Webster v. Southeast Alabama Timber Harvesting, LLC

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Southeast Alabama Timber Harvesting, LLC (Southeast), and Michael J. Smith petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Chambers Circuit Court to vacate its order that denied their motion to transfer the underlying action to Lee County on the ground of forum non conveniens. In 2011, a vehicle driven by Patricia Webster allegedly collided with timber that had come loose from a tractor-trailer rig owned by Southeast, driven by its employee Smith. She sued Southeast and Smith for negligence and wanton and reckless conduct. Southeast's principal office is located in Chambers County. Upon review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court concluded that the circuit court exceeded its discretion in denying Southeast and Smith's motion for a change of venue based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens. The court granted their petition for the writ of mandamus and directed the circuit court to transfer the case to Lee Circuit Court.

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REL: 04/20/2012 Notice: T h i s o p i n i o n i s s u b j e c t t o f o r m a l r e v i s i o n b e f o r e p u b l i c a t i o n i n t h e advance s h e e t s o f Southern R e p o r t e r . R e a d e r s a r e r e q u e s t e d t o n o t i f y t h e R e p o r t e r o f D e c i s i o n s , A l a b a m a A p p e l l a t e C o u r t s , 300 D e x t e r A v e n u e , M o n t g o m e r y , A l a b a m a 3 6 1 0 4 - 3 7 4 1 ( ( 3 3 4 ) 2 2 9 ¬ 0 6 4 9 ) , o f a n y t y p o g r a p h i c a l o r o t h e r e r r o r s , i n o r d e r t h a t c o r r e c t i o n s may b e made b e f o r e t h e o p i n i o n i s p r i n t e d i n Southern R e p o r t e r . SUPREME COURT OF ALABAMA OCTOBER TERM, 2011-2012 1110349 Ex p a r t e Southeast Alabama Timber H a r v e s t i n g , LLC, and M i c h a e l J . Smith PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS (In r e : P a t r i c i a G a i l Webster v. Southeast Alabama Timber H a r v e s t i n g , LLC, and M i c h a e l J . Smith) (Chambers C i r c u i t Court, CV-11-900040) PER CURIAM. 1110349 S o u t h e a s t A l a b a m a T i m b e r H a r v e s t i n g , LLC and Michael J . Smith mandamus d i r e c t i n g petition Lee County Court t h e Chambers C i r c u i t order denying t h e i r motion to this ("Southeast"), for a writ of Court t o vacate i t s to transfer the underlying action on t h e g r o u n d o f forum non c o n v e n i e n s e n t e r an o r d e r g r a n t i n g t h e i r m o t i o n . and t o We g r a n t t h e p e t i t i o n and i s s u e t h e w r i t . I. F a c t s and P r o c e d u r a l H i s t o r y On F e b r u a r y 2 2 , 2 0 1 1 , a v e h i c l e b e i n g d r i v e n b y P a t r i c i a Gail Webster collided with trailer on Marvyn timber r i g owned employee, Smith, Parkway that by h a d come Southeast causing Webster o f f i c e r s who w o r k i n Lee C o u n t y accident. After i n Lee County loose from and b e i n g serious allegedly a tractor- driven by i t s injuries. Police responded t o t h e scene o f t h e t h e a c c i d e n t , Webster was treated at East Alabama M e d i c a l C e n t e r i n Lee County. On April 18, 2011, Webster sued Southeast and Smith a l l e g i n g n e g l i g e n t and/or wanton l o a d i n g and/or s e c u r i n g l o a d ; negligent violations hiring, entrustment; negligent, of the rules and s u p e r v i s i o n ; reckless, and/or of the road; negligent and wanton 2 and r e c k l e s s wanton training, conduct. 1110349 Webster filed her action i n the Chambers Circuit Court i n r e l i a n c e upon t h e venue p r o v i s i o n o f § 6 - 3 - 7 ( a ) ( 2 ) , A l a . Code 1975, p r o v i d i n g t h a t a c o u n t y i n w h i c h a c o r p o r a t i o n m a i n t a i n s its principal office in this s t a t e i s a p r o p e r venue f o r an action against that corporation. Southeast's p r i n c i p a l is l o c a t e d i n Chambers On May County. 1 19, 2011, S o u t h e a s t and S m i t h f i l e d a n s w e r s t o t h e c o m p l a i n t i n w h i c h t h e y a s s e r t e d i m p r o p e r venue, the doctrine defense. for office of forum non conveniens, as an specifically affirmative On J u l y 12, 2011, S o u t h e a s t and S m i t h f i l e d a m o t i o n a change o f venue i n w h i c h t h e y c o n t e n d e d , b a s e d on § 21.1, A l a . Code 1975, 6-3¬ t h a t t h e c a s e s h o u l d be t r a n s f e r r e d t o Lee C o u n t y i n t h e i n t e r e s t o f j u s t i c e and f o r t h e c o n v e n i e n c e of the parties and witnesses. Southeast and Smith filed e x h i b i t s i n s u p p o r t o f t h e i r m o t i o n , i n c l u d i n g an a f f i d a v i t o f David Lollis, accident, who the only known averred that he nonparty lives and t h a t t r a v e l i n g t o Chambers C o u n t y eyewitness to and w o r k s i n Lee f o r the t r i a l the County would be "a s i g n i f i c a n t b u r d e n " t o him. A t t h e t i m e o f t h e a c c i d e n t , W e b s t e r r e s i d e d and w o r k e d i n Lee C o u n t y . I t i s not c l e a r from the r e c o r d whether W e b s t e r c o n t i n u e d t o r e s i d e and t o work i n Lee C o u n t y when t h e a c t i o n was f i l e d . 1 3 1110349 On October 18, 2011, Webster filed an opposition to S o u t h e a s t a n d S m i t h ' s m o t i o n f o r a change o f venue. On November 10, 2 0 1 1 , f o l l o w i n g court venue. of e n t e r e d an o r d e r d e n y i n g a hearing, the motion the c i r c u i t f o r a change o f S o u t h e a s t and Smith t i m e l y f i l e d a p e t i t i o n f o r a w r i t mandamus s e e k i n g a r e v i e w o f t h e c i r c u i t II. court's order. Standard o f Review "The p r o p e r method f o r o b t a i n i n g r e v i e w o f a d e n i a l o f a m o t i o n f o r a change o f venue i n a c i v i l a c t i o n i s t o p e t i t i o n f o r t h e w r i t o f mandamus. L a w l e r M o b i l e Homes, I n c . v . T a r v e r , 492 So. 2d 297, 302 ( A l a . 1986) . 'Mandamus i s a d r a s t i c a n d e x t r a o r d i n a r y w r i t , t o be i s s u e d o n l y where t h e r e i s (1) a c l e a r l e g a l r i g h t i n t h e p e t i t i o n e r t o t h e o r d e r s o u g h t ; (2) an i m p e r a t i v e d u t y upon t h e respondent t o p e r f o r m , accompanied by a r e f u s a l t o do s o ; (3) t h e l a c k o f a n o t h e r a d e q u a t e r e m e d y ; a n d (4) p r o p e r l y i n v o k e d j u r i s d i c t i o n o f t h e c o u r t . ' Ex p a r t e I n t e g o n C o r p . , 672 So. 2d 497, 499 ( A l a . 1995). 'When we consider a mandamus petition r e l a t i n g t o a venue r u l i n g , o u r s c o p e o f r e v i e w i s to determine i f the t r i a l court [exceeded] i t s discretion, i . e . , whether i t exercised i t s d i s c r e t i o n i n an a r b i t r a r y a n d c a p r i c i o u s manner.' I d . Our r e v i e w i s f u r t h e r l i m i t e d t o t h o s e f a c t s t h a t were b e f o r e t h e t r i a l c o u r t . Ex p a r t e A m e r i c a n R e s o u r c e s I n s . Co., 663 So. 2d 932, 936 ( A l a . 1995)." Ex p a r t e N a t i o n a l S e c . I n s . Co., 727 So. 2d 788, 789 1998). 4 (Ala. 1110349 III. Section transferred 6-3-21.1 Analysis provides when t o a n o t h e r venue u n d e r an action be of forum the d o c t r i n e must non conveniens: "With respect to civil actions filed in an a p p r o p r i a t e v e n u e , any c o u r t o f g e n e r a l j u r i s d i c t i o n s h a l l , f o r t h e c o n v e n i e n c e o f p a r t i e s and w i t n e s s e s , o r i n t h e i n t e r e s t o f j u s t i c e , t r a n s f e r any c i v i l a c t i o n o r any c l a i m i n any c i v i l a c t i o n t o any c o u r t of g e n e r a l j u r i s d i c t i o n i n which the a c t i o n might have b e e n p r o p e r l y f i l e d and t h e c a s e s h a l l p r o c e e d as t h o u g h o r i g i n a l l y f i l e d t h e r e i n . " § 6-3-21.1(a), A l a . Code 1975 (emphasis added). "A defendant m o v i n g f o r a t r a n s f e r u n d e r § 6-3-21.1 has t h e i n i t i a l of showing that convenience interest So. of the transfer parties of j u s t i c e . " 2d a t is and justified, witnesses Ex p a r t e N a t i o n a l based on the based on the I n s . Co., 727 or Sec. 789. Southeast justice the and and the Smith contend convenience of that the both the parties interest and the Because S o u t h e a s t and i n t e r e s t of j u s t i c e requires t o Lee S m i t h have d e m o n s t r a t e d a t r a n s f e r of t h i s of witnesses d i c t a t e t h e t r a n s f e r o f t h i s c a s e f r o m Chambers C o u n t y County. burden that case, we do n o t a d d r e s s t h e c o n v e n i e n c e o f t h e p a r t i e s and w i t n e s s e s . 5 1110349 "The ' i n t e r e s t o f j u s t i c e ' p r o n g o f § 6-3-21.1 r e q u i r e s 'the t r a n s f e r o f t h e a c t i o n f r o m a c o u n t y w i t h l i t t l e , i f any, c o n n e c t i o n t o t h e a c t i o n , t o the county w i t h a s t r o n g connection to the a c t i o n . ' Ex p a r t e N a t i o n a l S e c . I n s . Co., 727 So. 2d [788,] 790 [ ( A l a . 1998)]. Therefore, ' i n a n a l y z i n g the i n t e r e s t - o f - j u s t i c e p r o n g o f § 6-3-21.1, t h i s C o u r t f o c u s e s on w h e t h e r the "nexus" or " c o n n e c t i o n " b e t w e e n t h e p l a i n t i f f ' s a c t i o n and t h e o r i g i n a l f o r u m i s s t r o n g enough t o w a r r a n t b u r d e n i n g t h e p l a i n t i f f ' s f o r u m w i t h t h e a c t i o n . ' Ex p a r t e F i r s t T e n n e s s e e Bank N a t ' l A s s ' n , 994 So. 2d 906, 911 ( A l a . 2008) . A d d i t i o n a l l y , t h i s C o u r t has h e l d t h a t ' l i t i g a t i o n s h o u l d be h a n d l e d i n t h e f o r u m where t h e i n j u r y o c c u r r e d . ' Ex p a r t e F u l l e r , 955 So. 2d 414, 416 ( A l a . 2 0 0 6 ) . F u r t h e r , i n e x a m i n i n g w h e t h e r i t i s i n t h e i n t e r e s t o f j u s t i c e t o t r a n s f e r a c a s e , we c o n s i d e r 'the b u r d e n o f p i l i n g c o u r t s e r v i c e s and r e s o u r c e s upon t h e p e o p l e o f a c o u n t y t h a t i s n o t a f f e c t e d by t h e c a s e and ... t h e i n t e r e s t o f t h e p e o p l e o f a c o u n t y t o have a c a s e t h a t a r i s e s i n t h e i r county t r i e d c l o s e to p u b l i c view i n t h e i r c o u n t y . ' Ex p a r t e S m i t h s W a t e r & Sewer A u t h . , 982 So. 2d 484, 490 ( A l a . 2 0 0 7 ) . The p e t i t i o n e r s i n t h i s case are thus r e q u i r e d t o demonstrate ' " t h a t h a v i n g t h e c a s e h e a r d i n [Lee] C o u n t y w o u l d more s e r v e t h e i n t e r e s t of j u s t i c e " ' than h a v i n g the case heard i n [Chambers] C o u n t y . Ex p a r t e F i r s t T e n n e s s e e Bank, 994 So. 2d a t 909 ( q u o t i n g Ex p a r t e F u l l e r , 955 So. 2d 414, 416 ( A l a . 2 0 0 6 ) ) . " Ex p a r t e I n d i a n a M i l l s & Mfg., I n c . , 10 So. 3d 536, 540 ( A l a . 2008). Southeast and Smith emphasize that the o n l y connection t h i s c a s e has t o Chambers C o u n t y i s t h e f a c t t h a t S o u t h e a s t ' s principal p l a c e of b u s i n e s s i s l o c a t e d They c i t e several i n Chambers County. a u t o m o b i l e - a c c i d e n t cases w i t h p r o c e d u r a l 6 1110349 facts similar to those in this case i n which this Court m a n d a t e d t h a t t h e c a s e s h o u l d be t r a n s f e r r e d t o t h e c o u n t y i n which the a c c i d e n t o c c u r r e d . For of an example, i n Indiana M i l l s , Marcy Johnson, e m p l o y e e o f S u n f l o w e r Waste, LLC, sued Sunflower some o f i t s e m p l o y e e s f o l l o w i n g an a c c i d e n t t h a t husband's death. the a c t i o n where one Johnson filed of the defendants business. t h e widow caused i n Macon petition the County, B a s e d on t h e d o c t r i n e o f f o r u m non c o n v e n i e n s , t h e s i t u s of the a c c i d e n t . motion her r e s i d e d and where S u n f l o w e r d i d d e f e n d a n t s f i l e d a m o t i o n f o r a change o f venue t o Lee the and to transfer for a writ the The Macon C i r c u i t C o u r t d e n i e d t h e case, and the o f mandamus i n t h i s defendants' p e t i t i o n , County, t h i s Court defendants Court. filed In g r a n t i n g explained: "We agree that this case certainly has a c o n n e c t i o n w i t h Macon C o u n t y -- as M a r c y n o t e s , C o n n e r [ , an i n d i v i d u a l d e f e n d a n t , ] r e s i d e s t h e r e and Sunflower conducts business there. A d d i t i o n a l l y , i t i s t r u e t h a t none o f t h e p a r t i e s i n t h i s case actually resides in Lee County. However, we nevertheless hold that the overall connection b e t w e e n Macon C o u n t y and t h i s c a s e i s weak and t h a t the c o n n e c t i o n b e t w e e n t h e c a s e and Lee C o u n t y i s strong. " F i r s t and f o r e m o s t , t h e a c c i d e n t o c c u r r e d i n Lee County. Lee County police and emergency p e r s o n n e l -- t h e O p e l i k a P o l i c e D e p a r t m e n t and t h e 7 a 1110349 O p e l i k a F i r e D e p a r t m e n t -- r e s p o n d e d t o t h e s c e n e and i n v e s t i g a t e d t h e a c c i d e n t . A d d i t i o n a l l y , Gene Manning, the c h i e f deputy c o r o n e r of Lee County, i n v e s t i g a t e d James's d e a t h . He testified i n an affidavit that a l l t h e work he performed i n c o n n e c t i o n w i t h the i n v e s t i g a t i o n t o o k p l a c e i n Lee C o u n t y . A d d i t i o n a l l y Danny C o t n e y , t h e a s s i s t a n t f i r e c h i e f of the O p e l i k a F i r e Department, t e s t i f i e d t h a t t h e v a r i o u s r e c o r d s and documents g e n e r a t e d by the d e p a r t m e n t a r e l o c a t e d i n L e e C o u n t y . "On t h e o t h e r h a n d , t h e ' c o n n e c t i o n ' o r 'nexus' w i t h Macon C o u n t y i n t h i s c a s e i s weak. No p a r t y b u t Conner r e s i d e s o r i s l o c a t e d t h e r e . A d d i t i o n a l l y , none o f t h e r e l e v a n t f a c t s i n t h i s c a s e a c t u a l l y i n v o l v e Macon C o u n t y . " Ex parte (footnote Indiana & Mfg., I n c . , 10 So. 3d at 540-41 omitted). Similarly, (Ala. Mills i n Ex p a r t e M c K e n z i e O i l Co., 13 So. 3d 2008), Lee F r a n k l i n sued Gary Heathcock, the d r i v e r a vehicle that s t r u c k the v e h i c l e F r a n k l i n was driving, 346 of and M c K e n z i e O i l Company, I n c . , w h i c h o p e r a t e d a c o n v e n i e n c e s t o r e at the w h i c h Heathcock had p u r c h a s e d a l c o h o l i c accident. Franklin filed the a c t i o n beverages i n Barbour before County, where M c K e n z i e ' s c o r p o r a t e h e a d q u a r t e r s were l o c a t e d . Based on t h e d o c t r i n e o f f o r u m non c o n v e n i e n s , t h e d e f e n d a n t s f i l e d a m o t i o n f o r a change o f venue t o E s c a m b i a C o u n t y , t h e of the accident. to transfer situs The B a r b o u r C i r c u i t C o u r t d e n i e d t h e m o t i o n the case. The defendants then f i l e d 8 a petition 1110349 for a writ defendants' of mandamus petition in this for a writ Court. of In granting mandamus, this Court observed: " F r a n k l i n p o i n t s out t h a t McKenzie's c o r p o r a t e headquarters i s l o c a t e d i n Barbour County; thus, F r a n k l i n c l a i m s t h a t B a r b o u r C o u n t y and i t s c i t i z e n s have an i n t e r e s t i n M c K e n z i e ' s ' w e l l - b e i n g ' and a 'significant interest i n whether McKenzie' has f u l f i l l e d i t s o b l i g a t i o n s as a v e n d o r o f a l c o h o l i c beverages. "We a g r e e t h a t M c K e n z i e has 'a B a r b o u r County by v i r t u e o f t h e corporate h e a d q u a r t e r s . However, c o n n e c t i o n t o B a r b o u r C o u n t y t o be c o n n e c t i o n w i t h Escambia County t o p a r t e N a t i o n a l Sec. I n s . Co., [727 1998)]. connection' with l o c a t i o n of i t s we find this ' l i t t l e ' and t h e be ' s t r o n g . ' Ex So. 2d 788 ( A l a . " "... [W]e n o t e t h a t v i r t u a l l y none o f t h e e v e n t s or c i r c u m s t a n c e s i n v o l v e d i n t h i s c a s e o c c u r r e d i n or r e l a t e t o Barbour County. S p e c i f i c a l l y , the a c c i d e n t g i v i n g r i s e t o F r a n k l i n ' s c l a i m s and t h e a l l e g e d t o r t i o u s c o n d u c t by b o t h H e a t h c o c k and McKenzie took place in Escambia County. L a w - e n f o r c e m e n t p e r s o n n e l and m e d i c a l p e r s o n n e l i n Escambia County investigated the accident and t r e a t e d F r a n k l i n ' s i n j u r i e s . ... H e a t h c o c k r e s i d e s in Escambia County. For a l l t h a t appears, a l l material events in this case, including the a c c i d e n t , o c c u r r e d i n Escambia County. " G i v e n t h i s s m a l l n e x u s and l i t t l e c o n n e c t i o n w i t h t h e f a c t s o f t h i s c a s e t o B a r b o u r C o u n t y and the s t r o n g c o n n e c t i o n w i t h E s c a m b i a C o u n t y , we h o l d t h a t h e a r i n g t h e c a s e i n E s c a m b i a C o u n t y 'would more s e r v e t h e i n t e r e s t o f j u s t i c e . ' Ex p a r t e First 9 the 1110349 T e n n e s s e e Bank [ N a t ' l A s s ' n , 994 So. 2d 906 ( A l a . 2 0 0 8 ) ] . T h e r e f o r e , M c K e n z i e has d e m o n s t r a t e d t h a t t h e a c t i o n i s due t o be t r a n s f e r r e d t o E s c a m b i a C o u n t y u n d e r A l a . Code 1975, § 6-3-21.1." Ex p a r t e M c K e n z i e O i l Co., 13 So. 3d a t 349-50. L i k e t h e a c t i o n s i n I n d i a n a M i l l s and M c K e n z i e a c t i o n was Oil, this f i l e d i n the county of a defendant's r e s i d e n c e or p r i n c i p a l p l a c e o f b u s i n e s s -- Chambers C o u n t y -- a l t h o u g h t h e a c c i d e n t o c c u r r e d i n a n o t h e r c o u n t y -- Lee County. As this C o u r t has o b s e r v e d : " A l t h o u g h i t i s n o t a t a l i s m a n , t h e fact t h a t the i n j u r y o c c u r r e d i n the proposed t r a n s f e r e e county i s o f t e n a s s i g n e d c o n s i d e r a b l e w e i g h t i n an interest-of-justice analysis." 77 So. 3d 570, 74 Ex p a r t e W a c h o v i a Bank, N.A., ( A l a . 2011). Also, as i n t h e c a s e s d i s c u s s e d above, e m e r g e n c y p e r s o n n e l who W e b s t e r was 573¬ responded to the accident i n the which i n j u r e d work i n t h e c o u n t y t o w h i c h S o u t h e a s t and S m i t h s e e k t o have t h e a c t i o n t r a n s f e r r e d . F u r t h e r , the o n l y nonparty and County, eyewitness to the and W e b s t e r was the time of the W e b s t e r has distinguish, accident lives living works in Lee and w o r k i n g i n Lee C o u n t y at discussed, l e t alone attempted to accident. not even I n d i a n a M i l l s , McKenzie Oil, o r any o f t h e o t h e r c a s e s S o u t h e a s t and S m i t h c i t e d i n s u p p o r t o f t r a n s f e r r i n g t h e 10 1110349 case, i n the i n t e r e s t Webster s i m p l y the of j u s t i c e , argues t h a t f o r u m non c o n v e n i e n s 2 Instead, the i n t e r e s t - o f - j u s t i c e prong of statute t o Lee C o u n t y . supports a c t i o n i n t h e home c o u n t y o f a d e f e n d a n t . the f i l i n g o f an She c i t e s two c a s e s in support of t h i s p r o p o s i t i o n 600 ( A l a . 2 0 0 7 ) , a n d Ex p a r t e 778 ( A l a . 2002), both of which a r e e a s i l y d i s t i n g u i s h a b l e . In filed Yocum, her Ex p a r t e C i t y of H a l e y v i l l e , the p l a i n t i f f , action Yocum, 963 So. 2d a resident i n Jefferson 827 So. 2d of Dallas County, the County, residence p r i n c i p a l p l a c e o f b u s i n e s s o f two o f t h e d e f e n d a n t s . defendants transfer who resided the a c t i o n i n Dallas to Dallas County County filed on or Several a motion t o the basis of the d o c t r i n e o f f o r u m non c o n v e n i e n s . The J e f f e r s o n C i r c u i t C o u r t denied and t h i s the motion defendants' Unlike the this claims subsequent petition for a Court writ c a s e , Yocum i n v o l v e d a c o n t r a c t against fraud, suppression, relations. to transfer, This the Jefferson conversion, denied of the mandamus. dispute i n which County defendants included and i n t e r f e r e n c e w i t h b u s i n e s s Court concluded that the Jefferson Circuit S e e Ex p a r t e A u t a u g a H e a t i n g & C o o l i n g , L L C , 58 So. 3d 745 ( A l a . 2 0 1 0 ) ; Ex p a r t e Kane, 989 So. 2d 509 ( A l a . 2 0 0 8 ) ; Ex p a r t e Bama C o n c r e t e , 8 So. 3d 295 ( A l a . 2 0 0 8 ) ; a n d Ex p a r t e F u l l e r , 955 So. 2d 414( A l a . 2 0 0 6 ) . 2 11 1110349 Court d i d not exceed i t s d i s c r e t i o n i n denying the motion to t r a n s f e r " [ b ] e c a u s e o f t h e nexus b e t w e e n the alleged participation of the J e f f e r s o n County two Jefferson County d e f e n d a n t s i n t h e a l l e g e d scheme t o o v e r c h a r g e Cahaba so as t o d e f l a t e plaintiff]." Court i t s profits and hence denied the p e t i t i o n f o r a w r i t of the defendants resided [the Thus, this o f mandamus s e e k i n g a t r a n s f e r of the case from J e f f e r s o n County not s i m p l y two Timber t h e amount due Ex p a r t e Yocum, 963 So. 2d a t 603. and or had because a p r i n c i p a l place of b u s i n e s s i n J e f f e r s o n County, b u t because J e f f e r s o n County had a substantial connection to the matters g i v i n g rise to the action. Haleyville involved a plaintiff who is i n Winston located Haleyville, County based an a c t i o n filed i n Marion County by f e l l a t t h e Downtown M a l l o f H a l e y v i l l e , w h i c h filed County. The defendant, the C i t y of a m o t i o n f o r a change o f venue t o W i n s t o n on § 6-3-11, A l a . Code 1975, the s t a t u t e that c o n t r o l s venue f o r c i v i l a c t i o n s f i l e d a g a i n s t m u n i c i p a l i t i e s . Webster argues t h a t and this Court d i d not f e e l that the i n t e r e s t of j u s t i c e r e q u i r e d that the p l a i n t i f f i n H a l e y v i l l e "the t r i a l court must p r o s e c u t e h e r c a s e i n t h e c o u n t y where she 12 1110349 fell In r a t h e r than h e r chosen fact, factor forum." Webster's t h i s Court d i d not address i n Haleyville because b r i e f , p. 10. the i n t e r e s t - o f - j u s t i c e the defendant's motion to t r a n s f e r t h e c a s e was n o t b a s e d upon t h e d o c t r i n e o f f o r u m non conveniens. The C i t y o f H a l e y v i l l e contended t h a t v e n u e was i m p r o p e r i n M a r i o n C o u n t y , n o t t h a t W i n s t o n C o u n t y was a more a p p r o p r i a t e o r more c o n v e n i e n t f o r u m . p r o v i d e s no s u p p o r t f o r W e b s t e r ' s This Court requires has held transferring that the an a c t i o n an overall weak Haleyville position. "interest t o a county c o n n e c t i o n t o t h e c a s e as o p p o s e d with Therefore, of justice" with a strong t o keeping i t i n a county connection. Chambers C o u n t y ' s sole c o n n e c t i o n w i t h t h e c a s e -- t h a t i t i s t h e p r i n c i p a l p l a c e o f b u s i n e s s o f S o u t h e a s t -- i s weak i n c o m p a r i s o n t o Lee C o u n t y ' s connection w i t h the case. IV. Based Conclusion on t h e f o r e g o i n g , we conclude that the circuit c o u r t exceeded i t s d i s c r e t i o n i n d e n y i n g S o u t h e a s t and Smith's motion non f o r a c h a n g e o f venue b a s e d conveniens. petition We therefore f o r the writ grant o f mandamus 13 on t h e d o c t r i n e o f f o r u m Southeast and Smith's and d i r e c t the circuit 1110349 court, i n the interest transferring Lee C i r c u i t of justice, to enter an order t h e c a s e f r o m t h e Chambers C i r c u i t C o u r t t o t h e Court. PETITION GRANTED; WRIT ISSUED. Malone, C . J . , and Woodall, Main, and Wise, J J . , concur. Murdock, J . , d i s s e n t s . 14 Stuart, Bolin, P a r k e r , Shaw, 1110349 MURDOCK, J u s t i c e I respectfully explained N.A., (dissenting). i n my 77 So. dissent special 3d 570 from writing ( A l a . 2011) today's i n Ex decision. p a r t e Wachovia As I Bank, (Murdock, J . , d i s s e n t i n g ) : "With t h i s C o u r t ' s r e c e n t i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of the ' i n t e r e s t - o f - j u s t i c e ' p r o n g o f § 6-3-21.1, I b e l i e v e we l a r g e l y have n e g a t e d t h e i n t e n d e d field of o p e r a t i o n o f s t a t u t o r y p r o v i s i o n s s u c h as [ A l a . Code 1975,] § 6 - 3 - 2 ( a ) ( 3 ) . See a l s o [ A l a . Code 1975,] § 6-3-2(a)(2) ( p r o v i d i n g f o r a c t i o n s on c o n t r a c t s b r o u g h t a g a i n s t an i n d i v i d u a l t o be commenced i n t h e c o u n t y where t h e d e f e n d a n t r e s i d e s i f he o r she m a i n t a i n s a permanent r e s i d e n c e i n t h a t c o u n t y ) ; § 6 - 3 - 7 ( a ) ( 2 ) ( p r o v i d i n g t h a t an a c t i o n may be b r o u g h t against a corporation in the county of the corporation's principal office i n this state). In e f f e c t , we have s u b s t i t u t e d a new p r e s u m p t i o n t h a t an a c t i o n c a n n o t be t r i e d i n a c o u n t y i f t h e o n l y c o n n e c t i o n b e t w e e n t h e l a w s u i t and t h e c o u n t y i s t h a t t h e c o u n t y i s t h e p e r m a n e n t r e s i d e n c e o f one o r more o f t h e d e f e n d a n t s . We now call such a c o n n e c t i o n a 'weak c o n n e c t i o n ' and, as a g e n e r a l r u l e , r e q u i r e the t r a n s f e r of the t o r t a c t i o n to the c o u n t y where t h e ' a c c i d e n t ' o c c u r r e d . . . . [ ] 3 " I r o n i c a l l y , h o w e v e r , i n p r o d u c t s - l i a b i l i t y c a s e s , we do n o t t r e a t t h e c o u n t y where an a c c i d e n t o c c u r r e d as a c o u n t y i n w h i c h "an e v e n t ... g i v i n g r i s e t o t h e c l a i m " o c c u r r e d f o r p u r p o s e s o f t h e venue p r o v i s i o n f o u n d i n § 6 - 3 - 7 ( a ) ( 1 ) , A l a . Code 1975. See Ex p a r t e S u z u k i M o b i l e , I n c . , 940 So. 2d 1007 ( A l a . 2 0 0 6 ) ; Ex p a r t e V o l v o T r u c k s N o r t h A m e r i c a , I n c . , 954 So. 2d 583 ( A l a . 2006) . I have e x p r e s s e d my d i s a g r e e m e n t w i t h t h i s p r o p o s i t i o n . See, e.g., Ex p a r t e F o r d M o t o r Co., 47 So. 3d 234, 241 ( A l a . 2010) (Murdock, J . , c o n c u r r i n g i n t h e r e s u l t ) ; Ex p a r t e T h o m a s v i l l e F e e d & Seed, I n c . , 74 So. 3d 940, 944 ( A l a . 2011) (Murdock, J . , c o n c u r r i n g i n t h e r e s u l t ) . 3 15 1110349 "In interpreting and applying the ' i n t e r e s t - o f - j u s t i c e ' p r o n g i n t h i s manner, we h a v e , I b e l i e v e , g i v e n t h a t p r o n g f a r g r e a t e r m e a n i n g and e f f e c t t h a n i t has h i s t o r i c a l l y b e e n u n d e r s t o o d by t h e b e n c h and b a r t o h a v e . M o r e o v e r , we have g i v e n it an e f f e c t i n c o n s i s t e n t w i t h t h e legislative determination that other statutorily prescribed l o c a t i o n s f o r a c t i o n s u n d e r §§ 6-3-2 and 6-3-7 are g e n e r a l l y and p r e s u m p t i v e l y a p p r o p r i a t e . " 77 So. 3d a t 576-77. Today's decision misinterpretation f o r u m non of the perpetuates the interest-of-justice conveniens s t a t u t e . 16 above-described prong of the