffs have not shown that transfer to Dyersburg will be
convenient to the parties and witnesses. Mrs. Butler appears
to be the only party to the action who lives in the vicinity
of Dyersburg. Defendants live in other states and have
asserted that trial in Dyersburg will not be more convenient
to them. Likewise, there is no indication that trial in
Dyersburg will be more convenient for the witnesses who are
likely to testify at trial. The only apparent witnesses who
live in Dyersburg are the first responders and medical
professionals who worked the scene of the fatal accident.
Moving the trial to Dyersburg might be more convenient to
these witnesses. However, it is not at all clear to the Court
that trial in Dyersburg would be convenient to other
witnesses likely to be called. Defendants have shown that at
least one special agent of the TBI will likely testify and
that agent is stationed in Memphis. The Court has no
indication at this point that trial in Dyersburg will be more
convenient for any of the expert witnesses who are likely to
testify at trial. Expert or opinion witnesses in the area of
engineering and accident reconstruction often play a key role
in cases of this kind. The Complaint also alleges facts about
Mr. Butler's life expectancy and loss of future earnings,
subjects on which a jury will hear testimony from qualified
actuarial and economic experts. Taken as a whole, the Court
finds that convenience to the parties and witnesses does not
weigh in favor of trial in Dyersburg.
the interests of justice and all of the other relevant
factors weigh against moving the trial to Dyersburg. The
Eastern Division at Jackson serves 18 different counties in
the Western District of Tennessee. Venue is proper in Jackson
for all civil actions in the Western District of Tennessee
accruing in these counties. The Court has no reason to
conclude then that trying Plaintiffs' claims in Jackson,
and not Dyersburg, will somehow implicate the fairness or
integrity of the proceedings. The Court would also note that
Plaintiff has argued that transfer is justified, in part
because Plaintiff wants a jury drawn from Dyersburg to decide
her case. But even if trial occurred in Dyersburg, the venire
would still be summoned from all 18 counties of the Eastern
Division just as it would for a trial in Jackson.
See U.S.D.C. W.D. Tenn., Am. Plan for the Random
Selection of Grand and Petit Jurors, effective June 1, 2005.
To the extent then that Plaintiffs wish to have their trial
in Dyersburg for the sake of the potential jury pool, the
transfer of the case will not affect the make-up of the jury.
the Court has no reason to find that trying the case in
Dyersburg will solve any specific issues related to the
parties' access to proof or compelling uncooperative
witnesses to testify or minimizing the costs of obtaining
willing witnesses. On the contrary, trial in Dyersburg will
likely present a number of other practical challenges. While
Congress has named Dyersburg as a location where court may be
held in this District, there is no federal courthouse in
Dyersburg and no court personnel assigned to Dyersburg. A
trial in Dyersburg would, therefore, require the Clerk of
Court to arrange for trial at an appropriate facility,
presumably the Dyer County courthouse, and make arrangements
for court staff and other support personnel assigned to
Jackson to travel to Dyersburg for the trial. The United
States Marshals would need to time to make a facility secure
for the trial in order to ensure the safety of the Court, the
members of the jury, the parties, their counsel, court
personnel and support staff, and any other witnesses and
participants in the trial. This is not to say that trial in