Court Compels Trial Court to Promptly Rule on Pending Motion for a Change of Venue
Ex parte Nationwide Agribusiness Insurance Co. and The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Co.
On June 30, 2016, the Hopkinses filed suit in the Marshall Circuit Court against Nationwide Agribusiness Insurance Co. (“Nationwide”), The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Co
(“Hartford”), Randy Jones & Associates (“Jones”) and Total Radio Service Inc. (“Total Radio”). The Hopkinses moved to dismiss Total Radio and Jones. On July 24, 2018, Nationwide and Hartford moved the trial court to transfer this action to the Morgan County Circuit Court. Nationwide and Hartford argued that a change of venue was required by Rule 82(d)(2) of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure because Total Radio and Jones had been dismissed. The trial court entered an order continuing the trial setting and scheduling a pretrial conference for October 26, 2018, where it would hear all pending motions, including the motion for a change of venue, set a deadline for filing dispositive motions and order the parties to conduct mediation.
Nationwide and Hartford moved the trial court to reconsider the order which scheduled the hearing regarding their motion for a change of venue on October 26, 2018. Both noted that that the date was 18 days before the trial setting. Nationwide and Hartford also argued that the delay in hearing their motion would effectively require them to complete discovery, file dispositive and pretrial motions, conduct mediation, and prepare for trial all before their change-of-venue motion was heard.
Nationwide and Hartford filed a petition for a writ of mandamus compelling the trial court to promptly rule on their pending motion for a change of venue. The Supreme Court of Alabama entered an order stating all proceedings in the trial court. The Court noted that venue is a threshold matter; and “as a general rule, a trial court should rule on a motion alleging improper venue as expeditiously as possible.” The Court also stated that a trial court should not wait until the pretrial hearing to consider a motion for a change of venue. Thus, the Court issued the writ and directed the trial court to rule on Nationwide and Hartford’s motion for a change of venue.