Forum Non Conveniens: An Interest-of-Justice Analysis
Ex parte Alfa Mutual Insurance Company (In re: Richard Holley v. Alfa Mut. Ins. Co.): Upon conducting an interest-of-justice analysis pursuant to Alabama’s forum non conveniens statute, a case should proceed in the appropriate county that has the strongest connection to the claims.
Facts and Procedural History
Harry Tilley was a resident of Pickens County, Alabama, who purchased a personal auto insurance policy from Alfa Mutual Insurance Company in Pickens County. Latter, he added Richard Holley (also a resident of Pickens County) to the policy. Shortly thereafter, Holley was involved in a motor vehicle accident in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama. Paramedics from Tuscaloosa County treated Holley at the scene. They transported Holley to DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa. Holley received follow-up treatment from medical providers in Tuscaloosa. And then he filed suit against Alfa in Pickens County, seeking uninsured motorist benefits.
Alfa filed a motion with the trial court to transfer venue to Tuscaloosa County, pursuant to the doctrine of forum non conveniens (Alabama Code (1975) § 6-3-21.1), alleging that although Pickens County was an appropriate venue, it was not the most appropriate venue. [Note: The Alabama Supreme Court addressed this issue earlier in 2017, in Ex parte Burke]. The trial court denied the motion to transfer venue, and Alfa appealed. Ex parte Alfa Mutual Insurance Company (In re: Richard Holley v. Alfa Mut. Ins. Co.) [Ms. 1160536 Sep. 1, 2017] ___ So.3d ___ (Ala. 2017).
Arguing for Forum Non Conveniens
On appeal, Alfa argued that the trial court had exceeded its discretion by denying the motion to transfer venue because of Tuscaloosa County’s strong nexus to the case. Specifically, it asserted that the interest-of-justice prong of Alabama Code (1975) § 6-3-21.1 mandated that the case be transferred to Tuscaloosa County. The pertinent part of that statute reads:
With respect to civil actions filed in an appropriate venue, any court of general jurisdiction shall, for the convenience of parties and witnesses, or in the interest of justice, transfer any civil action or any claim in any civil action to any court of general jurisdiction in which the action might have been properly filed and the case shall proceed as though originally filed therein.
The Supreme Court of Alabama has interpreted the interest-of-justice prong to require the transfer of an action “from a county with little, if any connection to the action, to the county with a strong connection to the action.” The focus is on “whether the ‘nexus’ or ‘connection’ between the plaintiff’s action and the original forum is strong enough to warrant burdening the plaintiff’s forum with the action.” Typically, the litigation should be handled at the locus of the injury. The court further considers the burden of the case being in a particular venue and the interest of the people in that county in the outcome of the matter. Finally, although “it is not a talisman, the fact that the injury occurred in the proposed transferee county is often assigned considerable weight in an interest-of-justice analysis.”
An Interest-of-Justice Analysis
- Points in Favor of Tuscaloosa County
- The accident occurred in Tuscaloosa County
- Law-enforcement personnel who responded to the scene were from Tuscaloosa County
- Northstar EMS was from Tuscaloosa
- Holley was treated at DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa
- Holley received follow-up medical treatment from three medical providers in Tuscaloosa County
- Points in Favor of Pickens County
- Holley is a resident of Pickens County
- The Alfa agent who issued the policy is located in Pickens County
- Neutral Points
- Tilley purchased the policy in Pickens County, but Holley did not purchase the policy. His name was not on the policy. And Holley did not pay any of the premiums for the policy.
After conducting its interest-of-justice analysis pursuant to the forum non conveniens statute, the Supreme Court of Alabama found the case was due to be transferred to Tuscaloosa County.
 Ex parte National Sec. Ins. Co. , 727 So.2d 788, 790 (Ala. 1998).
 Ex parte First Tennessee Bank Nat’l Ass’n, 994 So.2d 906, 911 (Ala. 2008).
 See Ex parte Fuller, 955 So.2d 414 (Ala. 2006).
 See Ex parte Smiths Water & Sewer Auth., 982 So.2d 484, 490 (Ala. 2007).
 Ex parte Wachovia Bank, N.A., 77 So.3d 570, 573-74 (Ala. 2011).
Photo via The Open University.