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National Asset Management, LLC v. Coleman

August 23, 2010

NATIONAL ASSET MANAGEMENT, LLC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
JUNE COLEMAN, ESQUIRE, ELLIS COLEMAN, AND PROIRIER, LA VOIE AND STEINHEIMER, LLP., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Nora Barry Fischer

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Factual Background

Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) or in the alternative Motion to Transfer pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P.12(b)(3). Plaintiff, National Asset Management (hereinafter, "Plaintiff") seeks damages from June Coleman, Esq., and Ellis, Coleman, Poirier, La Voie and Steinheimer, L.L.P., (hereinafter, collectively "Defendants") for alleged professional malpractice, breach of contract, fraud and billing improprieties. (Docket No. [20] at ¶1). This case arises out of Defendants' representation of Plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against Plaintiff in the State of California.

Plaintiff is a billing and collection agency with its principal place of business in Moon Township, Pennsylvania. (Docket No. [20] at ¶4). Defendant Coleman is a licensed attorney in California. (Docket No. [20] at ¶5) Ellis, Coleman, Poirier, La Voie and Steinheimer, L.L.P., is a law firm located in Sacramento, California, its principal place of business. (Docket No. [20] at ¶6).

On or about March 28, 2008, Plaintiff retained Defendants to represent it in a California state court case captioned Mastroianni v. National Asset Management, docketed at BC-372284. (Docket No. [1], Ex. 1, at ¶¶4 through 9) wherein Plaintiff was alleged to be liable to Mastroiannifor violations of the California Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies Act, §§ 1785.25-1785.26. In the Mastroianni case, Plaintiff had presented a cross-claim against its co-defendant alleging that the co-defendant was contractually liable to indemnify Plaintiff for the alleged violations. (Docket No. [20], ¶7). At the behest of Defendants, Plaintiff dismissed its cross claim in Mastroianni, with prejudice, on April 1, 2009. (Docket No. [1] at ¶17). As a result, Plaintiff lost its ability to seek indemnity, contribution, and other redress from the co-defendant in Mastroianni. (Id.). Throughout the California litigation, Plaintiff and Defendant contested the fees that were billed to Plaintiff by Defendants. Plaintiff contended that the fees were unreasonable and in violation of a pre-representation agreement limiting the total fees to no more that $10,000. Ultimately, at the conclusion of Defendants' representation of the Plaintiff, the fees billed were in excess of $44,000. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants were aware at the time they agreed to the $10,000 cap on fees that the fees would far exceed that amount and that Plaintiff would have no option but to continue its relationship with Defendants in order to successfully defend itself in the California case.

Plaintiff's Amended Complaint alleges that Defendants were negligent in recommending that the cross claim be dismissed, violated the terms of representation by billing in excess of $10,000 and fraudulently induced Plaintiff to enter into a representation agreement by promising the total fees for the representation would not exceed $10,000. (Docket No. [20] at ¶¶7 through 14; 27 through 32; and 34 though 36).

B. Procedural Background

Plaintiff commenced the current action by filing a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County on November 30, 2009, at docket number GD-09-022152. (Docket No. [1], Ex 1). A Notice of Removal to the Western District of Pennsylvania was filed January 6, 2010. (Docket No. [1]). Subsequently, Defendants filed their Answer to Plaintiff's Complaint on April 12, 2010. (Docket No. [10]). Plaintiff then filed an Amended Complaint on June 11, 2010. (Docket No. [20]). Defendants responded with a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P.12(b)(6) or in the alternative, Motion to Transfer pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P.12(b)(3).

For the reasons outlined herein, Defendants' Motion to Transfer Venue pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 (b)(3) is GRANTED. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss remains pending.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Venue in federal courts is governed by two statutory provisions. 28 U.S.C. §1391 applies in a diversity case filed originally in a federal court. 28 U.S.C. §1441 applies in cases removed to federal courts from state courts. Polizzi v. Cowles Magazines, Inc., 345 U.S. 663, 665-666 (1953). The disposition of a case filed in a federal court laying venue in the wrong district is controlled by 28 U.S.C. §1406(a). Such a case can be dismissed or, in the interests of justice, transferred to a district court where venue is proper. In removed cases, the transfer of a case to another district is controlled by 28 U.S.C. §1404(a) which permits a district court to transfer a case to another district for the convenience of the parties and witnesses and in the interests of justice. Because this case was initially filed in state court, and removed to this Court, §1441 governs its venue and §1404(a) governs transfer to another district. Accordingly, Defendants' Motion to Transfer pursuant to §1406 is denied. The Court must now address the Motion to Transfer pursuant to §1404(a).

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C.§ 1404(a), a district court may transfer a civil case to another district "[f]or the convenience of the parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Such transfers "are discretionary determinations made for the convenience of the parties and presuppose that the court has jurisdiction and that the case has been brought in the correct forum." Lafferty v. Gito St. Riel, 495 F.3d 72, 76, 79 n.8 (3d Cir. 2007).

The purpose of §1404(a) is to prevent waste of time and resources and to protect the parties and witnesses and the general public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense. Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964). The party seeking transfer bears the burden of establishing that transfer is appropriate and must demonstrate that the alternative forum is adequate and more convenient. Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3d Cir. 1995). The moving party must show that "on balance the litigation would more conveniently ...


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