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Court Defers to Plaintiffs’ Choice of New Mexico Forum in Suit Against Trucking Company

On Behalf of | Nov 23, 2020 | Personal Injury

In a recent ruling, the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico decided to defer to the plaintiffs’ choice of forum.  Two plaintiffs, a husband and a wife, sued a trucking company that the wife had worked for as a commercial truck driver.  The couple also sued in the same complaint a trainer who had worked for the trucking company.  The company filed a motion, opposed by the plaintiffs, to transfer the lawsuit to the Western District of Kentucky, where the company allegedly maintained its principal place of business.  The trainer did not take a position on the relief requested in the motion to change venue as of the time that the U.S. District Court acted on the motion.

Among the orders that a federal trial court presiding over a lawsuit can make is an order transferring venue.  Venue can be transferred to any other district court in which the action could have been brought, pursuant to section 1404(a) of Title 28 of the United States Code.  A party seeking the relief of venue transfer must show that the existing forum is an inconvenient forum.  While a plaintiff’s choice of forum is afforded some deference, there are multiple factors that courts consider when deciding a motion to transfer venue.

Among the factors that the court identified as informing the analysis in this case were witness accessibility, the cost of proving the case, the ability to enforce a judgment if one is obtained in the case, the difficulties arising from the congestion of courts’ dockets, the advantages of having local courts decide questions of local law, and practical considerations that would facilitate expeditious and economical trial of the case.

The court noted that because the plaintiffs resided out of state, in South Carolina, their choice of venue was entitled to less deference than it would be if they lived in New Mexico, where they had filed their lawsuit.  The court reasoned that although the plaintiffs resided closer to Kentucky than to New Mexico, their New Mexico choice of forum was not overridden.  Next, the court considered the location of the parties’ witnesses.  The court concluded that this factor slightly favored the plaintiffs because the trucking company defendant’s witnesses included employees it was expected to be able to exercise some degree of control over and bring to trial in New Mexico, the plaintiff’s chosen forum.

The court did not find the parties’ arguments about costs associated with litigating the case in one venue or the other convincing because of the absence of evidence.  The court gave more consideration to congestion of U.S. district courts in New Mexico and the Western District of Kentucky, concluding that the congestion of New Mexico’s district courts did not merit transfer to the Western District of Kentucky.  The court concluded that conflict of law issues and questions of local law carried little to no weight in its analysis.  The court then observed that neither side’s preferred venue had an overwhelming claim to convenience or the interests of justice.  There being, in the court’s estimation, no factors strongly favoring the movant trucking company, the court decided that the case would remain in the plaintiffs’ chosen venue.  Accordingly, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico denied the defendant’s motion to transfer venue to the Western District of Kentucky.

If you, a family member, or other loved one has been injured in an New Mexico car accident, you may be entitled by law to receive a financial recovery.  Recovering personal injury damages can help people pay out-of-pocket costs including lost wages and medical bills.  Navigating the courts and their procedures can be complicated.  We are here to help.  To understand more about your case and how it can be pursued to maximize your financial recovery, call New Mexico personal injury lawyer Matthew Vance. At the Law Office of Matthew Vance, P.C., we provide a free consultation and can be reached at 505-445-1604 or send us a message online.