Ferens v. John Deere Company

RESPONDENT: John Deere Company
LOCATION: Doby’s Motel Court

DOCKET NO.: 88-1512
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 494 US 516 (1990)
ARGUED: Nov 06, 1989
DECIDED: Mar 05, 1990

David P. Helwig - on behalf of the Respondent
Richard B. Tucker, III - on behalf of the Petitioners

Facts of the case


Media for Ferens v. John Deere Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 06, 1989 in Ferens v. John Deere Company

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now in Number 88-1512, Albert J. Ferens v. John Deere Company.

Mr. Tucker.

Richard B. Tucker, III:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

The sole issue presented by this case is whether a federal district court sitting in diversity to which a case has been transferred pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1404 is required to apply the law that would have been applied had there been no transfer, where the transfer is from a court having proper jurisdiction, having proper venue, but the motion to transfer was made by a plaintiff.

The present proceedings were initiated by the Petitioners, residents of Pennsylvania, when the exercised their venue privilege by filing a timely complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, asserting claims for negligence and product liability against Respondent John Deere, arising out of Petitioner Albert Ferens' loss of his hand while cleaning his combine manufactured by the Respondent.

William H. Rehnquist:

The purpose of that filing was to get the benefit of the Mississippi statute of limitations?

Richard B. Tucker, III:

There is no question about that, Your Honor.

The purpose of the filing in an appropriate forum was to gain the advantage of the Mississippi statute of limitations.

The Respondents did not oppose either the venue or the assertion of in personam jurisdiction over them in the Southern District of Mississippi.

Antonin Scalia:

Well, how could they?

Richard B. Tucker, III:

On the contrary--

Antonin Scalia:

Was there any basis to do so?

Richard B. Tucker, III:

--There was no basis to do so, Your Honor.

In fact, what they did in the case was file an answer in which they admitted specific facts that established the venue in the jurisdiction.

They were registered to do business in Mississippi, they maintained a registered agent there, and they were in fact doing business in Mississippi.

It is clear, therefore, that venue and jurisdiction were appropriate in the Southern District of Mississippi.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mr. Tucker, could the court sitting in Mississippi have declined to grant or allow the transfer?

Richard B. Tucker, III:

It certainly could have, Your Honor.

And I think that is one of the important things that we want to stress for this Court.

It is not our argument in this case that a plaintiff filing a motion under Section 1404 has an absolute right to a transfer.

That is clearly not our position.

We may have a right to file a motion, but the determination of whether or not that case is going to be transferred is to be made by the district court after weighing all of the various factors that are appropriate for consideration under Section 1404.

In fact, in this very case, had the Respondents filed some objection to the motion to transfer, it is conceivable that the court in Mississippi would have denied the motion.

Had that happened, we would have had a forum in which to try this case, because the Mississippi forum was clearly appropriate.

Instead, by asserting the statute of limitations of Pennsylvania after the transfer had occurred, the Respondents have essentially engaged in the practice of using the transfer to defeat the state law advantages accruing to the Plaintiff from its initial selection of the forum, and Van Dusen proscribes that kind of conduct.

William H. Rehnquist:

The holding of Van Dusen I don't believe is inconsistent with the result reached by the Third Circuit here.

Are you, you are saying some of the language is--

Richard B. Tucker, III:

I am saying the reasoning in Van Dusen, Your Honor.

I am not... it is not our position that Van Dusen held that, in this particular case, the law of Mississippi had to continue to apply.

In fact, the court specifically reserved judgment on that issue.