VENUE - EX PARTE INTERNATIONAL REFINING AND MANUFACTURING CO., INC.
In Ex parte International Refining and Manufacturing Co., Inc., [Ms. 1091658, Jan. 14, 2011] __ So. 3d __(Ala. 2011), the Supreme Court of Alabama granted the Defendant's mandamus petition and held that the trial court had erred by refusing to transfer the underlying declaratory judgment action pending in the Jefferson Circuit Court to the Fayette Circuit Court. Plaintiffs in this case had filed suit in the Fayette Circuit Court against several defendants, including International Refining, alleging injuries from exposure to toxic chemicals during their employment in an industrial plant in Fayette. International Refining requested that its insurance company provide a defense, but the insurer (Zurich) instead filed an action in the Jefferson Circuit Court seeking a declaratory judgment that it did not have a duty to defend or indemnify. International Refining moved to transfer the declaratory-judgment action to the Fayette Circuit Court pursuant to ¤ 6-3-7 (a)(1), arguing that the "events or omissions giving rise to" the declaratory-judgment action occurred in Fayette County. The Jefferson County Circuit Court denied International Refining's motion to transfer. The Supreme Court of Alabama repeated an earlier holding that venue of a declaratory-judgment action "is the place where the insurer's duty under the contract arose" - - i.e., in Fayette County, where Zurich was asked to defend. Zurich argued that this holding should not apply because International refining is not qualified to do business in Alabama, but the Court held that this fact was irrelevant because ¤ 6-3-7 (a)(1) grants venue where "the events or omissions...occurred" and "applies to determining proper venue against a corporation regardless of whether the corporation is doing business in this state." Finally, the Court rejected Zurich's fact-specific argument that venue was not proper in Fayette County because its coverage denial did not occur there. The Court disagreed holding that Zurich's desire to be relieved of coverage in Fayette County gave rise to the declaratory-judgment action. Therefore, the Supreme Court of Alabama granted International Refining's petition and issued a writ directing the Jefferson Circuit Court to enter an order transferring the declaratory judgment action to the Fayette Circuit Court.