Forum Non Conveniens
Ex parte Tyson Chicken, Inc., [Ms. 1170820, Nov. 30, 2018] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2018). In a 5-4 decision, the Court (Sellers, J.; and Stuart, C.J., and Bolin, Parker, and Mendheim, JJ., concur; Shaw, Main, Wise, and Bryan, JJ., dissent) issues a writ of mandamus directing the Marshall Circuit Court to transfer this motor vehicle collision case to the Cullman Circuit Court.
The collision occurred in Cullman County when a passenger vehicle operated by Lisa Huffstutler collided with a tractor-trailer owned by Tyson Chicken, Inc. ("Tyson") and driven by Charles Craig. Huffstutler was treated at the scene by emergency responders and taken to Cullman Regional Medical Center for further treatment. Ms. *2.
The Court first noted that:
Our analysis under the interest-of-justice prong of the forum non conveniens statute does not involved a "simple balancing test weighing each county's connection to an action." Ex parte J & W Enters., LLC, 150 So. 3d 190, 196 (Ala. 2014). Instead, "[t]he 'interest of justice' prong of § 6-3-21.1 requires 'the transfer of the action from a county with little, if any, connection to the action, to the county with a strong connection to the action.'" Ex parte Indiana Mills & Mfg., Inc., 10 So. 3d 536, 540 (Ala. 2008 (quoting Ex parte National Sec. Ins. Co., 727 So. 2d at 789).
Even though Huffstutler and the driver, Craig, resided in Marshall County, and Craig worked at Tyson's facility in Marshall County, the Court found that transfer was warranted under the interest-of-justice factor. The Court cited these facts as requiring transfer: Huffstutler's treatment in Cullman County, the tractor-trailer involved in the accident was registered in Cullman County, and all documents relating to the driver's employment, training, and supervision were located in Cullman County. Ms. *9. The majority held that the location of the accident factor was particularly significant in this case because the terrain near the scene of the accident was a contributing factor such that a viewing of the scene would assist the trier of fact. Ms. *6.
Justice Shaw's dissent pointed out the driver's Marshall County residence and his employment at a Tyson facility in Marshall County and concluded "I cannot conceive how, under these circumstances, Marshall County has a ' weak' connection or 'little' connection to this case. Ms. *15. Likewise, Justice Bryan's dissent, while acknowledging Cullman County's strong connection to the case, concluded that Marshall County's connection to the case was not weak and therefore transfer was inappropriate. Ms. *17.