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Barbera v. Lowe's Home Centers

May 15, 2009

VALAURIE BARBERA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LOWE'S HOME CENTERS, INC., DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM

Valaurie Barbera sued Lowe's Home Centers, Inc. for negligence in a Pennsylvania State Court. Lowe's removed the action to this Court and now moves to have this action transferred to the Middle District of Pennsylvania. For the reasons below, the Court grants the motion.

I. BACKGROUND

On March 25, 2009, Barbera filed a lawsuit in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas against Lowe's. (Def.'s Mot. to Transfer Venue ¶ 1.) Barbera resides at 120 West Enterprise Street in Glen Lyon, Pennsylvania. (Compl. ¶ 1.) According to the Complaint, Barbera was hurt at a Lowe's located at 50 West Side Mall in Edwardsville, Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 5.) She claims that she came into contact with improperly displayed and/or stored sales inventory. (Id. ¶ 4.) Barbera alleges negligence on Lowe's part in failing to inspect the premises, warn patrons of the dangerous condition, and repair the hazardous condition. (Id. ¶ 8.) She seeks damages in excess of $50,000 to compensate her for the severe injuries she suffered to her neck, back, arms, and legs as a result of Lowe's negligence. (Id. ¶ 9 and ad damnum clause.)

An accident report prepared by the Lowe's store manager lists two employees of the Lowe's store in Edwardsville, Pennsylvania as persons with knowledge of the incident. (Def.'s Mot. to Transfer Venue ¶ 8.) Following the incident, Barbera sought treatment at the Horizon Medical Corporation and at Mercy Hospital, both of which are located in Scranton, Pennsylvania. (Def.'s Mot. to Transfer Venue Ex. E [Medical Records].) On April 17, 2009, Lowe's removed this case to this Court based on diversity of citizenship. Defendant now seeks a transfer to the Middle District of Pennsylvania pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Because there is no federal question asserted in the Complaint, venue is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a). That statute reads:

A civil action wherein jurisdiction is founded only on diversity of citizenship may, except as otherwise provided by law, be brought only in (1) a judicial district where any defendant resides, if all defendants reside in the same State, (2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the subject of the action is situated, or (3) a judicial district in which any defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction at the time the action is commenced, if there is no district in which the action may otherwise be brought.

Here, Defendant has requested a change of venue, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404. In relevant part, that statute directs that "[f]or the convenience of 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) (2008).

The decision of whether to grant a transfer under § 1404(a) lies within the discretion of the trial court. Wilce v. Gen. Motors Corp., Civ. A. No. 96-6194, 1996 WL 724936, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 13, 1996). The trial court possesses broad discretion in this matter. Solomon v. Cont'l Am. Life Ins. Co., 472 F.2d 1043, 1045 (3d Cir. 1973); see also Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988). The Defendant, as the moving party, bears the burden of proving that venue is proper in the transferee district and that a transfer is appropriate. Lindley v. Caterpillar, Inc., 93 F. Supp. 2d 615, 617 (E.D. Pa. 2000); see also Shutte v. ARMCO Steel Corp., 431 F.2d 22, 25 (3d Cir. 1970); Idasetima v. Wabash Metal Prods., Inc., Civ. A. No. 01-0197, 2001 WL 1526270, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 29, 2001).

III. DISCUSSION

Defendant has clearly demonstrated that venue is proper in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. See Lindley, 93 F. Supp. 2d at 617. The incident occurred at a Lowe's in Edwardsville, Pennsylvania, which is located in Luzerne County in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. See 28 U.S.C. § 118(b) (setting forth counties that comprise Middle District of Pennsylvania). Additionally, Plaintiff sought medical treatment in Scranton, which is also in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Because a substantial part of the events giving rise to Barbera's claims occurred in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, she could have originally brought this action there.

Turning to the issue of whether a transfer should be ordered for the convenience of the parties and the witnesses and is in the interest of justice, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has enumerated both private and public factors to be evaluated when a district court considers a motion to transfer venue. Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879-80 (3d Cir. 1995). The private interest factors include: (1) the plaintiff's choice of forum; (2) the defendant's choice of forum; (3) where the claims arose; (4) the convenience of the parties as indicated by their relative physical and financial condition; (5) the convenience of the witnesses -- but only to the extent that the witnesses may actually be unavailable for trial in one of the fora; and (6) the location of books and records -- similarly limited to the extent that files could not be produced in the alternative forum. Id. at 879. The public interest factors include: (1) the enforceability of the judgment; (2) practical considerations that could make the trial ...


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