Alabama Court of Appeals Says Don't Go Changing
Ex parte Siemag
The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals denied a petition for a writ of mandamus (to compel the lower court to reverse itself) sought by two defendant corporations that were seeking to transfer venue on the basis of forum non conveniens. The forum non conveniens doctrine is used by defendants in an otherwise proper venue to transfer a case due to inconvenience of the parties.
The principal defendant attempted to sever the workers’ compensation claim and have it relocated to Tuscaloosa County because it conducted no business by agent in Walker County. Two other defendants sought to relocate the action against them from Walker County (the plaintiff’s county of residence) to Tuscaloosa County (the county where the injury occurred) on the basis of forum non conveniens. The trial court determined venue was proper and denied the motion.
On appeal the defendants cited lack of access to airports in Jasper as an undue hardship to the defense of the case in Walker County. They asserted that Tuscaloosa had a greater interest in adjudicating the actions than did Walker County because of Tuscaloosa County’s extensive mining activity and larger judge allocations and juror pools.
The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals denied the defendants assertions citing the higher degree of hardship which would be suffered by the plaintiff who was a double amputee. The Court also alluded to the large volume of mining activity in Walker County and the extensive history of Walker County courts adjudicating mining related cases. Most notably the Court stated that because the ruling on venue had been proper and a workers’ compensation claim existed against the principal defendant in Walker County; the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that a change of forum would not be proper.