United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
ALEXANDER W. THOMPSON, Plaintiff,
NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE; NFL FILMS, INC.; and NFL PRODUCTIONS, LLC, Defendants.
OPINION ECF No. 14.
LISA PUPO LENIHAN, Chief Magistrate Judge.
Currently before the Court for disposition is the Motion to Transfer (ECF No. 14) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1404(a) filed by Defendants the National Football League, NFL Films, Inc., and NFL Productions, L.L.C.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendants' motion to transfer venue to the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota.
I. BACKGROUND INFORMATION & PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff Alexander W. Thompson ("Thompson") is a retired NFL football player. Thompson is among the 2, 116 former NFL players who were successfully excluded from the class action settlement group created in early 2013 by Dryer v. Nat'l Football League, 689 F.Supp.2d 1113 (D. Minn. 2010).
Judge Magnuson of the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota presided over Dryer, which involved, like the action at hand, former NFL players asserting claims against the NFL Defendants for false-endorsement under § 43(a) of the Lanham Act, right-of-publicity claims under multiple States' laws, and unjust enrichment. While Dryer was pending, several similar suits were filed in the District of Minnesota. All were transferred to Judge Magnuson as related cases and eventually consolidated with Dryer.
There are currently four Dryer opt-out cases pending in three different federal districts, with the most advanced proceeding in the District of Minnesota. In that action, which was ordered to be trial ready by June, 2014, three of the original named plaintiffs from Dryer are pursuing their individual claims against Defendants: the National Football League, NFL Films, Inc., and NFL Productions, L.L.C. (collectively, "the NFL Defendants"). The Special Master in the Dryer opt-out action (No. 09-CU-02182, D. Minn) has stated that the trial would not go on as scheduled and has extended the schedule. (ECF No. 20.) This is likely to allow for possible consolidation in the event that the actions before this Court and the Culp opt-out action, which deals with substantially similar claims and plaintiffs in New Jersey, are transferred.
Thompson filed his case in this District on December 23, 2013. Thompson is represented by the same counsel as the Plaintiffs in Tatum v. National Football League, et al., Civ. A. No. 2:13-cv-1814, W.D.Pa. (" Tatum "), which is also assigned to the undersigned, and both cases involve claims against the NFL Defendants for false-endorsement under § 43(a) of the Lanham Act, right-of-publicity claims under multiple States' laws, and unjust enrichment of the NFL Defendants. Defendants filed a Motion to Transfer venue to the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota and a supporting memorandum on February 3, 2014 (ECF Nos. 14-15), and Thompson filed a response and supporting brief in opposition of Defendants' Motion to Transfer on February 18, 2014 (ECF No. 19). The NFL Defendants filed a reply brief on March 6, 2014 (ECF No. 22).
II. TRANSFER OF VENUE UNDER 28 U.S.C. §1404(a)
A. APPLICABLE LAW
The district court is vested with broad discretion in determining whether transfer of venue is appropriate. Plum Tree, Inc. v. Stockment, 488 F.2d 754, 756 (3d Cir. 1973) (citations omitted); Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 883 (3d Cir. 1995). In considering a motion to transfer venue under §1404(a), the court applies a two-part inquiry. Mitel Networks Corp. v. Facebook, Inc., 943 F.Supp.2d 463, 467 (D.Del. 2013). First, the court must determine whether the action could have been brought originally in the transferee forum, that is, whether venue in the transferee district is proper. Id. ; Stillwagon v. Innsbrook Golf & Marina, LLC, 2013 WL 1180312, at *24 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 20, 2013). Second, the court must apply the balancing test set forth in Jumara, which requires the weighing of a number of public and private interests to determine whether the transferee forum "would best serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses as well as the interests of justice." Mitel Networks, 943 F.Supp.2d at 467 (citing Smart Audio Techs., LLC v. Apple, Inc., 910 F.Supp.2d 718, 723-24 (D.Del. 2012)). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating that transfer of venue is appropriate at each step of the inquiry. Id. (citing Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879-80).
The Court must consider the factors delineated by the court of appeals in Jumara :
In ruling on § 1404(a) motions, courts have not limited their consideration to the three enumerated factors in § 1404(a) (convenience of parties, convenience of witnesses, or interests of justice), and, indeed, commentators have called on the courts to "consider all relevant factors to determine whether on balance the litigation would more conveniently proceed and the interests of justice be better served by transfer to a different forum." 15 Wright, Miller & Cooper § 3847. While there is no definitive formula or list of the factors to consider, see 1A Pt. 2 Moore's ¶ 0.345, at 4363, courts have considered many variants of the private and public interests protected by the language of § 1404(a).
The private interests have included: 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).
The public interests have included: 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.
55 F.3d at 879-80 (internal citations ...