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Barr v. National Railroad Passenger Corp.

October 30, 2009

ROBERT W. BARR, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION (AMTRAK), DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Presently before this Court are Defendant's Motion to Transfer Venue (Doc. 6) and Plaintiff's Response thereto. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will deny Defendant's Motion.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed this matter pursuant to the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"), 45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq. It is alleged that Plaintiff suffered a back injury while working for Defendant in Delaware on May 22, 2006.

Plaintiff, a resident of Middleton, DE, initiated this matter in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on February 8, 2007. The court, on motion, dismissed the action pursuant to the forum non conveniens doctrine for refiling in Delaware Chancery Court. Plaintiff appealed the decision but withdrew the petition prior to completion. Instead of re-filing in Delaware, Plaintiff brought the matter before this Court on May 30, 2008.

On May 29, 2009, Defendant filed the present pending motion to transfer venue pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Defendant alleges that the District Court for the District of Delaware is the appropriate venue for proceedings "[b]ecause the witnesses, parties and evidence involved in th[e] lawsuit are all located in Delaware," and it would be unfair to require Pennsylvania jurors to sit on the case "[b]ecause the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has no relationship to the witnesses or the cause of action upon which this suit is based." Def. Mot. to Transfer Venue, ¶¶ 25-26. Upon reviewing the briefs, the Court will deny the motion.

LEGAL STANDARD

There are two interplaying venue statutes relevant to the present motion:

1) 45 U.S.C. § 56 -- This statute governs which venues are proper in FELA actions. Under FELA, "an action may be brought in a district court of the United States, in the district of the residence of the defendant or in which the cause of action arose, or in which the defendant shall be doing business at the time of commencing such action."

2) 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) -- This statute sets forth the standard for transferring cases from one venue to another. Section 1404(a) provides, "[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."

Additionally, 45 U.S.C. § 51 provides important guidance as it is the statute under which plaintiff sues. Section 51 provides railroad employees grounds to sue the railroad company in a venue set forth in Section 56. The statute confers concurrent jurisdiction on both state and federal courts and 28 U.S.C. § 1445 expressly forbids removing such actions filed in state court to federal court.

a. Forum Transfers Generally

Section 1404(a) permits a district court, within its discretion, to transfer a case to another venue where the case could have been brought "for the convenience of parties and witnesses [and] in the interest of justice." Although Section 1404 is not a codification of the forum non conveniens doctrine, they share a motivation to insure that cases proceed in proper venues that promote efficiency, convenience, and most importantly, justice. The primary concern of the forum non conveniens doctrine is avoiding a plaintiff's "temptation to resort to a strategy of forcing the trial at a most inconvenient place for an adversary . . ." In re Corel Corp., Inc., 147 F. Supp. 2d 363, 366 (E.D. Pa. 2001). By improperly forcing defendants to litigate in inconvenient locations, none of efficiency, convenience or justice is served.

The burden of establishing the need for transfer is on the moving party. Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3d Cir. 1995). Upon motion to transfer pursuant to Section 1404(a), the district court must first establish that both the current and proposed venues are proper. Once established, courts weigh the public and private interests at play. See, e.g., id.; Horace Mann Ins. Co. v. Nationwide Mutual Ins. Co., No. 04-CV-5978, 2005 WL 639728, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 17, 2005) (Tucker, J.). The private interests include: (1) the plaintiff's forum preference as manifested in the original choice; (2) defendant's preference; (3) the convenience of the parties as indicated by their relative physical and financial condition; (4) the convenience of witnesses--but only to the extent the witnesses are unavailable for trial in one of the considered forums; and the location of books and records--also limited only to those records that could not be produced in one forum. Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879. The public interests courts have considered include: (1) the enforceability of the judgment; (2) practical considerations that could make the trial easy, expeditious, or ...


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