United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division
DR. ELLIOTT BLACK, III PLAINTIFF
USAA FINANCIAL ADVISORS, INC., USAA INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT DEFENDANTS
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO
GUIROLA, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
THE COURT is the  Motion to Transfer Venue filed by USAA
Investment Management Company, in which USAA requests that
this case be transferred to the Eastern District of Louisiana
on forum non conveniens grounds. After a lengthy discovery
period, the Motion has been fully briefed. The Court has
considered the briefs and the relevant law, and concludes
that this case should be transferred pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
a declaratory judgment action filed by Dr. Elliott Black,
III, to establish the ownership of a brokerage account held
by Defendant USAA Investment Management Company. After
removing the action from the Chancery Court of Hancock
County, Mississippi, USAA moves for a transfer of venue for
convenience to the Eastern District of Louisiana, arguing
that the case is predominated by issues relating to Louisiana
law, residents, and witnesses. Dr. Black has responded in
opposition, arguing that the contractual choice of law is
Texas, the funds are held in Texas, many of the USAA
witnesses are in Texas, and he is a resident of Mississippi.
Dr. Black contends that his choice of a Mississippi forum
should be given heavy weight.
USAA brokerage account at issue was initially opened in 1995
by Dr. Black's parents, Elliott Black, Jr. and Billie
Black, while they lived in Biloxi, Mississippi. The account
was held jointly, with rights of survivorship. Dr.
Black's parents moved to Louisiana about ten years later,
where Billie Black died in 2011. In 2012, Dr. Black became
the joint owner of the account with his father. In February
2015, Dr. Black and his father sent a joint request to USAA
that Dr. Black be listed first on the account and Mr. Black
second. They remained joint tenants with rights of
survivorship. About eighteen months later, Mr. Black died in
Louisiana. Dr. Black notified USAA and requested that his
father's name be removed from the account. This lawsuit
arose when USAA refused to follow Dr. Black's
instructions or relinquish the funds to him, contending it
was awaiting the appropriate judgments of succession under
requests a transfer of venue pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1404. Section 1404(a) provides that “[f]or the
convenience of 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.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The purpose of
Section 1404(a) is “to prevent the waste ‘of
time, energy and money' and ‘to protect litigants,
witnesses and the public against unnecessary inconvenience
and expense.'” Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376
U.S. 612, 616 (1964) (quoting Cont'l Grain Co. v.
Barge F.B.L.-585, 364 U.S. 19, 26, 27 (1960)).
Action Could Have Been Brought in the Eastern District
Black does not consent to the transfer of venue. The Court
therefore must first determine whether the Eastern District
of Louisiana is a district or division where this case might
have been brought. “A civil action may be brought in .
. . a judicial district in which a substantial part of the
events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred . . .
.” 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2). The Complaint asserts
that Dr. Black is and has at all relevant times been a
resident of Hancock County, Mississippi, and that USAA
entered into a contract with him that was to be performed in
whole or part in Mississippi. No. contacts with the Eastern
District of Louisiana are apparent from the Complaint. Thus,
Dr. Black contends this action is simply a breach of contract
case that should be decided under Mississippi law.
argues that the case could have been brought in the Eastern
District of Louisiana, since the events giving rise to the
claim are changes to what was initially Mr. Black's
account, which was sited in the Eastern District of
Louisiana. See Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith
Inc. v. Succession of Scott, No. Civ. A. 08-0819, 2009
WL 4405572, at *5 (W.D. La. Nov. 30, 2009) (“the situs
of personal (movable) property is the domicile of its owner
and distribution of such property is governed by the law of
the domicile of the deceased owner.”).
Court concludes that despite Dr. Black's Mississippi
residency, what is at issue here is the ownership of
Louisiana funds, and whether Dr. Black has a claim to those
funds. Dr. Black's claim to the funds arises from changes
to the account requested by Mr. Black. Thus, it appears that
a substantial part of the events giving rise to Dr.
Black's claims occurred in the Eastern District of
Louisiana. Accordingly, this case could have been brought in
the Eastern District of Louisiana.
relevant factors weigh in favor of transferring this case to
the requested forum pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
district court considering a § 1404(a) motion (or a
forum non conveniens motion) must evaluate both the
convenience of the parties and various public-interest
considerations.” Atl. Marine Const. Co. v. U.S.
Dist. Court for W. Dist. of Texas, 134 S.Ct. 568, 581
(2013). The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals holds that a
motion to transfer venue pursuant to § 1404(a) should be
granted if “the movant demonstrates that the transferee
venue is clearly more convenient, ” taking into
consideration (1) “the relative ease of access to
sources of proof”; (2) “the availability of
compulsory process to secure the attendance of
witnesses”; (3) “the cost of attendance for
willing witnesses”; (4) “all other practical
problems that make trial of a case easy, expeditious and
inexpensive”; (5) “the administrative
difficulties flowing from court congestion”; (6)
“the local interest in having localized interests
decided at home”; (7) “the familiarity of the
forum with the law that will govern the case”; and (8)
“the avoidance of unnecessary problems of conflict of
laws [or in] the application of foreign law.” In re
Radmax, Ltd., 720 F.3d 285, 288 (5th Cir. 2013) (quoting
In re Volkswagen of Am., Inc., 545 F.3d 304, 311
(5th Cir. 2008) (en banc)).
appears that this action's only nexus to Mississippi is
Dr. Black's residency as the joint owner. USAA contends
that it is necessary to investigate Mr. Black's
competency and the potential that Dr. Black exercised undue
influence over his father, and the identified fact witnesses
on this issue are within the subpoena range of the Eastern
District of Louisiana. Furthermore, the Eastern District of
Louisiana is a more convenient travel destination for
USAA's employee witnesses and Plaintiff's brother,
John Paul Black, who it intends ...