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Timothy R. Gunther, As Executrix of the Estate of Susan G. Gunther, Deceased v. Dependable Auto Shippers

January 23, 2013

TIMOTHY R. GUNTHER, AS EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF SUSAN G. GUNTHER, DECEASED PLAINTIFF,
v.
DEPENDABLE AUTO SHIPPERS, INC., AND SCHMIDT BAKING COMPANY DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM

Currently pending before the Court is the Motion of Defendants Dependable Auto Shippers, Inc. and Schmidt Baking Company to Transfer Venue to the Middle District of Pennsylvania pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404. For the following reasons, the Motion is denied.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

According to the facts as set forth in the Complaint, this action was brought by Plaintiff Timothy R. Gunther on behalf of decedent, Susan G. Gunther, who died in a car accident on Monday, May 30, 2011. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 18, 22.) At or about 2:20pm, Alan Hubbell, an employee of Defendant Dependable Auto Shippers, was driving Defendant's tractor trailer northbound on Pennsylvania Route 83. (Id. ¶ 21.) Mr. Hubbell suddenly changed lanes from the right lane to the left without properly looking prior to the switch. (Id.) The decedent, Ms. Gunther, was driving in the left lane next to Mr. Hubbell's tractor trailer. (Id. ¶ 22.) While switching lanes, the left center rear axel of Mr. Hubbell's tractor trailer struck Ms. Gunther's car, pushing the car into and eventually onto the center concrete latitudinal barrier, where it was dragged for 166 feet. (Id. ¶ 23.) Eventually Ms. Gunther's car was pushed over the concrete barrier and into the southbound lane of Route 83, where it was struck by a truck operated by Royal D. Stewart, Jr., an employee of Defendant Schmidt Baking Company. (Id. ¶¶ 23, 10.) Mr. Stewart was operating his vehicle well above the posted speed limit of 55 miles per hour. (Id. ¶ 23.) As a result of the accident, Ms. Gunther suffered injuries that ultimately led to her death. (Id. ¶ 24.)

Plaintiff brought suit on July 2, 2012 and filed an Amended Complaint on September 17, 2012, alleging five counts: (1) wrongful death against Dependable Auto, (2) a survival action against Dependable Auto, (3) wrongful death against Schmidt Baking Company, (4) a survival action against Schmidt Baking Company, and (5) loss of consortium against both Defendants. Dependable Auto filed the instant Motion to Transfer on January 3, 2013. Plaintiff filed a Response in opposition on January 10. Schmidt Baking Company then filed a motion on January 14 that both joined in Dependable Auto's Motion to Transfer and replied to Plaintiff's response brief. The Court now considers the merits of the Motion to Transfer.

II. DISCUSSION

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 this transfer is "for the convenience of parties and witnesses" and "in the interest of justice." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a); see also Connors v. UUU Prods., No. Civ.A.03-6420, 2004 WL 834726, at *6 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 5, 2004). The determination of whether to transfer venue pursuant to § 1404(a) is governed by federal law. See Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 877--78 (3d Cir. 1995) (federal law applies because questions of venue are procedural, rather than substantive).

Analysis of a request for a § 1404(a) transfer has two components. First, both the original venue and the requested venue must be proper. Id. at 879. Venue, in a case based on federal question jurisdiction, is proper only in "(1) a jurisdiction where any of defendant resides if all defendants reside in the same State, (2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or issues giving rise to the claim occurred . . ., or (3) a judicial district in which any defendant may be found, if there is no district in which the action may otherwise be brought." 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b).

Second, because the purpose of allowing § 1404(a) transfers is "'to prevent the waste of time, energy and money and to protect litigants, witnesses and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense,'" Pro Spice, Inc. v. Omni Trade Grp., Inc., 173 F. Supp. 2d 336, 339 (E.D. Pa. 2001) (quoting Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964)), the Court is required to undertake a balancing test in deciding whether the "interests of justice [would] be better served by a transfer to a different forum." Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879. The Third Circuit has outlined a non-exhaustive list of pertinent public and private interest factors to be weighed in this balancing test. The private interests include: (1) the plaintiff's forum preference as manifested in the original choice; (2) the defendant's preference; (3) whether the claim arose elsewhere; (4) the convenience of the parties as indicated by their relative physical and financial condition; (5) the convenience of the witnesses; and (6) the location of books and records. Id. at 879. The public interests include: (1) the enforceability of the judgment; (2) practical considerations that could make the trial easy, expeditious, or inexpensive; (3) the relative administrative difficulty in the two fora resulting from court congestion; (4) the local interest in deciding controversies at home;

(5) the public policies of the fora; and (6) the familiarity of the trial judge with the applicable state law in diversity cases. Id. at 879--80. The burden falls on the moving defendant to show the desirability of transferring venue and to present evidence upon which the court may rely in justifying transfer. Fellner ex rel. Estate of Fellner v. Phila. Toboggan Coasters, Inc., No. Civ.A.05-1052, 2005 WL 2660351, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 18, 2005).*fn1 Notably, analyses of transfers under § 1404(a) are "flexible and must be made on the unique facts of each case."*fn2 Job Haines Home for the Aged v. Young, 936 F. Supp. 223, 227 (D.N.J. 1996) (internal quotations omitted).

In the case at bar, neither party disputes that the case "might have been brought" in Defendants' requested venue of the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Accordingly, the Court turns to the second part of the inquiry: whether the convenience of the parties and witnesses, as well as the interests of justice, would be served by transferring this case to the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Considering the private and public interests enumerated by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the Court finds that transfer is unwarranted in this case.

A. Private Interests

1. Plaintiff's Choice of Venue

The analysis commences with an examination of Plaintiff's choice of venue, as manifested by where the suit was originally brought. As a general rule, a plaintiff's choice of venue is of paramount consideration and "should not be disturbed lightly." In re Amkor Tech., Inc. v. Sec. Litig., No. Civ.A.06-298, 2006 WL 3857488, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 28, 2006) (quoting Weber v. Basic Comfort, Inc., 155 F. Supp. 2d 283, 285 (E.D. Pa. 2001)). "Moreover, where . . . the plaintiff files suit in its home forum, that ...


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