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Larhonda Darden v. Trans Union

March 29, 2012


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


On October 7, 2011, Ms. Larhonda Darden filed suit against various consumer reporting agencies, alleging violations of the FCRA and FDCPA. Now before the Court is Defendant Allied Collections Service's motion to transfer this case to the Eastern or Northern District of Texas. Oral argument on the motion was held on March 9, 2012, and the matter is ripe for decision.


In her Complaint, Ms. Darden, a resident of Longview, Texas, alleges that Defendants have been reporting "derogatory and inaccurate" statements about her credit history to third parties, including reporting on an account with Defendant Allied that was the result of identity theft. Ms. Darden disputed the inaccurate information with the Defendants for nearly a year, to no avail. She alleges that Equifax, Experian, Trans Union and CSC*fn1 did not even contact her regarding her complaints, verify the veracity of her complaints with any third parties, forward information regarding the disputes to the parties that furnished the disputed information, request any relevant documents from those parties, or perform any handwriting analysis. Likewise, according to the Complaint, Defendant Allied also failed to reasonably investigate the disputes and continued to supply inaccurate information. As a result, Ms. Darden claims that she has suffered lost credit opportunities, harm to her credit reputation, and emotional distress.

Ms. Darden brings one count against Defendants Experian and Trans Union, charging them with violation of the FCRA, and two counts against Defendant Allied, charging it with violations of the FCRA and FDCPA. She requests actual damages, statutory damages, punitive damages, costs, and attorney's fees.

Defendant Allied's motion originally urged the Court to dismiss the claims against it for lack of personal jurisdiction, or, in the alternative, to transfer the matter to the Eastern or Northern District of Texas. Allied later withdrew its arguments relating to personal jurisdiction and now only argues that a Texas-based federal forum would be more convenient than this forum.*fn2

In the parties' briefs and exhibits, and at oral argument, the following additional information was represented to the Court without challenge. Plaintiff's residence in Longview, Texas is located in the Eastern District of Texas. Defendant Allied is a resident of the Northern District of Texas. Defendant Experian's main processing center is in Allen, Texas, which is in the Eastern District of Texas. Although Trans Union has a large operation in Crum Lynne, Pennsylvania, which is in this district, Ms. Darden's complaints were investigated by employees or contractors in Fullerton, California; Chicago, Illinois, and India; letters regarding the investigation results were processed at and sent from Trans Union's Pennsylvania location. Ms. Darden's counsel emphasized that Trans Union employees in Pennsylvania likely supervised the processing of claims in India; however, in its initial disclosures, Trans Union has only identified witnesses in California and Illinois. To the extent discovery is needed with regard to settling defendants Equifax and CSC, Equifax is located in Georgia and CSC in Houston, Texas.*fn3

The debt on which Allied attempted to collect and allegedly reported to the other consumer reporting agencies arose from a failure to pay rent on an apartment in Irving, Texas. Ms. Darden claims that she never lived in Irving, Texas and that the apartment rented in her name was a case of identity theft. She made a police report in Texas concerning the theft.*fn4


Requests for transfer under § 1404(a) may be granted when venue is proper in both the original and the requested venue. Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 878 (3d Cir. 1995); Schiller-Pfeiffer, Inc. v. Country Home Prods., Civ. No. 04-1444, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24180, at *28 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 1, 2004). Under § 1404(a), 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)). While there is no definitive set of factors that must be considered prior to transfer, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has outlined a number of both private and public interests that the district court may consider when adjudicating a motion to transfer.*fn5

The Court acknowledges the familiar maxim that in considering a transfer request, "[plaintiff's] choice of forum is entitled to great weight and is not to be disturbed unless the balance of convenience strongly favors the defendants' forum." Blanning v. Tisch, 378 F. Supp. 1058, 1060 (E.D. Pa. 1974) (citing Shutte v. Armco Steel Corp., 431 F.2d 22 (3d Cir. 1970)). See also Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879. "It should be noted, however, that the plaintiff's choice of forum is entitled to 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." Harris v. Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp., 979 F. Supp. 1052, 1053 (E.D. Pa. 1997).

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 Cnty. Bank, Civ. No. 06-3974, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82565, at *9 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 9, 2006) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)). No one disputes that this case could have been brought in either the Northern or Eastern District of Texas. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). The Court discusses the additional factors of convenience, interests of justice and the like below.


The first issue to resolve is the amount of deference the Court will give to Ms. Darden's choice of forum. Allied contends that in this case Ms. Darden's forum choice is not entitled to deference because she does not live in this district and convenience to her counsel does not carry any weight. It argues that none of the operative facts took place in this district -- that all of the collection activities relating to the case took place in Texas, and that none of the investigations took place in this district. See, e.g., Bogollagama v. Equifax Info. Servs., Civil Action No. 09-1201, 2009 WL 4257910, at *2-3 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 30, 2009); Coppola v. Ferrellgas, Inc., 250 F.R.D. 195, 198 (E.D. Pa. 2008). Ms. Darden counters that events relating to this case did take place in this district, pointing to Trans Union's Crum Lynne, Pennsylvania operations. As noted above, however, the information presented in the parties' briefs and at oral argument demonstrates that Trans Union's activities in this district with respect to ...

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