In Morrissey v. Subaru of America, Inc., a couple was injured when the vehicle one spouse was driving unexpectedly accelerated and collided with a stone fence in the United States Virgin Islands. Sadly, the wife was left permanently paralyzed as a result of the crash. Following the incident, the couple filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of Florida against the Japanese automobile manufacturer, the company’s U.S. distributor, and the dealership that sold the vehicle to its original owners.
In the couple’s complaint, they accused the defendants of negligence per se, failure to warn, negligently designing and manufacturing the vehicle, strict liability, and breach of warranty. The husband also sought damages for his loss of consortium.
In addition to the case that was filed in the Southern District of Florida, the couple also filed essentially the same lawsuit against two of the defendants in the U.S. Virgin Islands. In that case, the car manufacturer filed a successful motion to dismiss the lawsuit due to lack of personal jurisdiction and the auto distributor sought to transfer the dispute to the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division.
In the case at hand, the motor vehicle manufacturer filed a motion to transfer venue from the Southern District of Florida in Miami to the Tampa Division. According to the company, the change of venue would be more convenient for the parties and serve the interest of justice.
First, the Southern District of Florida stated 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) allows a federal court to transfer a case to another venue if the lawsuit may have originally been brought in the proposed forum. In addition, such a venue change must be in the interest of justice and made for the convenience of not only parties to the case, but also any witnesses. According to the Miami court, it was undisputed that the couple’s complaint could have been filed in the Middle District of Florida. The court then balanced a number of factors in order to determine whether a venue transfer was merited in the case.
Although the couple’s choice of venue was entitled to some deference, the court stated the plaintiffs had lived within the Tampa Division’s boundaries for about two years. The court then said the Middle District of Florida was a more or equally convenient venue for the parties and witnesses. Next, the court stated the Middle District had the ability to command most of the relevant witnesses using a subpoena under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45(c). Meanwhile, the Miami court lacked this ability because it was more than 100 miles from many of the witnesses’ homes or businesses.
Likewise, the Southern District ruled that the ease of obtaining documents and conducting discovery favored a venue transfer. The court added that the defendants were able to bear the financial impact of a change in forum and such a change would likely be beneficial to the couple.
Finally, the Southern District of Florida examined each forum’s respective interest in hearing the lawsuit, docket congestion, the burden of jury duty on the community, and familiarity with the law that governed the case before granting the automobile manufacturer’s motion to transfer the dispute to the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division.
If you or a treasured loved one was seriously injured in a preventable car accident, you should speak with a dedicated Miami personal injury lawyer as soon as you are able. To discuss your right to recover damages with an experienced South Florida motor vehicle collision attorney soon, please call the skillful advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. at (305) 448-8585 or contact us online.
Morrissey v. Subaru of America, Inc., Dist. Court, SD Florida 2015
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