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Cherie Leatherman, Both Individually and As the Administratrix of the Estate of Gregory Bret Walker, Deceased v. Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation

March 29, 2013

CHERIE LEATHERMAN, BOTH INDIVIDUALLY AND AS THE ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF GREGORY BRET WALKER, DECEASED PLAINTIFF,
v.
CABOT OIL & GAS CORPORATION, PIONEER DRILLING SERVICES, LTD., PIONEER DRILLING, INC., AND DEAN'S CASING SERVICES, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DuBois, J.

MEMORANDUM

I.INTRODUCTION

This case arises out of the injury and subsequent death of Gregory Walker. His death allegedly resulted from an accident which occurred while he was working on a "gas rig platform." (Compl. at 3.) Plaintiff, Cherie Leatherman, brought suit individually and on behalf of Walker's estate in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, against defendants Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation ("Cabot Oil & Gas"), Pioneer Drilling Services, Ltd., Pioneer Drilling Services, Inc. (collectively "Pioneer"), and Dean's Casing Services, Inc. ("Dean's Casing"). Defendant Cabot Oil & Gas removed to this Court based on diversity of citizenship.

Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand in which she alleged that there was no diversity of citizenship. Each of the defendants also filed motions to dismiss or alternatively transfer the case to the Middle District of Pennsylvania under, inter alia, 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The Court ordered discovery relevant to the pending motions and the parties supplemented their filings.

For the reasons stated below, the Court denies Plaintiff's Motion to Remand, denies those parts of defendants' motions seeking dismissal, and grants those parts of defendants' motions seeking transfer to the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The Court addresses the respective issues in turn.

II.DISCUSSION

1. Remand

Plaintiff asserts that this case was improperly removed because at least one of the defendants is a citizen of Pennsylvania, thus destroying diversity. Corporations are deemed citizens of (1) their state of incorporation and (2) their principal place of business. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c). Plaintiff contends that defendant Dean's Casing has not shown that its principal place of business is outside Pennsylvania. In an affidavit, Dean's Casing's Office Manager Debra Boyd, stated that Dean's Casing is an "Oklahoma Corporation, with a principal place of business located at . . . Holdenville, O[klahoma]." (Dean's Resp., Ex. A.)*fn1

A corporation's "'principal place of business' is best read as referring to the place where a corporation's officers direct, control, and coordinate the corporation's activities. It is the place that Courts of Appeals have called the corporation's 'nerve center.'" Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 130 S.Ct. 1181, 1192 (2010). "The burden of persuasion for establishing diversity jurisdiction, of course, remains on the party asserting it. When challenged on allegations of jurisdictional facts, the parties must support their allegations by competent proof." Id. at 1194.

Plaintiff took the deposition of Dean's Casing's Office Manager Debra Boyd. At the deposition, Boyd testified to the following facts: the company's books and records are located in Oklahoma (Dep. at 42); the three officers of the company meet annually in Oklahoma to discuss company business (Id. at 40); the three officers are always based in Oklahoma, with one taking trips to Pennsylvania three to four times a year (Id. at 38); upper management meetings occur in Oklahoma (Id. at 81-82); requests for company jobs in Pennsylvania sometimes are received in the Pennsylvania office and other times the requests are received at the Oklahoma office and are then "farmed out" to Pennsylvania (Id. at 80-81); and company business activities are and have "forever" been directed, coordinated and controlled in Oklahoma. (Id. at 79.)

The Court concludes that, based on the above testimony, Dean's Casing's principal place of business, its "nerve center," is in Oklahoma. Accordingly, complete diversity is present, and plaintiff's Motion to Remand is denied.

2. Transfer

Dean's Casing, Cabot Oil & Gas, and Pioneer have each filed motions seeking, in part, the transfer of the case to the Middle District of Pennsylvania based on forum non conveniens.

28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) states, "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 . . . ." Thus, the Court must consider (1) whether the case could originally have been brought in the Middle District and (2) whether a transfer is in the interests of justice.

First, the general venue provisions in 28 U.S.C. ยง 1391(b) provide, inter alia, that venue is proper in "a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred . . . . " As the accident giving rise to this case occurred in Dimrock Township, in the Middle District of ...


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