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Seventh Circuit Upholds FTCA Venue Transfer

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the transfer of a former federal prisoner’s negligence action from Illinois to Kansas.

Daniel Hudson relocated to Illinois following his release from a federal prison in Kansas. He filed a Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) suit in U.S. District Court in Illinois, alleging that Kansas medical staff had negligently misdiagnosed a blood clot in his leg.

The district court granted the defendants’ motion to transfer the case to a federal court in Kansas pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), because the principal witnesses were located in Kansas and the per-judge caseload in that state was lighter than the caseload in Illinois.

Hudson then filed a mandamus petition with the Seventh Circuit, seeking to return venue to Illinois. He argued that he and five of his witnesses – including three treating physicians – resided in Illinois.

The Court of Appeals agreed that mandamus was the proper method to challenge the district court’s transfer order: “The grant of the government’s motion to transfer the case was an unappealable interlocutory order, but an unappealable order can in exceptional circumstances be reviewed by a mandamus proceeding. The grant of a motion to transfer is an appealing candidate for such review.”

The appellate court found that “Although the question of transfer in this case is a close one, we cannot say that the district judge committed a clear error in holding that the defendants had made the required showing: More than two-thirds of the potential witnesses (12 out of 17) are either in Kansas, just across the border in Missouri, elsewhere in Missouri, or in California, which is closer to Kansas than it is to Illinois.”

The Seventh Circuit further noted that “in our age of advanced electronic communication ... changes of venue motivated by concerns with travel inconvenience should be fewer than in the past.” However, Hudson did “not argue against the transfer on the ground that the electronic revolution has erased the advantages that the Kansas venue would once undoubtedly have had under the facts of this case.” Therefore, his mandamus petition was denied. See: In re Hudson, 710 F.3d 716 (7th Cir. 2013).

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