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Paulson v. Dugan Barr

United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division

July 17, 2017

KENTON N. PAULSON, Plaintiff,
v.
DUGAN BARR and BARR & MUDFORD, LLP, Defendants.

          ORDER

          John Johnston, United States Magistrate Judge

         I. Status

         The parties have filed three motions in the above captioned matter: Defendants' Motion to Change venue (Doc. 3); Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (Doc. 19); and Defendants' Motion for Leave to Amend Notice of Removal. (Doc. 26) The Court conducted a hearing on all three motions on June 12, 2017. (Doc. 39) All motions are fully briefed and ripe for decision.

         II. Backrgound

         Plaintiff Kenton N. Paulson (Paulson) was driving through Blaine County, Montana on November 10, 2014, when he was injured in a motor vehicle collision. (Doc. 8) The driver of the other motor vehicle was an employee of a business with its principle place of business in Cascade County, Montana. (Id.) Paulson hired Defendants (Dugan Barr) pursuant to a written retainer agreement to represent him in relation to claims arising out of this collision. (Id.) The retainer agreement provided that Paulson could discharge Dugan Barr and, if he did so, Dugan Barr would not be entitled to a contingency fee. (Id.) Rather, Duggan Barr would be entitled to a fee equal to the reasonable value of their of their legal services rendered up to the date they were discharged. (Id.)

         Paulson did just that after Duggan Barr allowed the statute of limitations to run on his workers' compensation claim and on March 13, 2017, he filed a complaint in Montana's Eighth Judicial District, Cascade County, alleging he was damaged as a result of Duggan Barr's professional negligence, constructive fraud, and breach of contract. (Id.) In this same complaint, Paulson also seeks a declaratory judgement that Duggan Barr is not entitled to any attorney's fee from any recovery he obtains. (Id.)

         Duggan Barr removed this matter to federal court on April 3, 2017, alleging the Court has diversity jurisdiction. (Doc. 1.) In its Notice of Removal, Duggan Barr alleged that Paulson is a resident of Montana and that all defendants are residents of California. (Id.)

         On April 10, 2017, Duggan Barr filed a motion to change venue to Missoula Division alleging the Great Falls Division is an improper venue for this action. (Doc. 3.)

         Paulson filed a motion to remand on May 3, 2017, alleging that while the parties are diverse, Duggan Barr's Notice of Removal is deficient because it alleges that the parties are residents, as opposed to citizens, of different states. (Doc. 19.) Duggan Barr filed a motion for leave to file amended notice of removal on May 10, 2017. The Court granted this motion during the June 13, 2017 hearing. (Doc. 39) Duggan Barr filed an Amended Notice of Removal on June 15, 2017, alleging that the parties are citizens of different states and that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, exclusive of interests and costs. (Doc. 40.) Paulson's motion to remand is therefore denied because Duggan Barr's Amended Notice of Removal alleges facts necessary to establish diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

         Paulson's motion to change venue to Missoula Division is the only pending motion and is resolved by this Order.

         III. Analysis

         Duggan Barr argues that the only proper venue for this action is Missoula Division of the District of Montana because Paulson is a resident of Flathead County and it is in the Missoula Division. (Doc. 4 at 3.) Paulson argues that when multiple counties are proper venues for an action, a plaintiff may file the action in any of the appropriate counties, and a defendant is only entitled to change of venue if a plaintiff files the action in a county that is not a proper venue for the action. (Doc. 9 at 1.) The Court agrees with Paulson because Cascade County is one of the proper venues for this action, and it is in the Great Falls Division. Duggan Barr's motion to change venue to the Missoula Division is therefore denied.

         When determining whether a division is a proper venue for an action, the Court is required to apply Montana law. The Local Rules for the District of Montana state that “venue is proper in any division . . . containing ...


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