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Martin v. Citizens Financial Group

August 13, 2010


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


Before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Transfer Venue to the Northern District of Illinois. Because we find that the Northern District of Illinois does not have personal jurisdiction over Defendant Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania, this action could not have been brought in that district. Consequently, Plaintiff's motion will be denied.


This case involves allegations brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"). Plaintiffs' have sued three defendants: Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania, a corporation headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; RBS Citizens, N.A., a corporation headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island; and Citizens Financial Group, a corporation headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island.*fn1

Plaintiff Kevin Martin is a former employee of Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania, who worked as a "teller" and "banker" at Citizens Bank's King of Prussia branch.*fn2 Martin alleges that during his employment, Defendants violated the FLSA by failing to fully pay him for the work he performed.

Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants: (a) barred non-exempt employees from recording all of the work they performed; (b) manipulated time records in order to reduce employees' overtime pay; (c) provided "comp time" in place of overtime pay; and (d) required employees to work during unpaid breaks. (Compl., ¶¶ 20-30).

On January 21, 2010, Martin filed the original complaint with this Court, styled the "Collective Action Complaint" on behalf of all non-exempt Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania branch employees. Thereafter, Martin filed a separate class action complaint in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, alleging violations of the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act of 1968, 43 P.S. §§ 333.101, et seq., as well as unjust enrichment. On March 1, 2010, John R. Depaolantonio, Jr., Patricia A. Gahan, James Holliday and Mary E. Ryan were added as named plaintiffs in the federal action. Subsequently, Defendants removed the state action to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. On May 11, 2010 this Court consolidated the state and federal actions. Currently, seventeen additional current or former Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania employees have joined the action.

Plaintiffs now seek to transfer this case, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), to the Northern District of Illinois. Plaintiffs seek to consolidate this matter with Ross v. RBS Citizens, N.A. et al., Civil Action No. 09-cv-05695, which is currently before the Honorable Joan H. Lefkow. Ross, filed prior to the case before this Court, is a similar class action in which tellers at Charter One bank branches allege violations of the FLSA. Ross names Citizens Financial and RBS Citizens, doing business as Charter One, as defendants.


The statute governing a transfer of actions, 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), provides that "for 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). At the outset, the moving party must demonstrate that venue, personal jurisdiction, and subject matter jurisdiction would have been proper in the proposed transferee district. Shuttle v. Armco Steel Corp., 431 F.2d 22, 24 (3d Cir. 1970). Then, a court must weigh "relevant factors to determine whether on balance the litigation would more conveniently proceed and the interests of justice be better served by transfer to a different forum." Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3d Cir. 1995). The burden to show the need for transfer rests with the movant. Id.


A. First-Filed Rule

Plaintiffs first argue that the Ross action, currently underway in the Northern District of Illinois, triggers the first-filed rule. As articulated by the Third Circuit, the first-filed rule states that "[i]n all cases of federal concurrent jurisdiction, the court which first has possession of the subject must decide it." E.E.O.C. v. University of Pennsylvania, 850 F.2d 969, 971 (3d Cir. 1988). The rule gives courts the power to enjoin proceedings involving the same issues and parties as litigation ongoing in another federal court. Id. The rule's purpose is to avoid duplicative litigation and promote comity among courts of equal rank. Id. In order for the first-filed rule to apply however, the matters must be "truly duplicative," such that "a determination in one case leaves little or nothing to be determined in the other." Grider v. Keystone Health Plan, 500 F.3d 322, 334 n.6 (3d. Cir. 2007). "When the claims, parties, or requested relief differ deference may not be appropriate." Guilford v. City of Philadelphia, 1995 WL 521761, at *10 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 31, 1995). While it is true that the actions need not be perfectly parallel in order for the first-filed rule to apply, they must be "materially on all fours." Grider, 500 F.3d at 334 n.6; Transcore, L.P. v. Mark IV Industries Corp., 2009 WL 3365870 (E.D. Pa 2009);

Plaintiffs argue that the matter currently before this Court and the Ross action are duplicative litigation stemming from the same set of facts. Plaintiffs claim that both actions allege similar violations by RBS Citizens and Citizens Financial and that the potential class members in each case were subjected to the same policies, payroll systems and reported to the same management. (Pl. Mem., pp. 9-10). Plaintiffs point out that both plaintiffs and defendants are represented by the same attorneys in Ross as in this case. Thus, Plaintiffs conclude that it is in the ...

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