Venue, transfer, and forum non conveniens problem set: explanations

About: Your analysis of some of these questions will be aided by reviewing the district map attached to the end of this handout.

Instructions: Answer these questions before looking at the explanations. Note that the explanations will not be made publicly available until after we complete our studies of this topic.

Question 1

A judicial district:

A. Is the same thing as a state.
B. Can extend beyond the borders of a state.
C. Might be contained within part of a state.
D. Is always smaller than a state.

EXPLANATION: The correct answer is C, “Might be contained within part of a state.” Some states contain only one judicial district embodying the entire state (such as Nevada). Other states (such as Florida) contain two or more judicial districts. Florida contains three: the Northern, Middle, and Southern Districts. California and Texas each have four. Note: answer B — “Can extend beyond the borders of a state” — is deceptive. Recall that “bulge” jurisdiction extends personal jurisdiction beyond the borders of a judicial district and outside the state containing the district. However, bulge jurisdiction does not extend the borders of the district itself!

Question 2

Danny resides in Miami and Debbie resides in Tallahassee. They decide to travel north to Toronto for spring break, driving in separate cars. On the way, they take a drive in Pittsburgh, going down Murray Avenue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Still in separate cars, they are temporarily distracted by the wonderful smells coming from Mineo’s Pizza Parlor on Murray Avenue. They both run into Paul, who was trying to pull out of a parking spot in front of Mineo’s. If Paul sues Danny and Debbie for negligence, what venue or venues are appropriate?

A. Southern District of Florida.
B. Northern District of Florida.
C. Western District of Pennsylvania.
D. All of the above.

EXPLANATION: The correct answer is D. All of the Ds live in the same state, so venue is ok in any district where one of them resides. (1391(b)(1)). Plus, the car wreck was in Pittsburgh, the place where a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred. (1391(b)(2)).

Question 3

Fredo (resident of Las Vegas) and Johnny (resident of Miami) are sued by Michael (resident of New York) for breach of contract. The contract was negotiated and was to be performed in New Jersey. Fredo and Johnny never showed up to do the work they were hired to do. Venue against Fredo and Johnny would be appropriate in which federal district?

A. In the District of New Jersey only.
B. In the District of New Jersey, the Southern District of Florida, or the District of Nevada.
C. In the Southern District of Florida or the District of Nevada.
D. No venue exists for a suit over both Johnny and Fredo. Michael will have to file two suits.

EXPLANATION: The correct answer is A. Under old section 1391 (i.e., before the 2011 amendments), you’d have to choose between 1391(a) (for diversity suits) and 1391(b) (for federal questions). Under new 1391, just apply 1391(b). Subsection (b)(1) doesn’t apply because all Ds do not reside in the same state. But subsection (b)(2) applies because the contract was negotiated and to be performed (and arguably was breached) in New Jersey. Subsection (b)(3) is a fallback that kicks in only if (b)(1) and (b)(2) don’t apply. Here, (b)(2) applies so we can’t use (b)(3)!

Question 4

Danny resides in Miami and Debbie resides in Tallahassee. They drive together on a trip to Kansas City where their car crashes into Paula’s car. Paula resides in Oregon. Paula sues Danny and Debbie for negligence, claiming that Danny was intoxicated and that Debbie shared beer with Danny while Danny was driving. Of the following potential venues, which are appropriate?

1. Northern District of Florida.
2. Middle District of Florida.

3. Southern District of Florida.
4. District of Kansas
5. District of Oregon

A. 1, 2, and 3
B. 1, 3, 4, and 5
C. 1, 3, and 4
D. 4

EXPLANATION: The correct answer is C. The Northern and Southern Districts of Florida are good under 1391(b)(1) (Danny and Debbie reside in Florida, and respectively reside in the Southern and Northern Districts). The Middle District of Florida is no good because neither D resides there. See 1391(b)(1). The District of Kansas is good because that’s where the accident happened. See 1391(b)(2). The District of Oregon is irrelevant here.

Question 5

Mall-Mart is a large national corporation headquartered in Bentonville (in western Arkansas) and incorporated in Delaware. Mall-Mart has thousands of department stores all over the United States. Pam, a resident of Miami, goes to a Mall-Mart store in Coral Gables and slips on a wet floor, injuring herself. She wants to file suit for negligence against Mall-Mart. Venue is arguably proper:\

A. In the Western District of Arkansas.
B. In the District of Delaware.
C. In the Southern District of Florida.
D. All of the above.

EXPLANATION: The correct response is D, “All of the above.” Section 1391(c)(2) states that “an entity with the capacity to sue and be sued in its common name under applicable law, whether or not incorporated, shall be deemed to reside, if a defendant, in any judicial district in which such defendant is subject to the court’s personal jurisdiction with respect to the civil action in question and, if a plaintiff, only in the judicial district in which it maintains its principal place of business.” (Emphasis added.) We could spend pages talking about this hypo, so here are just a few thoughts. Depending on the scope of the Goodyear opinion, Mall-Mart may be subject to general in personam jurisdiction in every district in the U.S.! Therefore, all three districts suggested (and more) may be appropriate. (As would every other judicial district.) Alternatively, even if one limits Goodyear to district of incorporation and the district of the principal place of business, that would still cover B and A, respectively. The Southern District of Florida is additionally correct because that’s where a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred. (As well as being a place where specific jurisdiction may be appropriate.) Additional thought: consider the implications of 1391(d).

Question 6

Under section 1391, where there is more than one district in a state, a corporation’s residence for purposes of venue exists only in the district with which the corporation has the most significant contacts.

A. True
B. False

EXPLANATION: The correct answer is “False.” The key is understanding that for purposes of venue under 1391(b)(1), corporate “residence” is defined by reference to personal jurisdiction with respect to the civil action in question. Read 1391(c)(2) and (d) carefully. It’s possible for a corporation to be a “resident” of none, one, or more than one of the districts within a state. If the contacts of a corporation are such that it would be subject to PJ in more than one district in the same or different state (with each district treated as if each were a separate state), then the corporation is treated as a “resident” of each and every such district. See 1391(c)(2). It gets more interesting. What about states that have multiple districts, like Texas? More specifically, what if a corporation has sufficient contacts for PJ with Texas, but lacks sufficient contacts for PJ with any of Texas’ judicial districts? Thus, imagine scattered contacts. If so, then the corporation is deemed to be a resident of the district with which it has “the most significant contacts.” Interesting. In sum, for purposes of venue, a corporation could be resident of zero, one, or more than one judicial districts.

Question 7

Brian (resident of Miami) and Stewie (resident of Las Vegas) are introduced to Peter (resident of Quahog, RI) in Tijuana, Mexico. Brian and Stewie beat up Peter. If Peter sues Brian and Stewie for battery, venue is proper in:

1. Northern District of Florida
2. Middle District of Florida
3. Southern District of Florida

4. District of Nevada
5. District of Rhode Island

A. 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5
B. 3 and 4
C. 1, 4, and 5
D. None of the above.

EXPLANATION: The correct answer is B. This is an example of the fallback provision. Under (b)(3), venue is ok in “any judicial district in which any defendant is subject to the court’s personal jurisdiction with respect to such action.” However, for (b)(3) to kick in, there must be “no district in which an action may otherwise be brought as provided in this section.” That means that (b)(3) is a fallback that applies only when (b)(1) and (b)(2) are not satisfied. Here, Brian and Stewie are from different states, so (b)(1) can’t apply because it requires all defendants to be from the same state. The events or omissions happened in Mexico, so (b)(2) can’t apply because nothing relating to the claim happened in a federal judicial district. So the fallback kicks in. At a minimum we can use domicile as a basis for PJ in the relevant districts. So Brian is subject to PJ in the Southern District of Florida and Stewie is subject to PJ in the District of Nevada. Either district is ok for venue purposes. (Remember, here we look to districts, not states.) But there’s a problem, right? Stewie could object to PJ if suit is filed in Florida, and Brian could object to PJ if suit is filed in Nevada! Peter may therefore have to file two suits. (As a further wrinkle, two suits may or may not be possible depending on Fed. R. Civ. P. 19, required joinder of parties, which we’ll study next spring.) Note that under former 1391, the fallback language for diversity suits and federal-question suits differed. Compare former 1391(a)(3), with former 1391(b)(3)

Question 8

Paul sues Danielle in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California for an accident that happened in Miami. Danielle files an answer that fails to object to venue or personal jurisdiction, thus waiving both of those defenses. Later, Danielle argues that federal court in Miami is a far more convenient forum for litigation of the case, and moves that the court dismiss the action under the doctrine of forum non conveniens. The court agrees with Danielle that Florida is the more just and convenient forum. May the court dismiss the action?

A. No, because once Danielle waived her venue objection it becomes too late to argue that another forum is more convenient.
B. No, because dismissal would be inappropriate.
C. Yes, because Florida court would be more convenient.
D. Yes, because the remedy for forum non conveniens is dismissal.

EXPLANATION: The correct answer is B. Dismissal is inappropriate because it is possible for a federal court to transfer the case to a more convenient federal court pursuant to the federal venue transfer statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1404. Here, the court has determined that the Southern District of Florida is a more convenient forum. It is true that the forum non conveniens doctrine also addresses situations where there is a more convenient forum (subject to the public and private interest factors in Piper Aircraft). It is also true that forum non conveniens permits dismissal. However, dismissal is used in forum non conveniens when it is impossible to transfer the case to a more convenient forum within the court system, such as when the more convenient forum is foreign (such as Scotland in the Piper Aircraft case), or a state court (where a federal statutory transfer statute would be lacking). But where the more convenient forum is another federal district court (here, S.D. Fla.), the federal court (here, S.D. Cal.) may transfer.

Added Oct. 12, 2014