Suit Over Trucking Crash Won’t Change Venues | Courthouse News Service
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Suit Over Trucking Crash Won’t Change Venues

(CN) - A federal judge refused to let a different Pennsylvania court handle claims over a crash that left a woman killed when one truck driver pushed her car over the median into another's path.

Timothy Gunther sued Dependable Auto Shippers and Schmidt Baking Co. in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania over the death of his wife, Susan, on May 30, 2011.

He claimed that Alan Hubbell was driving a Dependable Auto tractor trailer northbound on Pennsylvania Route 83, and then changed into the left lane without looking.

Hubbell allegedly hit the car driven by Susan Gunther, pushing it onto the concrete median and dragging it for 166 feet.

Gunther said his wife's car was then pushed over the barrier into the southbound lane of Route 83, where it was struck by a Schmidt Baking truck that Royal Stewart was allegedly driving "well above the posted speed limit of 55 miles per hour."

Dependable Auto, a Dallas company, moved to transfer the case to the Middle District of Pennsylvania on Jan. 3, 2013. Schmidt Baking, based in Baltimore, Md., joined that motion on Jan. 14.

Senior U.S. District Judge Ronald Buckwalter shot it down last week, finding the parties would not likely be inconvenienced if the case remains in the Eastern District.

"Plaintiff resides in New York and must travel regardless of whether the case stays in the Eastern District or is moved to the Middle District," Buckwalter wrote. "Plaintiff points out that he actually will travel less if the case remains in the Eastern District; his residence is 129 miles from the courthouse in Philadelphia and 196 miles from the courthouse in Harrisburg. The two defendants are both corporations incorporated outside of Pennsylvania and whose principal places of business are outside of Pennsylvania. Both companies do business in the Eastern District, and travel to the Eastern District would be no more burdensome than travel to the Middle District."

Buckwalter was not swayed by claimed that a number of fact witnesses reside in the Middle District, making it an easier and less expensive trial venue.

"Though the incident in question occurred in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, there is nothing particularly compelling about the facts or potential witnesses involved which suggest that litigating the case in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania would create an undue burden on the timely resolution of the case," the 10-page ruling states. "Though transfer might make the case slightly more convenient for the fact witnesses identified by defendant, the distance between the two districts is not so great as to make any inconvenience substantial. As such, noting the high deference given to plaintiff in his choice of forum, the court denies defendants' motion to transfer."

Dependable Auto says on its website that it transports more than 100,000 vehicles annually with more than 90 certified partner facilities.

Schmidt Baking says it distributes to all major grocers, convenience stores, club stores and independent retailers across the Mid-Atlantic.

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