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Inaganti v. Columbia Properties Harrisburg LLC

June 14, 2010

PRAMEELA INAGANTI AND RAO INAGANTI, H/W, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COLUMBIA PROPERTIES HARRISBURG LLC D/B/A HARRISBURG COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT AND COLUMBIA SUSSEX CORPORATION A/K/A HARRISBURG COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM

Currently pending before the Court is the Motion of Defendants Columbia Properties Harrisburg, LLC and Columbia Sussex Corporation (collectively, "Moving Defendants") to Transfer Venue to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For the following reasons, the Motion is denied.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

According to the facts set forth in the Complaint, Prameela Inaganti was a guest at the Defendant's hotel in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (Compl. ¶ 7.) On January 29, 2008, while exiting the side entrance of the hotel, Ms. Inaganti fell due to a "slippery substance and/or ice" outside the entrance of the hotel near the parking lot. (Id.) As a result, she sustained multiple severe and permanent orthopedic and neurological injuries. (Id.)

Plaintiffs Prameela and Rao Inaganti, husband and wife, commenced the current action on January 27, 2010, by filing a Writ of Summons in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. On February 25, 2010, Plaintiffs served Defendants with the Complaint, which alleged two counts of negligence, (id. ¶¶ 8-27), and two counts of loss of consortium. (Id. ¶¶ 28-31.) Defendants successfully removed the case based on diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Plaintiffs subsequently moved to remand, which the Court denied on May 25, 2010.

On April 30, 2010, Defendants filed the present Motion to Transfer Venue to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Via Stipulation signed by both parties, Plaintiffs responded on June 3, 2010. The Court now turns to the merits of this Motion.

II. DISCUSSION

Under 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 diversity case, is proper "(1) where the defendant resides, (2) where a substantial part of the events giving rise to the claim occurred, or (3) where personal jurisdiction may be had over any defendant if no other venue is proper." Park Inn Intern., L.L.C. v. Mody Enters., Inc. 105 F. Supp. 2d 370, 375 (D.N.J. 2000) (summarizing 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a)).

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).*fn1

Notably, analyses of transfers under § 1404(a) are "flexible and must be made on the unique facts of each case."*fn2 Job Haines Home for the Aged v. Young, 936 F. Supp. 223, 227 (D.N.J. 1996) (internal quotations omitted). In weighing the factors, the court should not grant a motion to transfer unless the moving party can demonstrate that the balance of interests strongly favors a change in venue. Gulf Oil v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 508 (1947); see also Saint-Gobain Calmar, Inc. v. Nat'l Prod. Corp., 230 F. Supp. 2d 655, 658 (E.D. Pa. 2002) (noting that party seeking transfer bears the burden of proving that transfer is proper). In this regard, the court's discretion is broad. SeePlum Tree, Inc. v. Stockment, 488 F.2d 754, 756 (3d Cir.1973). Nonetheless, "such motions are not to be liberally granted." Dinterman v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., 26 F. Supp. 2d 747, 749 (E.D. Pa. 1998) (citing Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988)).

In the case at bar, neither party disputes that the case "might have been brought" in Defendant's requested venue of the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The Complaint at issue clearly alleges that the dangerous condition existed and the injury was sustained in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, thereby permitting venue to lie in the Middle District. (Compl. ΒΆ 7.) 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 ...


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