United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division
INDIANA INSURANCE CO. PLAINTIFF
CHRISTOPHER GIES, et al. DEFENDANTS
B. Russell, Senior Judge
matter is before the Court upon a motion to transfer venue by
Defendants Katie Chamberlain and D.C., her minor child. [DN
20.] Plaintiff Indiana Insurance Company (IIC) has responded,
[DN 23], and the time for filing a reply has passed. Fully
briefed, Defendants' motion is ripe for review, and for
the following reasons, it is GRANTED.
Facts and Procedural History
catastrophic three-vehicle traffic accident on March 27, 2016
severely injured Katie Chamberlain and her minor son, D.C. On
that date, Chamberlain, D.C., and Haley Arnold were traveling
northbound on the AA Highway in Bracken County in
Chamberlain's 2000 Oldsmobile Alero. [DN 1 at 5.] While
they were stopped to make a left turn, Chamberlain's
vehicle was rear-ended by a 2003 Chrysler Town & Country
Minivan driven by Christopher Gies. [Id.] Riding
along with Gies were Analeen Jones, Gies' girlfriend, and
Jones' five minor children. [Id.] The collision
pushed Chamberlain's Oldsmobile into oncoming traffic,
whereupon it was struck by a tractor-trailer owned by
Paschall Truck Lines (PTL) and driven by Donald McGowen.
[Id.] As this case is in its infancy, the full
extent of the parties' damages is unknown to the Court;
Chamberlain claims that she suffered “severe permanent
damage to her legs, ” and that her son sustained a
brain injury. [DN 20 at 3.]
Jones, the minivan's owner, had recently purchased the
vehicle from Advantage Used Cars. [DN 1 at 5.] The car
dealership was insured by Indiana Insurance Company, an
Indiana corporation headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts.
[Id. at 3, 5.] IIC brought this statutory
interpleader action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1335 seeking
to determine to whom the proceeds of Advantage Used Cars'
$300, 000 insurance policy should be distributed.
See [id. at 7.] IIC named as defendants all
parties involved in the accident: Gies, Jones, and Jones'
minor children, all residents of Pendleton County, Kentucky;
Chamberlain and D.C., residents of Robertson County,
Kentucky; Arnold, a resident of Bracken County, Kentucky;
McGowen, a Harris County, Texas resident; Paschall Truck
Lines, a Kentucky corporation headquartered in Calloway
County, Kentucky; and Great West Casualty Company, PTL's
Nebraska insurance company headquartered in Dakota County,
Nebraska. [Id. at 3-4.]
filed this action in the Western District of Kentucky,
Paducah Division, the district and division that embraces
Calloway County, PTL's headquarters. Under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1404(a), Chamberlain and D.C. now seek to transfer
venue to the Eastern District of Kentucky, Northern Division
at Covington, the district and division in which all the
occupants of Jones' minivan and Chamberlain's sedan
reside. They point out that ten of the thirteen interpleader
defendants, including six minor children, reside in the
Eastern District, while only one defendant, PTL, resides in
the Western District. See [DN 20 at 2.]
Additionally, the accident occurred in the Eastern District,
so all pertinent evidence and witnesses are located there.
[Id.] IIC opposes Chamberlain and D.C.'s motion,
contending that the convenience of the parties and the
interests of justice do not weigh in favor of transfer.
See [DN 23 at 2.]
“the convenience of the 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.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). In deciding
whether to transfer a case, § 1404(a) requires a
two-part analysis. The Court must first determine if the
action could have originally been filed in the transferee
district. Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616
(1964). If so, the Court must then determine “whether,
on balance, a transfer would serve ‘the convenience of
the parties and witnesses' and otherwise promote
‘the interest of justice.'” Atl. Marine.
Constr. Co. v. U.S. Dist. Court for the W. Dist. of
Tex., __ U.S.__, 134 S.Ct. 568, 581 (2013) (quoting 28
U.S.C. § 1404(a)).
second step in the Court's analysis requires it to
evaluate various private- and public-interest factors,
typically “giv[ing] some weight to the
[plaintiff's] choice of forum.” Id.
Factors relevant to the parties' private interests
include (1) the convenience of the parties, (2) the
convenience of the witnesses, (3) the accessibility of
relevant evidence, (4) the availability of compulsory process
to make reluctant witnesses testify, (5) the cost of
obtaining willing witnesses' testimony, and (6) any other
practical problems that make trial of a case easy,
expeditious, and inexpensive. Reese v. CNH Am. LLC,
574 F.3d 315, 320 (6th Cir. 2009); see also Atl.
Marine, 134 S.Ct. at 581 n.6. Relevant public-interest
factors include (1) administrative difficulties flowing from
court congestion, (2) the local interest in deciding the
controversy at home, and (3) in a diversity case, the
interest of having the trial in a forum familiar with
governing law. Atl. Marine, 134 S.Ct. at 581 n.6.
While this list of factors is non-exhaustive, it is
illustrative of the issues typically considered by the courts
of this Circuit. “As the permissive language of the
transfer statute suggests, district courts have ‘broad
discretion' to determine when party
‘convenience' or ‘the interest of
justice' make a transfer appropriate.”
Reese, 574 F.3d at 320. The movant bears the burden
of showing that transfer is appropriate. Boiler
Specialists, LLC v. Corrosion Monitoring Servs., Inc.,
No. 1:12-CV-47, 2012 WL 3060385, at *2 (W.D. Ky. July 26,
2012) (collecting cases).
Federal Interpleader Act of 1936, 49 Stat. 1096, codified
at 28 U.S.C. §§ 1335, 1397, 2361,
“entitles a person holding money or property,
concededly belonging at least in part to another, to join in
a single suit two or more persons asserting mutually
exclusive claims to the fund.” Mudd v.
Yarbrough, 786 F.Supp.2d 1236, 1240 (E.D. Ky. 2011)
(quoting White v. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp., 19 F.3d
249, 251 (5th Cir. 1994)). Among other things, the Act
provides that any interpleader action brought under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1335 “may be brought in the judicial district in
which one or more of the claimants reside.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1397. Chamberlain and D.C. do not contend that venue
in this Court is improper. Interpleader Defendant PTL, a
Kentucky corporation headquartered in Calloway County,
resides in the Western District of Kentucky, Paducah
Division. See Local Rule (LR) 3.1(b)(4). The
interpleader venue statute, 28 U.S.C § 1397, thus allows
IIC to maintain its interpleader action in this Court.
this Court is not the only court in which IIC could have
filed its complaint. Rather, pursuant to § 1397, IIC
could have brought this action in any district where
one or more of the interpleader defendants resides. Here,
Chamberlain and D.C. seek transfer to the Eastern District of
Kentucky, Northern Division at Covington, the district and
division embracing their Robertson County home. See
LR 3.1(a)(1)(B). That same division also encompasses
Pendleton County, where Gies, Jones, and Jones' minor
children call home, and Bracken County, Arnold's
residence. Therefore, § 1397 provides that venue would
have also been proper in the Eastern District of Kentucky,
Northern Division at Covington.
this action could have originally been filed in the
transferee district, the Court's next step is to
determine “whether, on balance, a transfer would serve
‘the convenience of the parties and witnesses' and
otherwise promote ‘the interest of justice.'”
Atl. Marine. Constr. Co. v. U.S. Dist. Court for the W.
Dist. of Tex., __ U.S., 134 S.Ct. 568, 581 (2013)
(quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)). When weighing the
relevant private- and public-interest factors, the Court must
ordinarily give some weight to the plaintiff's choice of
forum. Id. However, “in an interpleader action
‘where the [p]laintiff is nothing more than a
disinterested stakeholder' that will likely be dismissed
at an early stage of the proceedings, the plaintiff's
initial choice of forum is not given the same weight and
consideration.” Reliastar Life Ins. Co. v.
Damon, Case No. 2:16-cv-304-FtM-29CM, 2016 WL 4254088,
at *2 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 12, 2016) (quoting Orsek, P.A. v.
Servicios Legales de Mesoamerica A De R.L., 699
F.Supp.2d 1344, 1353 (S.D. Fla. 2010)); see also Williams
v. Lincoln Nat. Life Ins. Co., 121 F.Supp.3d 1025, 1036
(D. Or 2015) (“In considering motions to transfer venue
in interpleader cases, courts do not defer to the third-party
plaintiff's choice of forum as in other civil
actions.”). Thus, the Court's first step is to
weigh the appropriate private-interest factors.
those factors weigh in favor of transfer. All but one of the
in-state interpleader defendants reside in the Covington jury
division of the Eastern District of Kentucky. As for the
out-of-state parties, Great West Casualty and Donald McGowen,
it should make little difference to them whether they
litigate this case in the Eastern District or Western
District. IIC points out that although it named thirteen
interpleader defendants, only Chamberlain, D.C., and PTL have
viable claims against the policy proceeds. See [DN
23 at 3.] The other parties involved in the accident, IIC
says, sustained no damages and will not be making claims.
[Id.] Indeed, motions for default are pending
against several of these disinterested defendants. But even
if IIC's ...