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Copley v. Wyeth

July 16, 2009

SUZANNE COPLEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WYETH, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS



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

MEMORANDUM

Defendants Actavis, Inc. and Actavis Elizabeth LLC have filed a Motion to Transfer this product liability action to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. Defendants Schwarz Pharma, Inc. and Schwarz Pharma USA join in this request. Plaintiff, a Tennessee resident, opposes it. For the reasons that are discussed below, the Court grants the Motion.

I. Background

Plaintiff Suzanne Copley is a resident of Tennessee who claims that she developed tardive dyskinesia, a neurological disorder, as a result of ingesting metoclopramide, which is sold under the brand name Reglan and also is sold in various generic forms. Ms. Copley sued Wyeth, Inc., Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Schwarz Pharma, Inc., Schwarz Pharma USA, Actavis, Inc., and Actavis Elizabeth LLC. Ms. Copley's causes of action include strict products liability, negligence, breach of express and implied warranties, and misrepresentation and fraud. Ms. Copley commenced this action in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, and Schwarz Pharma timely removed the case to this Court. The Court denied Ms. Copley's Motion to Remand.

With the exception of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, all Defendants are corporations incorporated in states other than Pennsylvania and have principal places of business outside Pennsylvania. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, though incorporated in Delaware, has a principal place of business in Pennsylvania.

Defendants Actavis, Inc. and Actavis Elizabeth, LLC (together "Actavis") now move to transfer this action to the federal district court for the Middle District of Tennessee pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Schwarz Pharma, Inc. and Schwarz Pharma USA join in Actavis's Motion, and Wyeth, Inc. and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Inc. do not oppose the requested transfer.*fn1

Notwithstanding that it is her home, Ms. Copley strongly opposes transfer to the Tennessee forum.

For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant the Motion to Transfer and will transfer this action to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.

II. Discussion

A. Legal Standard

In a case that has been removed from state court, a district court may entertain a motion to transfer venue pursuant to § 1404(a).*fn2 Wallace v. Merchatile County Bank, Civ. No. 06-3974, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82565, at *9 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 9, 2006). Requests for transfer under § 1404(a) may be granted when venue is proper in both the original and the requested venue. Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 878 (3d Cir. 1995); Schiller-Pfeiffer, Inc. v. Country Home Prods., Civ. No. 04-1444, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24180, at *28 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 1, 2004). Under § 1404(a), district courts have broad discretion "to adjudicate motions for transfer according to an 'individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness.'" Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988) (quoting Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 622 (1964)). While there is no definitive set of factors that must be considered prior to transfer, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has outlined a number of both private and public interests that the district court may consider when adjudicating a motion to transfer.*fn3

The Court acknowledges the familiar maxim that in considering a transfer request, "a plaintiff's choice of forum is entitled to great weight and is not to be disturbed unless the balance of convenience strongly favors the defendants' forum." Blanning v. Tisch, 378 F. Supp. 1058, 1060 (E.D. Pa. 1974) (citing Shutte v. Armco Steel Corp., 431 F.2d 22 (3d Cir. 1970). See also Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879. "It should be noted, however, that the plaintiff's choice of forum is entitled to less weight where the plaintiff chooses a forum which is neither his home nor the situs of the occurrence upon which the suit is based." Harris v. National Railroad Passenger Corp., 979 F. Supp. 1052, 1053 (E.D. Pa. 1997).

Pursuant to § 1404(a), a court may transfer a case: (1) to a district where the case could have been brought; and (2) where the convenience of parties and witnesses, and the interest of justice weigh in favor of the transfer. Wallace, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82565, at *9 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)). This case could have been brought in the Middle District of Tennessee, where Ms. Copley resides and the events giving rise to this action occurred. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a) (providing that an action may be brought in "a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred"). The Court discusses the additional factors of convenience, interests of justice and the like below.

B. Judicial Estoppel

Judicial estoppel is an equitable doctrine aimed at "protect[ing] the integrity of the judicial process by prohibiting parties from deliberately changing positions according to the exigencies of the moment." New Hampshire v. Maine, 532 U.S. 742, 749-50 (2001) (citations and internal quotations omitted). Ms. Copley argues that because of the position that Actavis took before the Judicial Panel of Multidistrict Litigation ("JPMDL") with respect to another metoclopramide case being considered for multidistrict litigation ("MDL") status and, along with other such cases, possible transfer to the Eastern District of ...


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