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Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

September 22, 1994, Argued ; June 2, 1995, Filed

No. 94-1447

Opinion

 [*875]  OPINION OF THE COURT

Becker, Circuit Judge.

This is an underinsured motorist case governed by Pennsylvania law. The appeal arises out of an action filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by plaintiffs George and Evangelina Jumara seeking to appoint arbitrators and to compel arbitration by their own carrier, defendant State Farm Insurance Company. Ultimately, it presents the question whether the Jumaras' (two) insurance contracts with State Farm, which incorporate the Pennsylvania Uniform Arbitration Act (UAA), contemplate arbitration-related proceedings in the Court of Common Pleas of [**2]  Luzerne County (PA) or in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, or in either court. The district court denied the Jumaras' motion to compel arbitration (and thereby effectively dismissed the action), reasoning that the insurance contracts, in light of the Pennsylvania law that they incorporate, contained a forum selection clause that relegates the plaintiffs to suit in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County. We disagree, and will vacate the order denying plaintiff's motion.

Although the district court in effect disposed of the case under 28 U.S.C. § 1406 (for improper venue), we conclude that, because venue was actually proper in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the case could not be dismissed pursuant to that provision. The district court should instead have invoked 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), which involves a multi-factor balancing test in which a contractual forum selection clause carries substantial although not dispositive weight. However, because the other factors cannot even in combination overcome the forum selection clause, we will not remand the case, but rather will direct the district court to transfer the case to the United States [**3]  District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, a "court of record" in Luzerne County. 1 

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

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55 F.3d 873 *; 1995 U.S. App. LEXIS 13558 **

GEORGE JUMARA and EVANGELINA JUMARA, H/W Appellants v. STATE FARM INSURANCE COMPANY Appellee

Subsequent History:  [**1]  As Corrected June 28, 1995.

Prior History: On Appeal From the United States Court of Appeals For the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (D.C. Civ. No. 94-cv-00366).

CORE TERMS

district court, venue, arbitrators, forum selection clause, appoint, parties, convenience, factors, compel arbitration, contractual, insurance contract, diversity, courts, amount in controversy, transferring, underinsured, reside, fora, common pleas, motorist, judicial district, witnesses, federal court, venue statute, state court, vacate, personal jurisdiction, interest of justice, provisions, terms

Business & Corporate Compliance, Pretrial Matters, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Mandatory ADR, Civil Procedure, Diversity Jurisdiction, Amount in Controversy, General Overview, Contracts Law, Contract Conditions & Provisions, Forum Selection Clauses, Preliminary Considerations, Federal & State Interrelationships, Erie Doctrine, Venue, Federal Venue Transfers, Convenience Transfers, Improper Venue Transfers, Multiparty Litigation, Corporations, In Rem & Personal Jurisdiction, In Personam Actions, Doing Business, Motions to Transfer, Choice of Forum, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Judicial Review