Louisiana Record

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Court denies Bruce Oakley Inc.'s change of venue request in negligence case following incident on Arkansas River


By Takesha Thomas | Jul 31, 2019

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NEW ORLEANS – A district judge has denied a request to have a negligence case transferred from Louisiana to Mississippi. 

Last month, U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon for the Eastern District of Louisiana denied Bruce Oakley Inc., et al's, motion to transfer the negligence suit brought by Robbie J. Pruitt to a Mississippi district court. Fallon found that Bruce Oakley failed to prove "the balance of private and public interest factors clearly weigh in their favor." 

"Because defendants have failed to carry their burden to show 'good cause' for transfer to the Northern District of Mississippi by proving it is 'clearly more convenient' than the Eastern District of Louisiana, plaintiff’s choice of the Eastern District of Louisiana remains," Fallon wrote.

According to court documents, Pruitt, a deckhand for the M/V Concordia, was injured in July 2018 after a tension line from a ratchet was released, impaling his left foot. Pruitt also sustained injuries to his shoulders, back and other parts of his body. He sued the owners of the Concordia, Bruce Oakley and Jantrain for negligence and unseaworthiness. Pruitt filed suit in Louisiana despite the accident occurring along the Arkansas River in Oklahoma, court papers show. 

However, attorneys for Bruce Oakley argue that neither Pruitt nor any of the parties involved with the Concordia are in Louisiana, adding that the Concordia is homeported in Mississippi. Attorneys for Bruce Oakley instead argued that the venue was improper because "the relevant facts and witnesses surrounding this case bear no relation to Louisiana."

Attorneys for Pruitt contend that the venue is proper because "the Northern District of Mississippi is no more convenient than the Eastern District of Louisiana, adding that attorneys for Bruce Oakley have failed to demonstrate “good cause” for the transfer. According to court papers, Pruitt argues that he was treated in several states for his injuries and those medical records "are just as accessible in the Eastern District of Louisiana as they would be in the Northern District of Mississippi."

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