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Callahan v. Bledsoe

United States District Court, D. Kansas

April 6, 2017




         Plaintiff Jenoise Callahan filed this action against Defendant Dr. Scott Bledsoe and Wesley Medical Center, LLC (collectively referred to as “Defendants”) alleging a medical malpractice claim for failure to properly diagnose and treat her hypertension, intracranial pressure, and increased cerebral spinal fluid pressure, which led to her permanent loss of vision. This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Joint Motion to Transfer This Action to Wichita, Kansas for Docketing, Maintenance, and Jury Trial (Doc. 40).[1] The motion is fully briefed, and the Court is prepared to rule. For the reasoning explained more fully below, the Court grants Defendants' motion to transfer the trial to Wichita, Kansas. However, the Court denies transfer of the case as to docketing and maintenance.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff is a citizen and resident of Denver, Colorado. Defendant Wesley Medical Center, LLC (“Wesley Medical”) is a Delaware limited liability company that at all relevant times was registered and qualified to do business and conducted business in the state of Kansas. Defendant Wesley Medical at all relevant times owned and operated a medical facility known as Galichia Heart Hospital or Wesley Woodlawn Hospital and Emergency Room located in Wichita, Kansas. Defendant Scott Bledsoe (“Dr. Bledsoe”) is a physician licensed in the state of Kansas who practices in Wichita, Kansas. Plaintiff's counsel is located in Kansas City, Missouri. Defendants' counsel is located in Wichita, Kansas and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

         Plaintiff alleges that she was not properly diagnosed and received improper treatment while in Defendant Wesley Medical's emergency room on May 15, 2014. Defendant Dr. Bledsoe was the attending physician while she was under Defendant Wesley Medical's care. Plaintiff was re-admitted to Defendant Wesley Medical on May 17-18 where she became blind.

         II. Legal Standard

         Defendants request the case be transferred to the Wichita division pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404 and D. Kan. Rule 40.2. Under Rule 40.2, “[t]he court is not bound by the requests for place of trial. It may determine the place of trial upon motion or in its discretion.” In this district, when considering a motion for intra-district transfer, [2] courts look to the same factors relevant for change of venue under 28 U.S.C. § 1404.[3] That statute, § 1404(a), provides in pertinent part: “For the convenience of the parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought.”[4]Under a § 1404(a) analysis, a district court should consider (1) plaintiff's choice of forum; (2) the convenience of the witnesses; (3) the accessibility of witnesses and other sources of proof; (4) the possibility of obtaining a fair trial; and (5) all other practical considerations that make a trial easy, expeditious and economical.[5]

         Although a plaintiff's forum choice “should rarely be disturbed, ”[6] the plaintiff's choice of forum receives little deference when, as here, the plaintiff does not reside there.[7] Further, in addition to living outside the chosen forum, “courts have given little weight to a plaintiff's choice of forum where the facts giving rise to the lawsuit have no material relation or significant connection to the plaintiff's chosen forum.”[8] The party seeking to transfer the case has the burden of proving that the existing forum is inconvenient.[9]

         III. Discussion

         Defendants move for an intra-district change of venue from the Kansas City division to the Wichita division of the entire case. The Court will not grant Defendants' request to transfer the entire case to the Wichita division. For purposes of docketing, all filings are done electronically, so it does not matter whether the case is considered in Kansas City or Wichita. Further, in this district, most pretrial proceedings in civil cases, including discovery disputes, are conducted by phone. Most pretrial motions in civil cases are decided on the briefing and rarely called for a hearing. Thus, it is inconsequential whether docketing and maintenance is completed in Kansas City. Instead, the Court considers Defendants' request that the trial be set in Wichita. For the reasoning explained more fully below, the Court finds that trial is properly set in the Wichita division.

         A. Plaintiff's Choice of Forum

         Plaintiff has designated Kansas City, Kansas as the place of trial, but she resides in Denver, Colorado.[10] Thus, she is an out-of-forum plaintiff. Plaintiff argues that her choice to designate Kansas City as the place of trial should be given deference because she is blind and needs to travel to Kansas for trial. She admits that this factor “is not as weighty as it would be with residency, ” but should still be given significant weight based on her disability.[11]

         The Court is not persuaded Plaintiff's choice of Kansas City should be afforded great weight. First, Plaintiff must fly from Denver, Colorado to Kansas. Plaintiff may do so through Kansas City or Wichita. Both have sizeable airports, and to the extent that Plaintiff requests this Court take judicial notice of a price difference in the Wichita airport and the Kansas City airport, the Court declines to do so based on the briefing presented. Based on the fact that the underlying cause of action occurred in Wichita, it is clear that Plaintiff and her brother, Jim Callahan, are familiar with Wichita, and it will not be an entirely foreign city for Plaintiff. Second, Wichita and Kansas City, both hotel accommodations and the Courthouse, have facilities that can provide assistance to Plaintiff's needs as a blind woman. The Court does not find that Plaintiff's disability provides reasoning to afford greater deference to her choice of Kansas City for trial.

         Further, the Court gives little weight to this factor because Kansas City has little to no connection to the facts of the underlying cause of action. Upon reading Plaintiff's Complaint, Kansas City is not mentioned a single time, other than serving as the location of Defendant Wesley Medical's registered agent. The allegations of medical malpractice took place entirely in Wichita, Kansas. Thus, this Court finds the nexus to Wichita and lack of connection to Kansas City counsels against affording deference to Plaintiff's choice of trial location.

         Plaintiff argues that this Court should follow the analysis in Nkemakolam v. St. John's Military School.[12] In Nkemakolam, the plaintiffs were out of state residents suing the defendant, who was located in Salina, Kansas, in Kansas City.[13] The defendant wanted the trial moved to Topeka, which was closer to the defendant.[14] The court gave deference to the plaintiffs' choice of forum because the plaintiffs were out of state residents who needed to fly to Kansas and the presence of a large airport made Kansas City more convenient than Topeka.[15] Also, the court found “although Topeka might be marginally more convenient for St. John's and its witnesses, that factor is at least counter-balanced by the loss in convenience to plaintiffs and other witnesses residing outside the state.”[16]

         The Court finds that this case is distinguishable from Nkemakolam. Plaintiff is an out-of-state resident suing Defendants, which are both located in Wichita. While the Court considers Plaintiff's choice of forum, it does not give as much deference as in Nkemakolam because Wichita has a sizeable airport with national airlines. Unlike the only marginal convenience to the defendant in Nkemakolam for transfer from Kansas City to Topeka, there is a large difference in convenience to Defendants to transfer from Kansas City to Wichita. Defendants are located in Wichita and the distance between Wichita and Kansas City is nearly two hundred miles. Thus, the key factors that led to the denial of transfer in Nkemakolam counsel for transfer in this case.

         Ultimately, although this Court finds that Plaintiff's designation of Kansas City as the place for trial should be afforded some weight, this factor weighs little or is neutral given the underlying cause of action has no tie to Kansas City, Defendants are located in Wichita, and Plaintiff can travel to Wichita.

         B. Convenience And Accessibility of Evidence

         The relative convenience of the forum is a primary consideration in deciding a motion to transfer where plaintiff is out of forum.[17] Plaintiff's proposed forum must be “substantially inconvenient” to warrant a change in forum.[18] A proposed forum will be “substantially inconvenient” if all or practically all the witnesses reside in a different forum and traveling to the proposed forum is a substantial burden.[19] To demonstrate inconvenience, Defendant must: “(1) identify the witnesses and their locations; (2) indicate the quality or materiality of their testimony; and (3) show that any such ...

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