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Takeiya Wright v. Terry Cacciutti

July 24, 2012

TAKEIYA WRIGHT
v.
TERRY CACCIUTTI, JOHN CACCIUTTI, PLAZA PROPERTIES CORP., WARREN TODER AND PAT TODER



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

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff has filed her amended complaint seeking damages based on negligence and breach of contract claims. Defendants Terry Cacciutti and John Cacciutti have filed a motion to transfer to the Middle District of Pennsylvania pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Also before me are plaintiff's response to the motion and defendants' reply. For the reasons that follow, I will grant defendants' motion to transfer.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, a New Jersey resident, Am. Compl. ¶ 1, rented a ski chalet at a property in Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania from January 27, 2011 to January 30, 2011. Am. Compl. ¶ 9. While at the property, plaintiff slipped on snow and ice and was injured. Am. Compl. ¶ 10. The property is owned by defendants John and Terry Cacciutti, Am. Compl. ¶ 2, managed by defendant Plaza Properties Corporation, Am. Compl. ¶ 4, and maintained by defendants Warren and Pat Toder. Am. Compl. ¶ 6. Plaintiff brings two claims against defendants based on this incident. First, plaintiff alleges that defendants were negligent in failing to properly remove ice and snow from the driveway. Am. Compl. ¶ 16. Second, plaintiff alleges that defendants breached their contract, which included a clause regarding snow removal, by failing to remove the snow and ice. Am. Compl. ¶ 32.

Plaintiff filed her complaint in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleging that jurisdiction was proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) based on diversity of citizenship. Am. Compl. ¶ 7. Further, plaintiff averred that venue was proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391 because defendants John and Terry Cacciutti are residents of the Eastern District and the lease agreement was prepared in this District. Am. Compl. ¶ 8.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Cacciutti defendants have moved to transfer to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Twenty-eight U.S.C. § 1404(a) authorizes the district court to transfer an action to "any other district or division where it might have been brought" if such transfer is "[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses [and] in the interest of justice." The burden of establishing the need for transfer rests with the movant. Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879-80 (3d Cir. 1995). The statute is intended to give district courts discretion in granting motions to transfer on a case-by-case basis. Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988).

Before granting a motion to transfer, the court must undertake a balancing test in deciding whether "the interests of justice would be better served by a transfer to a different forum." See Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879. The Court of Appeals' decision in Jumara identified public and private interests that courts should consider when deciding motions to transfer. Id. at 879. Private interests include: plaintiff's forum preference as manifested in the original choice; the defendant's preference; whether the claim arose elsewhere; the convenience of the parties as indicated by their relative physical and financial condition; the convenience of the witnesses-but only to the extent that the witnesses may actually be unavailable for trial in one of the fora; and the location of books and records (similarly limited to the extent that the files could not be produced in the alternative forum).

Id. at 879 (internal citations omitted). Public interests include: the enforceability of the judgment; practical considerations that could make the trial easy, expeditious, or inexpensive; the relative administrative difficulty in the two fora resulting from court congestion; the local interest in deciding local controversies at home; the public policies of the fora; and the familiarity of the trial judge with the applicable state law in diversity cases.

Id. at 879-80.

The parties do not dispute the following factors: (1) the convenience of the parties, (2) the enforceability of the judgment, (3) practical considerations that could make litigation easier, more expeditious or less expensive, (4) the administrative difficulty in either fora resulting from court congestion, (5) the public policies of the fora and (6) the familiarity of the trial judge with the applicable state law. Thus, I will consider the following remaining factors: (1) plaintiff's preference, (2) defendants' preference, (3) the location where the cause of action arose, (4) the convenience of the witnesses, (5) the location of books and records and (6) local interest.

DISCUSSION

I. Venue Is Proper in the Middle District of Pennsylvania

In deciding this motion to transfer, I must first assess whether this case could have been brought in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Twenty-eight U.S.C. § 1391(b)(1) provides that a plaintiff can bring a civil action in "a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the State in which the district is located . . . ." Since all defendants are Pennsylvania residents, Am. Compl. ¶¶ 2-3, 5, and defendants Warren Toder ...


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