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Pendergrass-Walker v. Guy M. Turner, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

June 21, 2017

TANYA PENDERGRASS-WALKER, ET AL. Plaintiffs
v.
GUY M. TURNER, INC., ET AL. Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NITZA I. QUINONES ALEJANDRO Judge.

         INTRODUCTION

         Before this Court is a motion to dismiss, or, in the alternative, to transfer filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) and Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rules") 12(b)(1), 12(b)(2), and 12(b)(3) by Defendant Guy M. Turner, Inc., a/k/a Turner Transfer ("Turner"), [1] [ECF 22], a motion to transfer venue filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§1406(a) and 1404(a) by Defendants National Railroad Passenger Corp. ("Amtrak") and CSX Transportation, Inc., ("CSX") (collectively with Turner, "Defendants"), [ECF 26], as well as the responses in opposition filed by Plaintiffs Tanya Pendergrass-Walker, Phinezy Walker, Jr., Minnie Pendergrass, and Tia Martin (“Plaintiffs”), [ECF 24, 28], and the reply filed by Defendants Amtrak and CSX. [ECF 32]. The issues presented in the motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for disposition.

         For the reasons set forth herein, Defendants' motions to transfer venue are granted. In the interests of justice, this matter is transferred pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1406(a), to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs are residents of Pennsylvania. (Compl. at ¶¶ 1-3) [ECF 1]. On March 9, 2015, Plaintiffs suffered injuries when the Amtrak train on which they were passengers struck a tractor-trailer, owned and operated by Turner, at a railroad crossing in Halifax, North Carolina. (See Id. at ¶¶ 16-31). The complaint does not allege the principal place of business or the state of incorporation of any of the Defendants. Instead, the complaint indicates that Amtrak and CSX “regularly conduct and/or transact business” in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, (id. at ¶¶ 10-11), and that Turner “regularly operates tractor-trailers in Pennsylvania, ” and, more particularly, “within the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.” (Id. at ¶ 8).

         Defendants filed the instant motions objecting to venue in this Court. Turner seeks the dismissal of the complaint or, alternatively, joins the other Defendants in requesting that this matter be transferred to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1406(a), where the train collision underlying Plaintiffs' claims occurred.

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         Generally, 28 U.S.C. §1390 et seq., governs venue in federal court. Specifically, Section 1391(b) provides:

A civil action may be brought 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.

Id. §1391(b)(1)-(3).

         For venue purposes, a corporation “shall be deemed to reside, if a defendant, in any judicial district in which such defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction with respect to the civil action in question . . . .” Id. at §1391(c)(2). If venue is improper, the district court has the discretion to either dismiss the case or, if it be in the interest of justice, transfer it to a district in which it could have originally been brought. Id. at §1406(a). A defendant filing a §1406(a) motion to transfer venue has the burden of proving that venue is improper. See Myers v. Am. Dental Ass'n, 695 F.2d 716, 725 (3d Cir. 1981) (establishing that “the defendant should ordinarily bear the burden of showing improper venue”); see also Reitnour v. Cochran, 1987 WL 9774, at *1 n.1 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 22, 1987) (defendant, as the movant, bears burden of proving improper venue in context of §1406(a) motion).

         To determine personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant corporation, courts undertake a two-step analysis; to wit: (1) the court looks to the forum state's long-arm statute to determine if personal jurisdiction is permitted over the defendant, and (2) assuming that there is a basis for asserting personal jurisdiction under the state statute, the court must determine whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction comports with the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.[2] IMO Indus., Inc. v. Kiekert AG, 155 F.3d 254, 259 (3d Cir. 1998).

         The due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires that a defendant have “minimum contacts” with the forum state, and that the exercise of jurisdiction comport with “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (internal quotations and citations omitted). The determination of whether minimum contacts exist requires an examination of ...


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