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Monington v. CSX Transportation

November 22, 2010

RICHARD W. MONINGTON
v.
CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'neill, J.

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Richard Monington, a resident of Caselton-on Hudson, New York, filed this action asserting claims against defendant CSX Transportation, Inc. under the Federal Employer Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. §§ 51-60. Presently before me are CSXT's motion to transfer venue to the Northern District of New York and plaintiff's response. For the following reasons, I will grant CSXT's motion.

BACKGROUND

The case before me arises out of an injury plaintiff sustained in March 2007. Plaintiff alleges that while working at the CSXT rail yard in Selkirk, New York he fell from a railroad car and injured his knees and ankle. See Compl. ¶ 9. He further asserts that the injuries have rendered him unable to attend to his usual duties and resulted in financial loss. See id. at 10.

Plaintiff initially filed his FELA action against CSXT in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on March 25, 2010. CSXT moved to dismiss plaintiff's complaint based on forum non conveniens. On August 26, 2010, the Court of Common Pleas granted CSXT's motion to dismiss and instructed that "[p]laintiff may re-file this action within ninety (90) days of dismissal in New York . . . ." Monington v. CSX Transp., Inc., No. 004926 (Phila. Com. Pleas Aug. 27, 2010) (order dismissing complaint). On September 10, 2010, plaintiff chose instead to re-file his complaint in this Court. On October 25, 2010, CSXT filed the instant motion to transfer venue to the Northern District of New York, Albany Division.

STANDARD FOR VENUE TRANSFER

Two venue provisions are relevant to CSXT's motion to transfer. FELA provides that "an action may be brought in a district court of the United States, in the district of the residence of the defendant, or in which the cause of action arose, or in which the defendant shall be doing business at the time of commencing such action." 45 U.S.C. § 56. Venue is proper in this district as a district where CSXT does business. CSXT seeks transfer to the district where plaintiff's employment was centered. The standard for transferring cases from one venue to another is set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), which provides that "[f]or 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."

In determining whether to grant CSXT's request to transfer venue I must weigh both private and public interest factors. The relevant private factors include: (a) the plaintiff's forum preference as manifested in the original choice when the action was initiated; (b) the defendant's preference; (c) whether the claim arose elsewhere; (d) the relative convenience of the parties as indicated by their relative physical and financial conditions; and (e) the location of the witnesses, books and records, to the extent that the witnesses, books, or records may actually be unavailable for trial in one of the fora. Dynka v. Norfolk Southern Ry. Corp., No. 09-4854, 2010 WL 2490683 at *2 (E.D. Pa. June 15, 2010). Public interest factors include: (a) the enforceability of the judgment; (b) practical considerations that could make the trial easier, more expeditions or less expensive; (c) the relative administrative difficulty in the two fora resulting from court congestion; and (d) the local interest in deciding local controversies at home. Id. CSXT bears the burden of showing these factors weigh in favor of transfer. See Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3d Cir. 1995) ("The burden of establishing the need for transfer still rests with the movant.").

Courts in this district are divided as to whether, in cases involving FELA, the plaintiff's choice of forum requires a heightened level of deference. See Barr v. Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp., No. 08-CV-2529, 2009 WL 3497776, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 28, 2009). Even if the plaintiff's choice of forum is to be accorded special consideration in a FELA action, the FELA venue provision "does not preclude a Section 1404(a) transfer." Dynka, 2010 WL 2490683 at *2; see also Dominy v. CSX Transp., Inc., No. 05-481, 2006 WL 573801, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 9, 2006) ("no conflict between the venue transfer statute, 28 U.S.C. §1404(a), and Section 6 of the FELA, 45 U.S.C. § 56"); Colandrea v. Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp., No. 99-2793, 2000 WL 186105, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 28, 2000) (internal quotation omitted) ("even assuming for the sake of argument that the burden is especially heavy in a FELA case, the Court finds that a transfer is warranted because Amtrak has made a clear, definite, and unequivocal case for the transfer").

Furthermore, FELA contains an expansive venue provision to prevent "the injustice to an injured employee of compelling him to go to the possibly far distant place [of his employer's residence] with consequent increased expense" in order to sue his employer. Baltimore & O. R. Co. v. Kepner, 314 U.S. 44, 49 (1941). The purpose of Section 1404(a) is to "prevent the waste of time, energy and money and to protect litigants, witnesses and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense." Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1962). Section 1404(a) does not exist to "shift the inconvenience from one party to another." Superior Precast, Inc., v. Safeco Ins. Co. of Am., 71 F. Supp. 2d 438, 446 (E.D. Pa. 1999).

DISCUSSION

Plaintiff advances two related arguments in response to CSXT's motion to transfer: (1) that FELA places notable deference on the plaintiff's choice of forum; and (2) that CSXT has failed to overcome this presumption. Plaintiff thus concludes that his case should remain in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. I disagree.

Plaintiff's choice of forum may be given some additional consideration in the context of FELA claims. See Dynka, 2010 WL 2490683 at *2. Nevertheless, several other consideration favor a transfer. Private factors, such as the location where the claim arose and the convenience of the witnesses, demonstrate that a transfer is appropriate here. See Gunder v. CSX Transp., Inc., No. 08-6029, 2009 WL 2004377, at *3 (E.D. Pa. July 8, 2009); Kramer v. Consol. Rail Corp., No. 97-1102, 1997 WL 214858, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 24, 1997). In addition, the Northern District of New York has a strong ...


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