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Smith v. Kansas City Southern Railway Co.

Supreme Court of Mississippi

March 30, 2017

CLEVELAND SMITH
v.
KANSAS CITY SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/18/2015

         LOWNDES COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. JAMES T. KITCHENS, JR. JUDGE:

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: C. E. SOREY, II

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: CHARLES EDWIN ROSS

          BEFORE RANDOLPH, P.J., KING AND BEAM, JJ.

          KING, JUSTICE

         ¶1. This interlocutory appeal presents the Court with the question of whether, pursuant to Mississippi's venue statute, a corporation may have only one national principal place of business or may have a principal place of business in multiple or all states. Cleveland Smith, a resident of Lowndes County, filed suit against his employer, Kansas City Southern Railway Company ("KCS"), in the Lowndes County Circuit Court. The trial court granted KCS's Motion for a Change of Venue, holding that, although KCS's national principal place of business was in Kansas City, Missouri, KCS also did business in Mississippi and that its principal place of business in Mississippi was Rankin County. Because holding that a corporation has a single, principal place of business follows the plain language of the statute and promotes simplicity, we reverse the decision of the trial court and remand the case.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On April 20, 2012, while working as a railroad machine operator in Sibley, Louisiana, Smith, a KCS employee, had been standing on a tie-inserter machine when he allegedly slipped on a sill step and injured his left shoulder.

         ¶3. Smith had been a resident of Columbus, Lowndes County, and on April 10, 2015, filed a lawsuit against KCS in the Lowndes County Circuit Court, alleging a violation of the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"), 45 U.S.C. § 51, et seq., for negligently failing to provide Smith with a reasonably safe workplace, inter alia. The complaint stated that KCS was a corporation "doing business in the State of Mississippi where it has officers and agents for the usual and customary transaction of its business. Its principle [sic] place of business is Kansas City, Missouri."[1]

         ¶4. The Mississippi venue statute, Mississippi Code Section 11-11-3(1), provides in pertinent part:

(1)(a)(i) Civil actions of which the circuit court has original jurisdiction shall be commenced in the county where the defendant resides, or, if a corporation, in the county of its principal place of business, or in the county where a substantial alleged act or omission occurred or where a substantial event that caused the injury occurred. . . . .
(b) If venue in a civil action against a nonresident defendant cannot be asserted under paragraph (a) of this subsection (1), a civil action against a nonresident may be commenced in the county where the plaintiff resides or is domiciled.

Miss. Code Ann. § 11-11-3(1)(a)(i)-(b) (Rev. 2004).

         ¶5. On September 8, 2015, KCS filed a Motion for Change of Venue, arguing that, for venue purposes, its national principal place of business was irrelevant, and that the case should be transferred to its principal place of business in Mississippi, Rankin County. Thus, KCS contended that Smith's domicile, Lowndes County, could be an appropriate venue only if KCS did not have a principal place of business in Mississippi. Because KCS alleged that it had a second principal ...


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