Ex parte Southeast Alabama Timber Harvesting, LLC, [Ms. 1110349, Apr. 20, 2012] __ So. 3d __(Ala. 2012), the Supreme Court
granted the petitioners' petition for a writ of mandamus directing
the trial court to transfer the case to Lee County on grounds of
forum non conveniens. The case involved a trucking accident that occurred in Lee County, Alabama.
The plaintiff, all of the eyewitnesses, and all of the emergency responders
lived in Lee County. However, the plaintiff filed the case in Chambers
County, Alabama, where one of the defendants had its principal office.
The defendants moved the trial court to transfer the case to Lee County
on the basis of
forum non conveniens, but their motion was denied. Thereafter, the defendants petitioned the
Supreme Court of Alabama for a writ of mandamus directing the trial court
to transfer the case to Lee County. Although the accident occurred in
Lee County and the plaintiff, all eyewitnesses, and all emergency responders
lived in Lee County, the court did not consider the convenience of the
parties and witnesses in deciding whether to grant the petition. Rather,
the court solely looked at whether the interests of justice required the
case to be transferred to Lee County. In considering the issue, the court
reasoned that the fact that a defendant keeps its principal office in
a county is not alone sufficient to give a county a "strong connection"
to a case and, thus, prevent a case from being transferred to a county
where the accident occurred. Because the only connection the case had
to Chambers County was the fact that one of the defendants had its principal
office there, the court held that the trial court should have granted
the petitioners' motion to transfer the case to Lee County on the basis of
forum non conveniens. As a result, the petition was granted and the trial court was directed
to transfer the case to Lee County.