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Smith v. HireRight Solutions

June 7, 2010

BAHIR SMITH, ON BEHALF OF HIMSELF AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HIRERIGHT SOLUTIONS, INC. AND USIS COMMERCIAL SERVICES, INC., DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM

Currently pending before the Court is the Motion of Defendant HireRight Solutions, Inc., formerly known as USIS Commercial Services, Inc.*fn1 to Transfer Venue to the Northern District of Oklahoma Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404. For the following reasons, the Motion is granted and the case is transferred to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This litigation was initiated as a consumer class action based upon Defendant's willful violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681, et seq. ("FCRA"). (Compl. ¶ 1.) The action is brought on behalf of the thousands of employment applicants throughout the country who have purportedly been the subject of prejudicial, misleading, and inaccurate background reports performed by Defendant and sold to employers. (Id.)

According to the facts set forth in the Complaint, Defendant is a consumer reporting agency ("CRA"), which maintains consumer files containing public record information, including the criminal record history of individuals. (Id. ¶¶ 7, 9.) Defendant sells these consumer files to potential employers -- consisting of a customer base of more than 28,000 businesses across the country -- wishing to investigate the criminal history of various job applicants. (Id. ¶ 10.) The Complaint alleges that, as a matter of practice, Defendant, in violation of its obligations under the FCRA, neither notifies the consumer contemporaneously of its reporting of adverse public record information, nor maintains strict procedures designed to insure that such information is complete, up-to-date, and accurate. (Id. ¶ 14.) Moreover, according to the Complaint, Defendant regularly reports single incidents multiple times so that the consumer's criminal record history appears much more serious than it actually is. (Id.) By the time the consumer is made aware of the inaccurate and duplicative reporting, the report has already been sold to the requesting employer and become the basis of an employment decision. (Id.)

With respect to the named Plaintiff, the Complaint alleges that in February 2006, Plaintiff Bahir Smith had been arrested as a result of incident in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff pled guilty to two summary offenses (defiant trespass and public drunkeness), while two misdemeanor charges (terroristic threats and simple assault) were nolle prossed, and a felony charge of burglary was dismissed by the court. (Id.) Aside from this one incident in February 2006, Plaintiff has never been arrested for any other offense. (Id. ¶ 21.)

Over the course of 2009, Plaintiff applied for truck driver positions with three different companies. (Id. ¶¶ 22, 26, 30.) On each occasion, the prospective employer hired Defendant to perform a public record information search on Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 23, 27, 31.) Defendant forwarded Plaintiff a copy of these reports with notations that they were also being provided to the prospective employers. (Id. ¶¶ 24, 28, 32.) In each report, Plaintiff's February 2006 criminal case was listed multiple times. (Id. ¶¶ 25, 29, 33.)

Plaintiff initiated the current federal action on December 17, 2009 alleging that Defendant willfully violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act by: (1) failing to notify consumers contemporaneously of the fact that criminal record information is being provided to prospective employers; (2) failing to maintain strict procedures to assure that the information is complete and up to date; and (3) failing to utilize procedures designed to assure maximum possible accuracy of the information it sells to prospective employers. (Id. ¶ 45(a-c).) In addition, the Complaint defined a prospective class of "[a]ll natural persons residing in the United States who were the subject of a consumer report prepared by Defendants within two (2) years prior to the filing of the Complaint[,] who were the subjects of background reports in which criminal cases were duplicatively reported[,] and to whom Defendants did not provide notice that they were furnishing a consumer report on the persons prior to or contemporaneously with their provision of the report." (Id. ¶ 36.) Defendant moved to dismiss the Complaint on March 24, 2010, which the Court declined to do on May 12, 2010. On April 30, 2010, Defendant filed the present Motion to Transfer Venue to the Northern District of Oklahoma Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404, Plaintiff responded on May 14, 2010, and Defendant submitted a Reply Brief on May 24, 2010. The Court now turns to a discussion of this Motion.

II. DISCUSSION

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), a district court may transfer an action to any other district "where it might have been brought" if this transfer is "for the convenience of parties and witnesses" and "in the interest of justice." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a); see also Connors v. UUU Prods., No. CIV.A.03-6420, 2004 WL 834726, at *6 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 5, 2004). The determination of whether to transfer venue pursuant to § 1404(a) is governed by federal law. See Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 877-878 (3d Cir. 1995) (federal law applies because questions of venue are procedural, rather than substantive).

Analysis of a request for a § 1404(a) transfer has two components. First, both the original venue and the requested venue must be proper. Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879. Venue, in a case based on federal question jurisdiction, is proper only in "(1) a jurisdiction where any of defendant resides if all defendants reside in the same State, (2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or issues giving rise to the claim occurred . . ., or (3) a judicial district in which any defendant may be found, if there is no district in which the action may otherwise be brought." 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b).

Second, because the purpose of allowing § 1404(a) transfers is "'to prevent the waste of time, energy and money and to protect litigants, witnesses and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense,'" Pro Spice, Inc. v. Omni Trade Group, Inc., 173 F. Supp. 2d 336, 339 (E.D. Pa. 2001) (quoting Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964)), the Court is required to undertake a balancing test in deciding whether the "interests of justice [would] be better served by a transfer to a different forum." Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879. The Third Circuit has outlined a non-exhaustive list of pertinent public and private interest factors to be weighed in this balancing test. 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. Id. at 879. The public interests include: (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 controversies at home; (5) the public policies of the fora; and (6) the familiarity of the trial judge with the applicable state law in diversity cases. Id. at 879-80. The burden falls on the moving defendant to show the desirability of transferring venue and to present evidence upon which the court may rely in justifying transfer. Fellner ex rel. Estate of Fellner v. Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters, Inc., No. 05-CV-1052, 2005 WL 2660351, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 18, 2005).*fn2 Notably, analyses of transfers under § 1404(a) are "flexible and must be made on the unique facts of each case."*fn3 Job Haines Home for the Aged v. Young, 936 F. Supp. 223, 227 (D.N.J. 1996) (internal quotations omitted).

In the case at bar, neither party disputes that the case "might have been brought" in Defendant's requested venue of the Northern District of Oklahoma. The Complaint at issue clearly alleges that Defendant is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business of business in Tulsa, Oklahoma, thereby satisfying the requirements for venue in the Northern District of Oklahoma. (Compl. ¶ 5.) Accordingly, the Court turns to the second part of the inquiry: whether the convenience of the parties and witnesses, as well as the interests of justice, would be served by transferring this case to the Northern District of Oklahoma. Considering the private and public interests enumerated by the Third Circuit, the Court finds that such a transfer is indeed proper.*fn4

A. Private Interests

1. Plaintiffs' Choice ...


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