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Mother Smith, On Behalf of Herself and As Parent and Natural v. Milton Hershey School

June 1, 2012

MOTHER SMITH, ON BEHALF OF HERSELF AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN ON BEHALF OF ABRAHAM SMITH
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MILTON HERSHEY SCHOOL DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM

Before the court is Defendant's Motion to Transfer Venue to the Middle District of Pennsylvania (Dkt. No. 9), and Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Law in Opposition thereto (Dkt. No.

11). Based upon full consideration of each, as well as all applicable Rules and caselaw, Defendant's Motion to Transfer Venue shall be denied.

I. Introduction

The parties are acutely familiar with the factual background of this case, so the court sets forth only those facts necessary for resolving the instant Motion. This case involves Defendant Milton Hershey School's ("MHS") decision to discontinue processing the application for enrollment of Plaintiff Abraham Smith.*fn1

According to MHS's Motion to Transfer to the Middle District of Pennsylvania ("Motion to Transfer"), MHS received Abraham Smith's application and supporting information over the course of March and April 2011. In June 2011, MHS decided that the processing of said application would be discontinued on the basis that MHS is "unable to meet his needs in [MHS's] residential setting." Mot. Transfer 3. According to MHS, the decision to discontinue processing Abraham Smith's application was a "collaborative decision involving key senior administrative personnel, with input from others, including medical personnel. All of these people, and other staff with knowledge of relevant facts, reside in or near Hershey, Pennsylvania." Mot. Transfer 3-4.

MHS argues that the Eastern District of Pennsylvania's ("Eastern District") "only connection" with this action is that Plaintiffs reside here, and that Abraham Smith's doctors are located at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia ("CHOP"). Mot. Transfer 2. Moreover, MHS asserts that "[t]here are no other material or substantive connections to the Eastern District[,]" as "[a]ll operative facts occurred in, and all key witnesses reside in the Middle District of Pennsylvania (Middle District)[,]" and "while venue may be proper in the Eastern District, it is not convenient or efficient." Id. at 2 (emphasis in original).

In their Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Transfer Venue to the Middle District of Pennsylvania ("Memo in Opposition"), Plaintiffs have gone to great lengths to rebut the bases for inconvenience put forth by Defendant, including discussions regarding: the financial net worth of the respective parties; the travel distances involved in maintaining suit in the Eastern District; the location of Plaintiffs; the locations of Plaintiffs' known witnesses; and the speculative nature of other possible witnesses in the case.

In sum, Plaintiffs assert that MHS "fails to meet its heavy burden necessary to overcome the substantial weight afforded to a plaintiffs' [sic] choice of forum, especially, as here, where Plaintiffs reside in the forum and the proposed transfer forum is less than one hundred miles away. MHS's request would simply shift the inconvenience of a two hour commute from the School to Abraham and his mother, a low-income family represented by a nonprofit public-interest law firm. In contrast, MHS has close to $8 billion in assets and approximately two thousand employees and volunteers. There is no question that MHS is in a better position to bear any inconvenience associated with the commute." Mem. Opp'n 2.

II. Legal Standard

Inasmuch as Defendant concedes that venue would be proper in either the Middle District of Pennsylvania or the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) controls the instant Motion:

§ 1404. Change of venue

(a) For 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 or to any ...


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