Construction Law Insights

A.E. v. Ashford Gateway TRS Corp. Grp., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 198948, 2018 WL 6106375 (E.D. Va. Nov. 21, 2018)

A.E. (a child) and her family were attending a family reunion in a Marriott Hotel ballroom in Arlington, Virginia. During the reunion, a large light fixture fell from the ceiling on A.E.’s head. Prior to the incident, Marriott, Humphrey Rich Construction Group, Inc. (“Humphrey”), and Cabling Solutions of Rutherford County, LLC (“Cabling Solutions” and collectively the “Defendants”) all participated in the design, installation, and/or inspection of the ballroom as part of a renovation. Two days before the incident, Cabling Solutions removed the lenses in the ballroom’s lighting in order to gain access to the work above the ceiling, negligently reinstalling them without properly securing them. A.E. filed a lawsuit against the Defendants in the Circuit Court for the City of Richmond. Cabling Solutions removed the case to Federal District Court and moved to transfer venue form the Richmond Division to the Alexandria Division of the Eastern District of Virginia.

The Court granted the Defendants’ motions and concluded that the Alexandria Division promoted greater convenience to the parties and served the interest of justice. In considering a motion to transfer, a court follows a two-step process. First, a court determines whether the claims could have been brought in the transferee forum. Second, a court consider four factors: (i) the plaintiff’s choice of forum; (ii) the convenience of the parties; (iii) witness convenience and access; and (iv) the interest of justice. Here, A.E. and Linda Everett (A.E.’s guardian) could have brought their claims in the Alexandria Division because the acts giving rise to their suit occurred in Arlington, Virginia. As to the four factors: (i) there was no evidence that suggested that the A.E. or Linda Everett preferred the Richmond Division over the Alexandria Division; (ii) the Alexandria Division offered greater convenience to the parties because none of the parties resided or maintained a principal office in the Richmond Division, three of the parties are from Northern Virginia, and two of the parties are foreign entities that own and operate the property where the incident occurred; (iii) A.E. and Linda Everett reside in Pennsylvania, the Alexandria Division enjoys relatively easier access by air, train, or car from Pennsylvania, and the likely witnesses reside in or nearer to the Alexandria Division than they do to the Richmond Division; and (iv) the interest of justice is furthered by the transfer.

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