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Carter v. United States

August 20, 2010

JANET CARTER
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



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

MEMORANDUM RE: DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE TO THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY

I. INTRODUCTION

Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion to transfer venue under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For the reasons discussed below, the Court will deny Defendant's motion.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On June 17, 2010, Plaintiff, a Pennsylvania resident, filed suit against The United States of America. The underlying basis for Plaintiff's claims was that Defendant failed to adequately maintain the grounds of Bridgeboro Cemetery in Edgewater, New Jersey by allowing a nongravesite hole covered with grass and debris to remain at the site, and that as a result, Plaintiff became injured when she came into contact with the dangerous condition. Plaintiff's administrative tort claim was denied on May 17, 2010. (Doc. 1 at 13). This suit followed.

Plaintiff seeks monetary damages against the United States of America pursuant to the Federal Torts Claims Act 28 U.S.C. § 2671 for personal injury arising from the accident at Bridgeboro Cemetery. (Doc. 1 at 7). She contends that Defendant owned and operated the cemetery at the time of the accident and that Defendant, through its agents, carelessly allowed the dangerous condition to remain at the location. Plaintiff also contends that she was a business invitee at the cemetery and that Defendant was responsible for keeping the premises safe for invitees. Plaintiff seeks relief for injuries sustained that were a direct and proximate result of Defendant's negligence. (Doc. 1 at 8). On August 2, 2010, Defendant filed a Motion to Transfer the claims to the District of New Jersey under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). (Doc. 4). Plaintiff responded on August 10, 2010. (Doc. 5).

III. LEGAL STANDARD

The decision to transfer an action pursuant to § 1404(a) is discretionary with the Court. SeeLony v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 886 F.2d 628, 631-32 (3d Cir. 1989). The moving party bears the burden of establishing that a transfer of venue is warranted. Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3d Cir. 1995). 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 v. Mercantile Cty. Bank, No. 06-3974, 2006 WL 3302490, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 9, 2006) (DuBois, J.). Regarding the latter requirement, the moving party must establish, based on balancing the "private" and "public" interests, that the litigation would "more conveniently proceed[,] and the interests of justice be better served[,] by transfer to a different forum." Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879.

"Private interests" include: "(1) plaintiff's choice of venue; (2) defendants' preference; (3) where the claim arose; (4) the convenience of the parties, as indicated by their relative physical and financial condition; (5) convenience of the witnesses; and (6) the location of books and records." Id. "Public interests" include: "(1) the enforceability of a judgment; (2) practical considerations that could make the trial easy, expeditious, or inexpensive; (3) the relative administrative difficulty resulting from court congestion; (4) the local interest in deciding the controversy; (5) the public policies of the fora; and (6) the familiarity of the trial judge with applicable state law in diversity cases." Id. at 879-80.

IV. PARTIES' CONTENTIONS

A. Defendant

Defendant argues that the most critical events giving rise to Plaintiff's claim occurred in New Jersey, thus making venue in New Jersey proper, and that balancing the private and public factors favors transfer. Specifically, Defendant argues that the case should be transferred because: (1) Plaintiff's claim arose in New Jersey; (2) Plaintiff's claims will require visits to inspect the site of the alleged accident in New Jersey; and (3) a federal court situated in New Jersey will have greater familiarity with and experience applying New Jersey law, as required by the Federal Tort Claims Act. Defendant further argues that the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has absolutely no connection to the allegations in this case and that the convenience of the parties as well as the interests of justice favor transfer. (Doc. 4 at 6--7).

B. Plaintiff

Plaintiff responds that, on balance, the private and public interests weigh against transferring venue. First, regarding the private interests, Plaintiff points out that she resides within the forum she chose. Plaintiff further points out that both witnesses who were accompanying her at the time of the accident reside in Philadelphia. Plaintiff argues that maintaining her choice of forum will ensure that her key witnesses will be able to attend and participate in trial. She further argues that, unlike Defendant, she and the witnesses have fiscal constraints and that litigating in Defendant's proposed forum would be burdensome. Plaintiff also points out that all of her medical providers and physicians reside in Philadelphia. Regarding the public interests, Plaintiff notes that citizens within her chosen forum have an interest in the safety of our national cemeteries. Additionally, Plaintiff asserts that the majority of the witnesses and involved parties reside within this jurisdiction. Plaintiff states that a ...


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