On February 19, 2020, Ansa Assuncao LLP’s Maryland office team, together with Georgia-based colleagues, obtained dismissal of a Complaint filed against firm client United Parcel Service, Inc. (“UPS”) in Georgia state court on forum non conveniens grounds. The case arose from a commercial motor vehicle accident that occurred on a Maryland highway and involved two Maryland resident drivers. Plaintiff treated for alleged injuries exclusively in Maryland. Nevertheless, Plaintiff filed suit in Fulton County, Georgia, arguing that venue in that county was proper because UPS is headquartered there.
UPS moved to dismiss, arguing that Fulton County is an inconvenient forum under the seven factors listed in O.C.G.A. § 9-10-31.1 because:
(1) The sources of proof are located in Maryland, including all documentary evidence and witnesses (both drivers, responding police officers, EMTs, etc.);
(2) All witnesses in Maryland are beyond the reach of the Georgia court’s compulsory process and could not be compelled to appear for trial;
(3) A Georgia jury, if needed, could not view the Maryland accident scene;
(4) Litigating the case in Georgia would cause all parties unneeded expense in the form of travel and lodging costs for witnesses and business disruption (taking supervisors away from their day jobs to testify at a multi-week jury trial out-of-state);
(5) Under Georgia’s choice of law doctrine, Maryland substantive law would govern;
(6) Maryland, as the home state of both drivers and the administrator of the highway system where the accident occurred, has the strongest interest in the litigation; and
(7) The traditional deference given to a plaintiff’s choice of forum cannot alone counterbalance the heavy weight of the first six factors.
The Georgia trial court agreed, finding that UPS had carried its burden of proving that the seven statutory factors supported dismissal. At UPS’s urging, the court rejected Plaintiff’s arguments that technology could bridge the gap between Maryland-based evidence and witnesses and a Georgia jury trial, finding no support in fact or law for Plaintiff’s conclusion that the physical location of documentary evidence is irrelevant in the digital age and refusing to agree to a trial-by-video for all Maryland-based witnesses. The court agreed with UPS that, even though both Maryland and Georgia have adopted the Uniform Interstate Depositions and Discovery Act, compelling attendance of Maryland witnesses at deposition or trial would still be challenging, expensive, and time-consuming if the case remained in Georgia.
The court granted UPS’s Motion to Dismiss, finding that the “interests of justice and the convenience of the parties and witnesses would be better served” by dismissal and re-filing in Maryland.
A copy of the Court’s Opinion can be found here. Leon v. United Parcel Service, Inc. et al., No. 19EV003769, slip op. (Ga. Fulton Cnty. Feb. 19, 2020).