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Hagan v. Farmers Ins. Exch.

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

January 26, 2015

In Re Deanna Hagan and Shane Hagan, Plaintiffs:
v.
Farmers Insurance Exchange, Defendant: In Re Cynthia Ewald, Plaintiff:
v.
Farmers Insurance Exchange, Defendant In Re James Mayfield, Plaintiff:
v.
Farmers Insurance Exchange, Defendant:

Page 428

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 429

Original Proceeding Pursuant to C.A.R. 21. Boulder County District Court. Case No. 14CV30599. Honorable D.D. Mallard, Judge. Arapahoe County District Court. Case No. 14CV171. Honorable Elizabeth Ann Weishaupl, Judge.

Original Proceeding Pursuant to C.A.R. 21. Boulder County District Court. Case No. 14CV30600. Honorable Andrew Hartman, Judge. Arapahoe County District Court. Case No. 14CV162. Honorable F. Stephen Collins, Judge.

Original Proceeding Pursuant to C.A.R. 21. Boulder County District Court. Case No. 14CV30842. Honorable D.D. Mallard, Judge. El Paso County District Court. Case No. 14CV364. Honorable Maria R. Prudek, Judge.

Rules Made Absolute.

SYLLABUS

In these original proceedings under C.A.R. 21, the plaintiffs sought extraordinary relief from the trial courts' orders granting a change of venue. The supreme court issued rules to show cause why those orders should not be vacated and venue transferred back to Boulder County District Court.

The supreme court holds that the trial courts abused their discretion when they granted a change of venue in these cases. First, Boulder County District Court is a proper venue for all three cases; under C.R.C.P. 98(c)(1), the plaintiffs were allowed to file their complaints in the county of their choice because the defendant is a nonresident. Second, the trial courts granted the motions without the requisite evidentiary support. The affidavits that the defendant submitted improperly focus on convenience to the plaintiffs and do not satisfy the standard set forth in Sampson v. District Court, 197 Colo. 158, 160, 590 P.2d 958, 959 (1979). Consequently, the supreme court makes the rules absolute and directs the transferee courts to return the cases to Boulder County District Court.

Attorneys for Plaintiffs Deanna Hagan, Shane Hagan, and Cynthia Ewald: Taussig & Taussig, P.C., John E. Taussig, III, Dustin E. Bergman, Boulder, Colorado; The Fowler Law Firm, LLC, Timms R. Fowler, Fort Collins, Colorado.

Attorneys for Plaintiff James Mayfield: Richard M. Crane, Denver, Colorado; Earl & Earl, PLLC, Collin J. Earl, Castle Rock, Colorado.

Attorneys for Defendant: Fowler, Schimberg & Flanagan, P.C., Daniel M. Fowler, Max S. Gad, Denver, Colorado.

OPINION

Page 430

HOOD, JUSTICE

[¶1] These original proceedings involve plaintiffs who filed separate actions against the same defendant, Farmers Insurance Exchange (" Farmers" ), in Boulder County District Court. In each case, Farmers moved to change venue under C.R.C.P. 98(f)(2), alleging that a change would promote " the convenience of witnesses and the ends of justice." Farmers supported its motions with attorney affidavits that purport to demonstrate--based on Google Maps printouts alone--that the transferee court is a more convenient venue for the plaintiffs and their medical treatment providers. The trial court granted the motions in all three cases.

[¶2] The plaintiffs asked this court to issue a rule to show cause why the orders granting a change of venue should not be vacated and venue transferred back to Boulder County. Their petitions under C.A.R. 21 exposed an inconsistency in how judges within the same district have applied Rule 98. Recognizing the need to promote a uniform application of the venue rules, we issued our rules to show cause.

[¶3] We now make our rules absolute. We hold that the trial courts abused their discretion when they changed the venue in these cases. First, Boulder County District Court is a proper venue for all three cases; under C.R.C.P. 98(c)(1), the plaintiffs were allowed to file their complaints in the county of their choice because Farmers is a nonresident defendant. Second, the trial courts granted the motions without the requisite evidentiary support. The affidavits that Farmers submitted improperly focus on convenience to the plaintiffs and do not satisfy the standard set forth in Sampson v. District Court, 197 Colo. 158, 160, 590 P.2d 958, 959 (1979). Sampson requires a party seeking to change venue under Rule 98(f)(2) to support the motion with evidence indicating " the identity of the witnesses, the nature, materiality and admissibility of their testimony, and how the witnesses would be better accommodated by the requested change in venue." Id. Consequently, we direct the transferee courts to return the cases to Boulder County District Court.

I. Facts and Procedural History

A. Hagan and Ewald

[¶4] In 2011, Deanna Hagan (a driver) and her mother-in-law, Cynthia Ewald (her passenger), were involved in a car accident in Weld County. A third party, Abdi Abdullahi, allegedly collided with them after running a red light. Both Hagan and Ewald were hurt in the collision and received medical treatment for their injuries. Hagan asserts that she incurred over $11,000 in medical expenses and lost income because of her injuries. Ewald asserts that she incurred almost $68,000 in medical expenses and also lost income because of her injuries.

[¶5] Hagan and Ewald were insured by Farmers and had underinsured motorist (" UIM" ) coverage up to $250,000 and medical payments coverage up to $25,000. Abdullahi was insured ...


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