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Richard and Janet Brooke v. J&J Painting

May 31, 2011

RICHARD AND JANET BROOKE,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
J&J PAINTING, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiffs Richard Brooke and his wife Janet Brooke assert state law claims for negligence and loss of consortium, relating to injuries allegedly suffered by Richard Brooke when he fell on the premises of a Days Inn in Hillsborough, New Jersey on January 29, 2009. Presently before the Court is Defendant Shree Ganeshai, Inc.'s Motion to Transfer to the District of New Jersey (Dkt. No. 2) ("Motion"), as well as Plaintiffs' Opposition thereto (Dkt. No. 4) ("Opp."). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion will be GRANTED and the action will be TRANSFERRED to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On September 15, 2010, Plaintiffs filed a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County against Days Inn, Days Inn Hillsborough, the Hillsborough Executive Days Inn, Wyndham Worldwide Operations, Inc., J&J Painting, Shree Ganeshai, Inc. d/b/a Hillsborough Motel Days Inns, and Shree Ganeshay ICR Corp. d/b/a Days Inn (September Term, 2010, No. 01359) ("Pennsylvania State Court Action"). (Ex. A to Dkt. No. 1.) On January 3, 2011, the parties executed and filed a stipulation amending the caption and substituting Shree Ganeshai, Inc. d/b/a Days Inn (the owner and operator of the Hillsborough Days Inn) ("Ganeshai"), as a party defendant for Days Inn Hillsboro, the Hillsborough Executive Days Inn, Shree Ganeshai Inc. d/b/a Hillsborough Motel Days Inn and Shree Ganeshay ICR Corp. d/b/a Days Inn. (Ex. B to Dkt. No. 1.) On January 3, 2011, the parties stipulated to the dismissal of Days Inn (the only Philadelphia county defendant, located at 4200 Roosevelt Boulevard) as a defendant with prejudice. (Ex. C to Dkt. No. 1.)

On January 18, 2011, Plaintiffs filed a separate complaint against Ganeshai, J&J Painting and Wyndham Worldwide Operations, Inc. in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (Civ. No. 11-251), asserting the same claims as in this action ("New Jersey Federal Court Action"). (Ex. E to Dkt. No. 1.) The New Jersey Federal Court Action remains pending.*fn1

On April 6, 2011, the parties stipulated to the dismissal of Wyndham Worldwide Operations, Inc. as a defendant with prejudice from the Pennsylvania State Court Action. (Ex. D to Dkt. No. 1.) On April 7, 2011, Ganeshai removed the Pennsylvania State Court Action to this Court. (Dkt. No. 1.)*fn2

Plaintiffs are Pennsylvania citizens. (Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 6.) The remaining Defendants to this action--Ganeshai and J&J Painting ("Defendants")--are New Jersey citizens. (Dkt. No. 1 ¶¶ 7-8, 10.) Plaintiffs do not contest that complete diversity of citizenship exists between them and Defendants in this case, nor that the amount in controversy exceeds the sum of $75,000. Accordingly, this Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).

II. VENUE PROPER IN TRANSFEREE DISTRICT

28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) provides that "[f]or the convenience of the 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." See Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 878 (3d Cir. 1995). Thus, before undertaking any further consideration of transferring this case to the District of New Jersey, the Court must first determine whether such transfer may be permitted. However, neither party disputes that this action "might have been brought" in the District of New Jersey on the basis of diversity of citizenship, and the Court agrees. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a).*fn3

III. SECTION 1404(A) FACTORS

In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), once it establishes that venue would be proper in the proposed transferee district, the Court is required to conduct a balancing test and weigh a number of factors in deciding whether the "'interests of justice [would] be better served by a transfer to a different forum.'" Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879 (quoting 15 WRIGHT, MILLER & COOPER § 3847). With no "definitive formula or list of the factors to consider," the Third Circuit in Jumara outlined a framework to apply when considering a motion to transfer venue under § 1404(a). Id. (internal citation omitted). The Jumara factors include: "(1) the plaintiff's choice of forum; (2) the defendant's preferred forum; (3) the place where the claim arose; (4) the relative ease of access to sources of proof, but only to the extent that the proof could not be produced in one of the fora; (5) the convenience of the parties, as demonstrated by financial condition and physical location; (6) the convenience of the witnesses, but only to the extent that they are actually unavailable for trial in one of the fora; and (7) the public interest in deciding local controversies at home." Gent v. Pa. State Univ., Civ. No. 05-5125, 2006 WL 1686652, at *1 (E.D. Pa. June 14, 2006) (citing Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879). The public interest factors, in turn, include the "relative congestion of court dockets, choice of law considerations, and the relationship of the community in which the courts and jurors are required to serve to the occurrences that give rise to the litigation." Lindley v. Caterpillar, Inc., 93 F. Supp. 2d 615, 617 (E.D.Pa. 2000) (citations omitted); see also Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879.

A. Private Interest Factors

With regard to the first two Jumara factors, the parties are clear--Plaintiffs chose the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for their forum, while Defendants would prefer the District of New Jersey. A plaintiff's choice of forum is typically entitled to substantial deference. See Shutte v. Armco Steel Corp., 431 F.2d 22, 25 (3d Cir.1970). However, that choice "carries less weight where the plaintiff chooses a forum which is neither his home nor the situs of the occurrence upon which the suit is based." Reed v. Weeks Marine, Inc., 166 F. Supp. 2d 1052, 1057 (E.D. Pa. 2001) (citing Shutte, 431 F.2d at 25; Jordan v. Delaware & Hudson Railway Co., 590 F. Supp. 997, 998 (E.D. Pa.1984)). Plaintiffs reside in Indiana County, in the WesternDistrict of Pennsylvania, and the alleged injuries were sustained in New Jersey. See 28 U.S.C. § 118(c) (setting forth counties that comprise Western District of Pennsylvania). Accordingly, the first two factors taken together still weigh in favor of maintaining this action in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, but not heavily; the third factor weighs in favor of transfer to the District of New Jersey. See New Image, Inc. v. Travelers Indem. Co., 536 F. Supp. 58, 59 (E.D. Pa.1981) ("the force of the [plaintiff's preference] rule is substantially attenuated where the chosen forum is not the plaintiff's place of residence").

As for the fourth Jumara factor, proof may be accessed with equal ease from the District of New Jersey or the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. While Ganeshai argues that all evidence is located within the District of New Jersey, he does not specify what that evidence is, or why it would not be available for review through electronic or written transmission. Given that this appears to be a standard personal-injury action, the parties have already exchanged a significant amount of written discovery, and both parties are in ...


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