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Foxworth v. United States

August 4, 2004

CYNTHIA E. FOXWORTH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yohn, J.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

This medical malpractice suit, brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2671, et seq., ("FTCA") arises out of an operation performed at the now-defunct Naval Regional Medical Center in Philadelphia ("Medical Center"). Pro se plaintiff Cythnia Foxworth alleges that she contracted the hepatitis C virus during a procedure at the Medical Center as a result of the negligence of certain employees of the United States. Presently before the court is the government's motion to transfer the case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For the reasons set forth below, I will grant the motion.

I. BACKGROUND

Foxworth underwent surgery at the Medical Center on January 8, 1976 for an undisclosed illness. (Compl. at ¶ 2.) During the course of the surgery, Foxworth received a blood transfusion. As a result of the transfusion, Foxworth was allegedly infected with the hepatitis C virus. (Id. at ¶ 3.)

The Medical Center was closed in 1990, and the records of its patients have been relocated to a storage facility in St. Louis, Missouri. (Def.'s Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. to Transfer at 2.)

Foxworth, who resides in Richmond, Virginia, first learned of her condition in July 2002, when she was diagnosed with chronic hepatitis C at the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System in Richmond. (Ex. 1 to Def.'s Mot. to Transfer.) Foxworth was subsequently referred to the Hepatology Department at the Hunter Holmes McGuire Medical Center in Richmond, where she currently receives treatment. (Id.) Foxworth admits that all of the medical professionals involved in her treatment for hepatitis are located in Richmond. (Pl.'s Mem. of Law in Opp. to Def.'s Mot. to Transfer at 4.)

On April 13, 2005, Foxworth filed this suit under the FTCA, alleging one count of negligence. On June 29, 2005, the government filed the instant motion, which is now ripe for disposition.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Proper Venue

A court may not transfer a lawsuit to a forum where venue is improper. See 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Hence, before I may consider the merits of the government's motion, I must determine whether venue is proper in Eastern District of Virginia. In a civil action on a tort claim against the United States, venue is proper in the judicial district where the plaintiff resides, or in the district where the act or omission giving rise to the claim occurred. 28 U.S.C. § 1402(b).*fn1 Here, venue is proper in the Eastern District of Virginia, where Foxworth currently resides, as well as this district, where the allegedly negligent operation took place.

B. Transfer of Venue

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), a court may "may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought" "for the convenience of the parties and witnesses" or "in the interest of justice". This decision lies within the discretion of the trial court. See Shuttle v. ARMCO Steel Corp., 431 F.2d 22, 25 (3d Cir. 1970). Courts must exercise that discretion in light of the strong presumption in favor of the plaintiff's choice of forum. See id. at 25 ("[A] plaintiff's choice of a proper forum is a paramount consideration in any determination of a transfer request, and that choice 'should not be lightly disturbed.'") (citation omitted). Consequently, the defendant has the burden of "establish[ing] that a balancing of proper interests weigh in favor of the transfer." Id.

Courts consider a list of private and public interests when deciding a motion to transfer venue. The private interests include: (1) "the plaintiff's forum preference as manifested in the original choice," (2) "the defendant's preference," (3) "whether the claim arose elsewhere," (4) "the convenience of the parties as indicated by their relative physical and financial condition," (5) "the convenience of the witnesses," and (6) "the location of books and records". Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3d Cir. 1995).

Courts also consider the following public interests: (1) "the enforceability of the judgment," (2) "practical considerations that could make the trial easy, expeditious, or inexpensive," (3) "the relative administrative difficulty in the two fora resulting from court congestion," (4) "the local interest in deciding local controversies at home," (5) "the public policies of the fora," and (6) ...


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