Gas rig wrongful death claim transferred out of Philadelphia and into Middle District of Pa where the incident giving rise to the litigation took place

Gas rig wrongful death claim transferred out of Phila. and into Middle District of Pa. by Jon Campisi, April 3, 2013, Pennsylvania Record
U.S. District Judge Jan E. DuBois, in a March 29 memorandum and order, denied a motion to remand that had been filed by Cherie Leatherman, who contended that the litigation belonged in state court in Philadelphia. Leatherman, a Colorado resident, brought suit against Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., Pioneer Drilling Services LTD, Pioneer Drilling Inc. and Dean’s Casing Services Inc. on behalf of her late father, Gregory Walker, whose death allegedly resulted from an accident that occurred while he was working on a gas rig platform in central Pennsylvania.

Courts generally give a plaintiff’s choice of venue “substantial weight” in determining whether to grant a motion to transfer, the judge wrote, but it’s given less weight if the plaintiff chooses a venue in which he or she does not reside and in which none of the operative facts giving rise to the suit occurred, the memorandum states. In this case, DuBois wrote, all of the defendants prefer to litigate the suit in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, the accident giving rise to the litigation occurred in that district, and it would be easier to play out in the Middle District because witnesses might need to visit the accident site during discovery. “In short, this case has nothing to do with the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and should be heart in the Middle District of Pennsylvania,” DuBois wrote. “The Court concludes that defendants have met their burden of demonstrating that transferring this case to the Middle District of Pennsylvania would be in the interest of justice.”

DuBois also denied without prejudice a request by Cabot Oil & Gas to dismiss parts of the suit on the merits, writing that those issues will be left to the discretion of the federal jurist who takes over the case in the Middle District. The complaint shows that Walker was 41 years old when he died on May 10, 2010, following the workplace incident. The man was killed while attempting to rotate and seat a casing pipe while he was on an elevated stabbing board at the rig, according to the lawsuit. It was at this time that Walker was struck by an object, which caused significant trauma to his head and body, and ultimately led to his death. The complaint accuses the defendants of failing to provide a safe work environment for employees. The plaintiff is being represented by attorney Frederic S. Eisenberg, of the Philadelphia firm Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck. [Emphasis added]

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