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Agnes M. Collins v. United States of America

January 10, 2012

AGNES M. COLLINS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gene E.K. Pratter

MEMORANDUM

Currently pending before the Court is the Government's Motion to Transfer Venue to the Southern District of Florida (Doc. No. 3) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies the Government's motion.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Between 1998 and 2006, the late Mr. Robert E. Collins suffered from a hiatal hernia and gastroesophogeal reflux disease ("GERD"). Mr. Collins was treated for these ailments at Veterans Administration Medical Centers ("VAMC") in West Palm Beach, Florida from 1998 through May 2005, and then in Asheville, North Carolina from May 2005 to February 2006. All the while, Mr. Collins's symptoms progressively worsened. During a February 12, 2006 consultation with a civilian doctor, a biopsy revealed that Mr. Collins suffered from esophageal cancer. In early 2007, Mr. Collins and his wife, Ms. Agnes Collins, moved to Pennsylvania where Mr. Collins underwent treatment at the Fox Chase Cancer Center and Crozer-Chester Medical Center. However, on May 8, 2007, Mr. Collins succumbed to his cancer and passed away.

Ms. Collins brought this suit against the Government under Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2671, et seq. and § 1346(b), in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of herself and the estate of her late husband, alleging that the Government committed medical malpractice for failing to test for and diagnose Mr. Collins's cancer. The Government filed the present Motion to Transfer Venue.

II. DISCUSSION

Requests for transfer under § 1404(a) may be granted if and when two conditions are met. First, venue must be proper in both the original and the requested venue under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a). Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 878 (3d Cir. 1995); Schiller-Pfeiffer, Inc. v. Country Home Prods., No. 04-1444, 2004 WL 2755585 at *8 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 1, 2004). Second, the convenience of the parties and witnesses, and the interest of justice must weigh in favor of a transfer to a different forum. Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879; Foxworth v. United States, No. 05-1683, 2005 WL 1869460, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 4, 2005). The Court will analyze each of these conditions in turn.

A. Proper Venue

A court may not transfer a lawsuit to a forum where venue is improper. See 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Venue is proper in tort claims against the United States brought under 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b) if filed "in the judicial district where the plaintiff resides or wherein the act or omission complained of occurred." 28 U.S.C. § 1402(b). Presently, Ms. Collins resides in Media, PA, rendering venue proper in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Ms. Collins does not dispute that venue also would be proper in the Southern District of Florida. Indeed, Mr. Collins was treated for his hiatal hernia and GERD in West Palm Beach, Florida for seven years.

B. Transfer of Venue

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), a district court may transfer an action to any other district "where it might have been brought" if the transfer is "[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses," and "in the interest of justice." See, e.g., Coppolla v. Ferrellgas, Inc., 250 F.R.D. 195, 196 (E.D. Pa. 2008). District courts have broad discretion "to adjudicate motions for transfer according to an 'individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness.'" Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988) (quoting Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 622 (1964)). The burden of establishing the need for transfer rests with the movant. Shutte v. Armco Steel Corp., 431 F.2d 22, 25 (3d Cir. 1970), cert. denied, 401 U.S. 910 (1971).

The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has outlined various private and public interests for district courts to consider when adjudicating a motion to transfer venue. The "private interests" include (i) the plaintiff's choice of forum, (ii) the defendant's preferred forum,

(iii) the place where the claim arose, (iv) the convenience of the parties as indicated by their relative physical and financial conditions, and (v) the relative ease of access to witnesses and sources of proof, but only to the extent that the proof could not be produced in one of the fora. Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879. The "public interests" include (i) the enforceability of the judgment, (ii) practical considerations that could make the trial easy, expeditious or inexpensive, (iii) the relative administrative ...


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