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Andrews v. Encompass Home and Auto Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

June 10, 2015

DELAINE ANDREWS, Plaintiff,
v.
ENCOMPASS HOME AND AUTO INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

BUCKWALTER, S. J.

Currently pending before the Court is Plaintiff Delaine Andrews (“Plaintiff”)’s Motion to Transfer Venue to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404. For the following reasons, the Motion is denied and this case will remain in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

I.FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff is an adult individual with a mailing address at P.O. Box 502, Enola, Pennsylvania. (Compl. ¶ 1.) Defendant Encompass Home and Auto Insurance Company (“Defendant”) is an insurance company that actively engages in business in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and has an address for the purpose of service of process in Northbrook, Illinois. (Id. ¶ 2.) Plaintiff was in Philadelphia on January 1, 2011 when she was involved in an automobile accident that was caused by a driver who did not have automobile insurance. (Id. ¶¶ 4–7; Pl.’s Mem. Supp. Mot. Transfer 1–2.) Plaintiff submitted a claim for underinsured motorist benefits to Defendant pursuant to the policy issued to her by Defendant (“the Policy”). (Id. ¶¶ 7– 8.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant wrongfully denied, failed, and/or refused to pay underinsured motorist benefits under the terms and conditions of the Policy and the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law. (Id. ¶ 21.)

Plaintiff initiated the current litigation, alleging breach of contract, by filing a Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania on December 16, 2014. Defendant removed the case to federal court on January 21, 2015. Plaintiff filed a separate breach of contract action, stemming from another automobile accident, [1] against both Defendant and Progressive Specialty Insurance Company (“Progressive”) in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on December 29, 2014. That case was removed to federal court and was subsequently transferred to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on March 17, 2015. (Pl.’s Mot. Transfer, Ex. C, Order transferring Docket No. Civ.A.15-0453 to M.D. Pa.) In that case, Progressive filed its motion to transfer venue based on a venue selection clause in Plaintiff’s insurance contract with Progressive. (Id.; Pl.’s Mem. Supp. Mot. Transfer 2.)

Plaintiff filed the present Motion to Transfer Venue to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on May 5, 2015. Defendant responded on May 12, 2015. The Motion is now ripe for judicial consideration.

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). “There is no obstacle to a Motion to Transfer under 1404(a) being made by plaintiff.” Jones v. Valley Welding Supply Co., 303 F.Supp. 9, 10 (W.D. Pa. 1969) (citations omitted)); see also Berger v. Grace Line, Inc., 343 F.Supp. 755, 756 (E.D. Pa. 1971) aff’d, 474 F.2d 1339 (3d Cir. 1973) (“There is some question as to whether a plaintiff who voluntarily chooses his forum may move for a change of venue under § 1404 . . . [but a] plaintiff has been allowed to change his forum where he later discovers good reasons for a transfer.”) (citing Trader v. Pope & Talbot, Inc. v. Jarka Corp. of Phila., 190 F.Supp. 282 (E.D. Pa. 1961); Philip Carey Mfg. Co. v. Taylor, 286 F.2d 782 (6th Cir. 1961), cert. den. 366 U.S. 948 (1961)). 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, 877–878 (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. Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879. In a diversity case, venue is proper in “(1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the State in which the district is located; (2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the subject of the action is situated; or (3) if there is no district in which an action may otherwise be brought as provided in this section, any judicial district in which any defendant is subject to the court’s personal jurisdiction with respect to such action.” 28 U.S.C. § 1391.

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 forum 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 (citation omitted). 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 (citation omitted). 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).[2] Notably, analyses of transfers under § 1404(a) are “flexible and must be made on the unique facts of each case.”[3] Job Haines Home for the Aged v. Young, 936 F.Supp. 223, 227 (D.N.J. 1996) (internal quotations omitted).

Plaintiff’s primary motivation for seeking to transfer this case to the Middle District of Pennsylvania is so that she may then move to consolidate this case with her case against Defendant and Progressive, which is now pending in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. (Pl.’s Mem. Supp. Mot. Transfer 2–3.) Defendant does not argue that the Middle District of Pennsylvania is an improper forum. Rather, Defendant “opposes the transfer of [this case] because venue in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is appropriate.” (Def.’s Resp. Opp’n Mot. Transfer 2.) Defendant also opposes consolidation of Plaintiff’s cases, because “they are independent accidents that should be handled separately.” (Id.)

On the basis of the Complaint and the parties’ briefs, venue in either the Eastern District of Pennsylvania or the Middle District of Pennsylvania would be appropriate. 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, the Court finds that such a transfer would not be proper.

A. Private Interests

1.Plaintiff’s Choice of Venue


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