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York Group, Inc. v. Pontone

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

July 28, 2014

THE YORK GROUP, INC., MILSO INDUSTRIES CORPORATION, and MATTHEWS INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION, Plaintiffs,
v.
SCOTT PONTONE, HARRY PONTONE, BATESVILLE CASKET COMPANY, INC., and PONTONE CASKET COMPANY, LLC, Defendants.

OPINION

JOY FLOWERS CONTI, Chief District Judge.

I. Introduction

Pending before the court in this diversity action are two motions to transfer venue. One motion was filed by defendant Batesville Casket Company, Inc. ("Batesville"), and the second motion was filed by defendants Scott Pontone, Harry Pontone, and Pontone Casket Company, LLC ("Pontone Casket" and collectively with Scott Pontone and Harry Pontone, the "Pontone defendants"). (ECF Nos. 651, 654.) Batesville and the Pontone defendants argue that consideration in this case of the private and public factors articulated by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Jumara v. State Farm Insurance Co. , 55 F.3d 873 (3d Cir. 1995), mandates the transfer of this case to United States District Court for either the Southern or Eastern District of New York. (ECF Nos. 652, 657.) Plaintiffs The York Group, Inc. ("York Group"), Milso Industries Corporation ("Milso"), and Matthews International Corporation ("Matthews" and collectively with York Group and Milso, "plaintiffs") oppose the motions to transfer arguing, among other things, that Scott Pontone and Harry Pontone are barred from objecting to venue in this district and consideration of the private and public factors set forth in Jumara does not support a transfer of this case. (ECF No. 671 at 3.)

Based upon the court's review of the parties' submissions and the applicable legal principles, Batesville's and the Pontone defendants' motions to transfer will be denied for the reasons set forth herein.

II. Procedural History[1]

In this case initiated by plaintiffs on August 16, 2010, the court has overseen a contentious and lengthy fact discovery period and, on March 6, 2014, decided the parties' voluminous cross-motions for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 642, 643.) The parties are presently engaged in expert discovery (ECF No. 662), and the above-captioned case is currently scheduled for trial on December 1, 2014 (ECF No. 663).

On April 15, 2014, three years and eight months after the initiation of this case, Batesville filed a motion to transfer, brief in support of the motion, and a motion for a hearing with respect to the motion to transfer. (ECF Nos. 651, 652, 653.) On the same day, the Pontone defendants filed a motion to transfer, brief in support of the motion, and declaration with several attachments in support of the motion to transfer. (ECF Nos. 654, 656, 657.)

On May 6, 2014, plaintiffs filed an omnibus response to the motions to transfer filed by Batesville and the Pontone defendants. (ECF No. 671.) On June 1, 2014, the Pontone defendants with leave of court filed a reply brief and several attachments in support of their motion to transfer. (ECF No. 684.) On June 2, 2014, Batesville with leave of court filed a reply brief in support of its motion to transfer. (ECF No. 686.) Batesville in its reply brief incorporates by reference the arguments and submissions made by the Pontone defendants with respect to their motion to transfer. (Id. at 1.)

On June 13, 2014, plaintiffs with leave of court filed a sur-reply brief in support of their opposition to the motions to transfer. (ECF No. 691.) On June 14, 2014, the Pontone defendants filed a supplement with respect to their motion to transfer. (ECF No. 692.)

Batesville's and the Pontone defendants' motions to transfer having been fully brief are now ripe to be decided by the court.

III. Discussion[2]

A. Applicable Law

Batesville argues this case should be transferred to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The Pontone defendants argue this case should be transferred to the United States District Court for either the Southern or Eastern District of New York, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Section 1404(a) provides:

(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 district or division to which all parties have consented.

28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). "Section 1404(a) is intended to place discretion in the district court 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)). A transfer, however, "is not to be liberally granted." Shutte v. Armco Steel Corp. , 431 F.2d 22, 25 (3d Cir. 1970). Batesville and the Pontone defendants-as movants-bear the burden of establishing the need for transfer, and "unless the balance of convenience of the parties is strongly in favor of defendant, the plaintiff's choice of forum should prevail.'" Id . (quoting Owatonna Mfg. Co. v. Melroe Co. , 301 F.Supp. 1296, 1307 (D. Minn. 1969)); Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co. , 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3d Cir. 1995).

A court considering a motion to transfer venue performs a two-part analysis. First, the court must decide whether the district to which the movant seeks to transfer the case has proper jurisdiction and venue, i.e., could the case have been brought in the transferee district in the first instance. Lawrence v. Xerox Corp. , 56 F.Supp.2d 442, 450-451 (D.N.J.1999). Second, the court applies a number of public and private factors to determine which forum is most appropriate to consider the case. Id.

Centimark Corp. v. Jacobsen, Civ. Action No. 11-1137, 2011 WL 6000719, at *6 (W.D. Pa. Nov. 30, 2011) ("Jacobsen"). The court of appeals in Jumara recognized that courts in analyzing whether transfer is appropriate under § 1404(a) have not limited their analyses to the "three enumerated factors in § 1404(a)" and set forth a list of private and public interest factors that a court should consider to determine whether transfer is appropriate. Jumara , 55 F.3d at 879-80. The private interest factors include:

• The plaintiff's forum preference;
• The defendant's forum 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.

The public interest factors include:

• 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 polices of the fora; and
• The familiarity of the trial judge with the applicable state law in diversity ...

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