February 12, 2014
DANIEL FAIR and KRISTINA FAIR, Plaintiffs,
PUNKIN CHUNKIN ASSOCIATION d/b/a THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP PUNKIN CHUNKIN ASSOCIATION a/k/a WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP PUNKIN CHUNKIN; WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP PUNKIN CHUNKIN INC. d/b/a THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP PUNKIN CHUNKIN ASSOCIATION AND WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP PUNKIN CHUNKIN; WHEATLEY FARMS, INC. d/b/a WHEATLEY FARMS, Defendants.
CALVIN L. SCOTT, Jr., Judge.
On this 12th Day of February and upon Defendant Wheatley Farms' Motion to Dismiss, the Court finds:
Plaintiffs Daniel Fair and Kristina Fair ("Plaintiffs") filed this action against Defendant Wheatley Farms seeking damages for injuries sustained during the 2011 annual Punkin Chunkin held in Sussex County. Defendant Wheatley Farms ("Defendant") filed this Motion to Dismiss, arguing that the Superior Court of New Castle County, Plaintiffs' chosen forum, is a forum non conveniens. Accordingly, Defendant requests that this Court dismiss Plaintiffs' action and grant Plaintiffs' leave to re-file the action in Sussex County. In opposition, Plaintiffs contend that Defendant failed to meet its heavy burden in showing the overwhelming hardship necessary to overcome the strong presumption that favors Plaintiffs' choice of forum. As such, Plaintiffs request that this Court deny Defendant's Motion and allow this matter to proceed in New Castle County.
"Dismissal of an action based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens lies within the sound discretion of the trial court. "Under Delaware law, a plaintiff's choice of forum is presumed proper. This Court has noted "a clear preference in favor of a plaintiff's choice of forum, particularly where there are no previously filed actions pending elsewhere." "This preference has been expressed in the form of a 'presumption' that the plaintiff's choice of forum will be respected unless the defendant carries the 'heavy burden' of establishing that [the chosen forum] is not an appropriate forum for the controversy." "For defendants to overcome this presumption, they must show with particularity that litigating in [the plaintiff's chosen forum] will cause them 'overwhelming hardship and inconvenience.'"Amongst the factors considered in the Court's assessment of hardship are "all practical problems that would make the trial of the case easy, expeditious and inexpensive." Moreover, "if the balance of inconvenience borne by the parties is equal or only slightly heavier for a defendant, the plaintiff's choice of forum should prevail."
Defendant fails to establish, "with particularity, " the overwhelming hardship and inconvenience necessary to overcome the presumption that Plaintiffs' choice of forum is the appropriate forum to litigate the matter. Defendant contends that having the matter litigated in New Castle County will result in additional financial expenses and increased time commitment because all Defendants and the majority of witnesses are located in Sussex County. Aside from this bare assertion, Defendant does not set forth any particularized evidence to demonstrate that having the matter litigated in New Castle County will result in overwhelming hardship.
Defendant also fails to establish that the inconveniences borne by the parties are unequal or slightly heavier only to the Defendant. Plaintiffs have submitted the location information for each person involved in this matter and the proximity of each person's location in relation to both the New Castle and Sussex County Superior Courts. Overall, the information shows that the alleged inconveniences are equally borne by Plaintiffs and Defendant because both parties are located in Sussex County and are closer to the Sussex County Superior Court; therefore, both parties will incur the inconvenience of traveling to the Superior Court in New Castle County to have the matter litigated. In addition, the majority of the other parties associated with this matter, including witnesses and attorneys, are located in areas within closer proximity to New Castle County. As a result, Defendant's contention that having the matter litigated in Plaintiffs' chosen forum will be unduly prejudicial due to additional expense in time and costs is unpersuasive. Considering the facts and circumstances of this case, the Court does not find that Defendant will suffer overwhelming hardship if required to litigate the matter in New Castle County. Therefore, the Motion to Dismiss is DENIED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.