whom they would call as witnesses, all of whom reside in the eastern United States. They assert, moreover, that Catherine has substantial assets with which to finance litigation in this district.
We explored in some depth the relative finances of the parties at a hearing on the transfer motion. On the basis of the oral representations and concessions made there and of the affidavits submitted in support of the transfer motion, we find that Catherine's representation of financial hardship is persuasive.
On balance, we think the factors enumerated by Catherine are the weightier. The unfamiliarity of a federal court in Pennsylvania with the community property law of California is patent, and the construction of state law is best given to a court familiar with it, Kreisner v. Hilton Hotel Corp., supra, 468 F. Supp. at 179. We agree with Catherine that the witnesses and evidence most likely to be directly relevant to the material factual issues in this case are located in California. Moreover, the cost and inconvenience to the witnesses would be great if trial were had in Pennsylvania. With respect to financial hardship to the parties, we find that Andrew's co-guardians can more easily bear the cost of trial in California than Catherine can bear the cost of trial in this court. Thus we conclude that the transfer of this action to the Central District of California is warranted in the interest of justice. We think this conclusion would be sound even if substantial consideration were given to plaintiff's choice of forum as a factor weighing against transfer, in view of the factors enumerated above.
B. "Where It Might Have Been Brought"
Andrew's co-guardians argue also that transfer is improper because the Central District of California is not one in which this action "might have been brought," 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) (1976). Simply stated, it is their contention that the venue provision of the National Bank Act, 12 U.S.C. § 94 (1976), precludes suit against Andrew's co-guardian Provident National Bank in that court. We have fully considered the co-guardians' arguments but find them to be without merit because the bank appears in this action in a representative capacity. We think it sufficient to note that a new guardian can be appointed to represent Andrew's interests in the Central District of California, Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(c), if the co-guardians choose to assert in that forum their objection to venue.
III. Payment of Costs and Attorneys' Fees From the Interpleaded Fund
The decision whether to award costs and attorneys' fees to the stakeholder in an interpleader action is committed to the sound discretion of the trial court. See, e.g., Bandura v. Fidelity & Guar. Life Ins. Co., 443 F. Supp. 829, 833 (W.D.Pa.1978); Massachusetts Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Central Penn Nat'l Bank, 372 F. Supp. 1027, 1044 (E.D.Pa.1974), aff'd mem., 510 F.2d 970 (3d Cir. 1975). Thus the primary question presented by Equitable's motion for payment of its costs and fees in the amount of $ 1,243.16 is whether such an award is appropriate in the circumstances of this case.
In our view, the relevant circumstances include two factors that weigh against granting Equitable's motion. First, Equitable initiated this interpleader action as a counterclaim to defend a suit originally filed by Andrew's co-guardians. Thus this case is not one in which the stakeholder initiated the interpleader action in the first instance merely to facilitate the identification of the rightful claimant. See Bandura v. Fidelity & Guar. Life Ins. Co., supra. Equitable received a clear and immediate benefit in this litigation from its attorneys' endeavors.
The second factor is the nature of the underlying dispute, which is between two persons, each of whom claims to be the proper beneficiary of the decedent's life insurance policies. Such disputes are part of the ordinary course of business for an insurance company; to award Equitable its fees and costs in this action would be to permit Equitable to shift some of its ordinary business expenses to the claimants. See Companion Life Ins. Co. v. Schaffer, 442 F. Supp. 826, 830 (S.D.N.Y.1977); see also Travelers Indemnity Co. v. Israel, 354 F.2d 488, 490 (2d Cir. 1965) ("We are not impressed with the notion that whenever a minor problem arises in the payment of insurance policies, insurers may, as a matter of course, transfer a part of their ordinary cost of doing business to their insureds by bringing an action for interpleader.") Accordingly, no reason appears for taxing the ultimately successful claimant with Equitable's costs.
For the foregoing reasons, Catherine's motion to transfer these actions to the Central District of California will be granted. Equitable's motion for an award of its costs and attorneys' fees will be denied. An appropriate order follows.
AND NOW, this 28th day of January, 1982, after hearing and upon consideration of defendant Catherine Rohas Dolby's motion to transfer these actions to the United States District Court for the Central District of California and of defendants A. Jay Dolby's and the Provident National Bank's opposition thereto; and upon consideration of plaintiff Equitable Life Assurance Society's motion for discharge and for an award of costs and attorneys' fees and of defendant Catherine Rohas Dolby's opposition thereto; it is hereby ORDERED:
1. That the motion to transfer is GRANTED;
2. That the clerk of this court transfer forthwith the record of these cases to the clerk of the United States District Court for the Central District of California;