Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.


July 2, 1959

Willis D. BROWN, Admr. of the Est. of James C. Core and of the Est. of Williee Gary, Plaintiff,
Walter WOODRING, Defendant

The opinion of the court was delivered by: MURPHY

Defendant moves to transfer this diversity -- wrongful death -- action to the Eastern District of North Carolina, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.A. § 1404(a).

§ 1404(a) provides: '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.' The present action could have been brought -- 28 U.S.C.A. § 1391(a) -- and service obtained in the state or federal courts of North Carolina, see Leppard v. Jordan's Truck Line, D.C.E.D.S.C.1953, 110 F.Supp. 811, 818; King v. Cooper Motor Lines, Inc., D.C.D.Md.1956, 142 F.Supp. 405; Lamm v. Lorbacher, 1952, 235 N.C. 728, 71 S.E.2d 49, or in this district.

 Each motion for transfer under § 1404(a) must be decided on its own facts. Prior to the adoption of § 1404(a) a federal court had no power to transfer an action to a more convenient forum. Under the doctrine of forum non conveniens the only possible remedy was dismissal. Before granting such a harsh remedy *fn1" the court quite naturally required a defendant to strongly demonstrate the overriding preponderance of inconvenience to the defendant if the litigation continued in the forum chosen by the plaintiff. *fn2"

  § 1404(a) providing for transfer to a more convenient forum removed the harshest result of the application of the doctrine of forum non conveniens. *fn3" Absent the necessity for dismissal defendant's burden to justify transfer was accordingly eased. *fn4" Transfer may now be granted 'upon a lesser showing of inconvenience'. While the relevant factors have not changed and plaintiff's choice of forum is to be considered, 'the discretion to be exercised is broader'.

 In All States Freight Inc. v. Modarelli, 3 Cir., 1952, 196 F.2d 1010 at page 1011, the Court of Appeals for this Circuit expressed its disapproval of defeating § 1404(a)'s 'well-intentioned procedural improvement * * * with a limitation imposed by the Supreme Court upon the doctrine of forum non conveniens as found in the Gulf Oil and Koster decisions.' In the Modarelli case the Circuit Court en banc speaking through Goodrich J. teaches that the objective of § 1404(a) is clear. Plaintiff's privilege to have his action tried in the forum of his choice is limited in order to make the judicial process cheaper, more convenient and, if possible, more prompt. Id., 196 F.2d at page 1011. 'Its words should be considered for what they say, not with preconceived limitations derived from the forum non conveniens doctrine.' *fn5" Those teachings have been followed and applied in Busch v. Reiss S.S. Co., D.C.D.Del.1954, 120 F.Supp. 886; Paragon-Revolute Corp. v. C. F. Pease Co., D.C.D.Del.1954, 120 F.Supp. 488; General Felt Products Co. v. Allen Industries Inc., D.C.D.Del.1954, 120 F.Supp. 491; Miracle Stretch Underwear Corp. v. Alba Hosiery Mills Inc., D.C.D.Del.1955, 136 F.Supp. 508; Miller v. National Broadcasting Co. Inc., D.C.D.Del.1956, 143 F.Supp. 78, 81; Cox v. Food Fair Stores Inc., D.C.E.D.Pa.1958, 163 F.Supp. 682, 684; Jurgelis v. Southern Motors Express Inc., D.C.E.D.Pa.1959, 169 F.Supp. 345, 346.

 Wisely it has not been attempted to catalogue the circumstances which will justify or require grant or denial of transfer. Given the statutory standards the decision is left to the sound discretion of the court.

 In considering a request for transfer the court in weighing the relative advantages and obstacles to a fair trial must relate the facts to the convenience of the parties, the convenience of the witnesses and to whether or not transfer would be in the interest of justice, *fn6" and to no other factor, see Dairy Industries Supply Ass'n v. LaBuy, 7 Cir., 1953, 207 F.2d 554, 557, 558, except that due consideration must be given to plaintiff's choice of forum. *fn7" 'Defendant's mandatory margin for victory * * * need not be an overwhelming one.' *fn8" A court should not hesitate to disturb plaintiff's choice of forum if the three statutory factors dictate transfer. *fn9"

 The controlling conveniences and justice factors are to be applied to both litigants in their relationship to each of the two forums. Balances of these items are struck and then compared before the court's decision is crystallized. Plaintiff will not be sent to a forum which in the court's opinion does not assure him a fair trial. The privilege of selecting a forum continues to play a part in deciding transfer motions but it should not be cast in the leading role. *fn10" The ultimate inquiry is where trial will best serve the convenience of the parties, the witnesses and the ends of justice; to find that forum in which inconveniences of all parties and witnesses may be at an irreducible minimum.

 Applying the criteria to the facts of this case: A truck in which James C. Core, Willie Gary, and thirty-eight others were passengers, collided in North Carolina with defendant's tractor trailer operated by Gilbert R. Peters on defendant's behalf. Twenty-one of the passengers, including Core and Gary, were killed; fourteen others were injured. Core and Gary were residents of North Carolina; defendant and Peters reside in this district.

 Plaintiff of Fayetteville, Cumberland County, North Carolina, appointed administrator, by a North Carolina court, of the two estates, seeks in separate counts to recover from the defendant under the North Carolina Death Act (G.S. §§ 28-173, 28-174) for the alleged wrongful death of Core and Gary. Defendant's motion to transfer and affidavit of counsel set forth plaintiff's residence and appointment, and states that the accident, injuries and deaths occurred there; that they were investigated by Sheriff Leon L. Guy, R. C. Pridgen and two other members of the North Carolina Highway Patrol; pictures of the scene and vehicles were taken by local photographers; that all eye witnesses -- about seven -- the police officials and photographers all reside in the Eastern District of North Carolina; that their testimony will be material and necessary on defendant's behalf, but they are beyond the reach of process of this court; that it would be practically impossible to arrange for their voluntary appearance outside North Carolina and, if not, depositions would be necessary to defendant's great disadvantage. If they made themselves available the cost of transporting them nine hundred miles and maintaining them would be great and involve a substantial loss of time and inconvenience to each of them. The locus in quo would be familiar to a North Carolina jury; a view of the scene possible, and applicable North Carolina law more familiar to a North Carolina court, the latter having power to call all material witnesses and obtain jurisdiction of all necessary and proper parties. Finally, that a coroner's inquest found no fault or criminal negligence on the part of defendant's operator and that the accident was caused by the negligence of the truck driver.

 Plaintiff's answer and an affdavit of Philadelphia counsel points to defendant's residence in this district; that plaintiff chose this forum; that it will seek to call as eye witnesses defendant's driver, Joseph Lozak, of Berwick in this district, who accompanied Peters on the trip driving another vehicle, and Dr. Ralph E. Campbell of Valley Forge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; that Core formerly resided in Philadelphia, Gary in Coatesville nearby, and that he would call Core's father from Philadelphia, Arie Gary from Miami, Florida, and others from Philadelphia and Coatesville to testify as to pecuniary loss and other elements of the cause of action; that all such testimony would be material and necessary on plaintiff's behalf; that few of such witnesses would be available to testify in North Carolina and, in any event, the cost of transporting them would be prohibitive to plaintiff. Finally, that the coroner's inquest reached no conclusion or opinion as to the negligence of defendant's operator.

 It is not clear how long Core and Gary were residents of North Carolina or what other relatives, if any, are available there to testify as to pecuniary loss. Doctor Campbell would be testifying as a lay witness. Whether or not North Carolina doctors treated Core and Gary is not clear. A North Carolina forum would be more convenient to plaintiff and to the witness Gary from Florida. Plaintiff himself would have to account to a North Carolina court. King v. Cooper Motor Lines, supra, D.C., 142 F.Supp. at page 407; cf. Chicago R.I. and P.R. Co. v. Igoe, 7 Cir., 1955, 220 F.2d 299, 304. Two of plaintiff's proposed witnesses -- defendant's employees -- would be subject to discovery and defendant to requests for admissions with possible sanctions, together with possible damaging inferences if defendant did not call them as witnesses.

 Cases are generally tried with fewer witnesses than predicted. The position of the parties is made more clear where the names, addresses and proposed testimony of witnesses is given. Some cases cited by plaintiff -- National Tea Co. v. The Marseille, D.C.S.D.N.Y.1956, 142 F.Supp. 415; Jenkins v. Wilson Freight Forwarding Co. Inc., D.C.S.D.N.Y.1952, 104 F.Supp. 422; Strypek v. Schreyer, D.C.S.D.N.Y.1954, 118 F.Supp. 918; McKinney v. Southern Pacific Co., D.C.S.D.Tex.1957, 147 F.Supp. 954, to which we add Goodman v. Southern Ry. Co., D.C.S.D.N.Y.1951, 99 F.Supp. 852; Headrick v. A.T. and S.F. Ry. Co., 10 Cir., 1950, 182 F.2d 305 at page 310; Chicago R.I. & Pac. Ry. Co. v. Hugh Breeding Inc., 10 Cir., 1956, 232 F.2d 584, 588; Savage v. Kaiser Motors Corp., D.C.D.Minn.1953, 116 F.Supp. 433 -- stress the necessity of such information to sustain defendant's burden. But see and cf. United States v. Scott & Williams Inc., D.C.S.D.N.Y.1950, 88 F.Supp. 531; Duffy v. United States, D.C.S.D.N.Y.1953, 114 F.Supp. 881; Ex parte Collett, 1949, 337 U.S. 55, 56, 69 S. Ct. 944, 93 L. Ed. 1207; Cinema Amusements Inc. v. Loew's Inc., supra, 85 F.Supp. 325, 326; Nicol v. Koscinski, 6 Cir., 188 F.2d 537, 538; Hayes v. Chicago R.I. & P.R. Co., supra, 79 F.Supp. 821, 826; Miller v. ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.