United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania
April 17, 2000
DAN R. LINDLEY, PLAINTIFF
CATERPILLAR, INC., DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marvin Katz, S. J.
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
Before the court is defendant's motion to transfer this action to
the Middle District of Florida, Jacksonville Division. Because
the court finds that such a transfer will serve the convenience
of the parties and witnesses and that it is in the interests of
justice, the motion will be granted.
According to the complaint, plaintiff Dan Lindley purchased a
boat equipped with a Caterpillar engine. Lindley uses this boat
in his commercial diving and fishing business. After breaking
twice, the original engine was replaced by another Caterpillar
engine. That engine, in turn, broke down four times and was
replaced again. The third engine broke down twice; on the second
occasion, Caterpillar refused to rebuild the engine unless the
plaintiff paid for it. Asserting damages in excess of $500,000,
plaintiff now alleges claims of products liability, negligence,
breach of warranties, breach of contract, fraud,
misrepresentation, breach of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair
Trade Practices Act, and breach of the Illinois Consumer Fraud
and Deceptive Business Practices Act.
Lindley alleges that he is citizen of Florida who resides in
Jacksonville Beach, Florida. See Compl. ¶ 1. According to the
undisputed declaration*fn1 submitted by defendant, the boat is also
located in Jacksonville, Florida. See Decl. of Dennis Bieneman ¶
3 (Mot. to Dismiss Ex. 2 ¶ 3).*fn2 Caterpillar is a corporation
organized and existing under the laws of Delaware with an address
and principal place of business in Peoria, Illinois. It is
authorized to do business in Florida. See Compl. ¶ 2. The repair
work that is at issue was performed by Ring Power Systems, an
authorized Caterpillar dealer located in Jacksonville, Florida.
See Bieneman Decl. ¶ 4.
"For the convenience of the parties and witnesses, in the
interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil
action to any other district or division where it might have been
brought." 28 U.S.C. § 1404 (a). To justify a transfer under
this section, the moving party must show that venue is proper in
the transferee district and that the transfer will serve the
convenience of the parties and witnesses and will promote the
interest of justice. See American Littoral Soc. v. U.S.E.P.A.,
943 F. Supp. 548, 550 (E.D. Pa. 1996); see also Jumara v. State
Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3d Cir. 1995) (stating that
moving party has burden of showing transfer's appropriateness).
The court should look to such factors as
(1) the plaintiffs choice of forum; (2) the relative ease of
access to sources of proof; (3) the availability of compulsory
process for attendance of unwilling witnesses; (4) the
possibility of viewing premises, if applicable; (5) the cost of
obtaining attendance of willing witnesses; (6) all other
practical problems that make trial of a case easy, expeditious,
and inexpensive; and (7) "public interest" factors, including the
relative congestion of court dockets, choice of law
considerations, and the relationship of the community in which
the courts and jurors are required to serve to the occurrences
that give rise to the litigation.
American Littoral Soc., 943 F. Supp. at 550 (citing Romann v.
Geissenberger Mfg. Corp., 865 F. Supp. 255, 264 (E.D. Pa. 1994),
partially abrogated on other grounds in Eagle Traffic Control v.
James Julian. Inc., 933 F. Supp. 1251, 1255-56 (E.D. Pa. 1996));
see also Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879 (describing factors).
As venue would clearly have been proper in the Middle District of
Florida, see 28 U.S.C. § 1391 (a),*fn3 the court will
address the other statutory factors and public interest
considerations, virtually all of which weigh strongly in favor of
The Middle District of Florida would be a convenient location for
both parties. As noted previously, the plaintiff resides and
works in Jacksonville Beach, and his boat is also located in that
area. The defendant has an office in Florida, and many of the
individuals who performed service work on the boat are also
located nearby. See Bieneman Decl. ¶¶ 3-5.
Obviously, the fact that plaintiff wishes to proceed in this
venue is entitled to some weight. However, when the plaintiff
does not live or work in this jurisdiction, the significance of
this preference is minimized. See Matt v. Baxter Healthcare
Corp., 74 F. Supp.2d 467, 469 (E.D. Pa. 1999); Britamco
Underwriters. Inc. v. Wallace, 56 F. Supp.2d 542, 545 (E.D. Pa.
1999); American Littoral Soc., 943 F. Supp. at 551. The
plaintiffs preference is also minimized because none of the
events at issue in this case took place in Pennsylvania. See
Matt, 74 F. Supp.2d at 469.
While the plaintiffs attorney is located in Philadelphia, this
fact alone is not relevant in ruling on a motion for transfer of
venue. See id.; see also Solomon v. Continental Amer. Life Ins.
Co., 472 F.2d 1043, 1047 (3d Cir. 1973); Jordan v. Delaware &
Hudson Ry. Co., 590 F. Supp. 997, 998 (E.D. Pa. 1984).
The convenience of the witnesses, a particularly significant
factor, also weighs heavily in favor of transfer. See Matt, 74 F.
Supp.2d at 469. No Pennsylvania witness has been identified; most
of the witnesses appear to be in Florida. As already discussed,
the plaintiff and his boat are found in Florida. The defendant
stresses that the Ring Power Systems representatives
who worked on plaintiffs boat are located in the Middle District
of Florida, see Bieneman Decl. ¶ 4, as are various individuals
from the Caterpillar office who were involved in the disputes.
See id. ¶ 5. Some relevant Caterpillar employees may be found
in Illinois, see id., but, given that they would have to travel
to Pennsylvania, the additional distance to Florida does not
weigh against transfer. Finally, the defendant notes that most
of the relevant documents are found in Florida.
Finally, the interests of justice also suggest that Florida is a
more appropriate forum for this dispute. First, all of the
relevant events occurred in Florida. A locale that is not the
home of the plaintiff and where few of the operative facts
occurred is entitled to less weight. See Matt, 74 F. Supp.2d at
470; Britamco Underwriters. Inc., 56 F. Supp.2d at 545. Second,
as defendant argues, transferring this case to Florida would
permit the exercise of subpoena power over unwilling witnesses
should the need arise. While this is not a dispositive factor, it
is generally preferable to prosecute a case in a location where
relevant witnesses can be compelled to attend. See. e.g.,
Pennwalt Corp. v. Purex Indus., Inc., 659 F. Supp. 287, 291 (D.
Del. 1986); see also Dinterman v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co.,
26 F. Supp.2d 747, 750 (E.D. Pa. 1998) (noting that subpoena power does
not extend more than 100 miles from the Eastern District of
Pennsylvania). Finally, Pennsylvania law appears to have little
or no relevance to this case; the complaint does, however, raise
claims under Florida and Illinois law. While the court makes no
comment as to what law will ultimately govern this matter, it is
difficult to see in what circumstance Pennsylvania law would be
This case has no connection to Pennsylvania except for
defendant's amenability to suit in this state and the location of
plaintiffs attorney. The plaintiff and his vessel are located in
Florida, as are the Caterpillar employees who were directly
involved in the disputed repairs. Witnesses and documents are
also most readily available in Florida. Consequently, the motion
for transfer will be granted.
An appropriate order follows.
AND NOW, this day of April, 2000, upon consideration of the
Defendant's Motion to Transfer Venue, it is hereby ORDERED that
the Motion is GRANTED. The Clerk shall transfer the record in
this case to the Middle District of Florida.
BY THE COURT:
MARVIN KATZ, S.J.