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Johnson v. Equifax Information Services, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

June 27, 2017

CHRISTINA P. JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
EQUIFAX INFORMATION SERVICES, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          ROBERT F. KELLY, SR. J.

         Presently before the Court is the Motion to Transfer Venue to the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division filed by Defendant Equifax Information Services, LLC (“Equifax”), Plaintiff Christina P. Johnson's (“Johnson”) Response and Brief in Opposition, Equifax's Reply Brief, and Johnson's Response to Equifax's Reply (“Sur-Reply”) filed under seal. For the reasons noted below, we grant Equifax's Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Johnson filed the present action in the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County on the basis of various violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq. (Compl. ¶ 1; Pl.'s Br. Opp'n at 1.) Johnson alleges she contacted Equifax to request her consumer report. (Compl. ¶18.) Equifax complied with the request and provided Johnson with a copy of the consumer report, which “contained the names and addresses of certain businesses that had accessed [Johnson's] report within the last [twelve] months of the date of the report.” (Id. ¶ 20.) The report indicated that two entities, “Verizon Telecom-Auth” and “Verizon East, ” had accessed Johnson's consumer report within the relevant time period. (Id. ¶ 23.) Johnson claims she provided a written request to Equifax for the telephone numbers of Verizon Telecom-Auth and Verizon East, but Equifax refused to disclose the telephone numbers for those entities. (Id. ¶¶ 24, 28, 30.) Johnson claims the refusal to disclose the telephone numbers is a violation of federal law under 15 U.S.C. § 1681g(a)(3). (Id. ¶ 29, 31.) Lastly, she asserts that Equifax's conduct was willful in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1681n. (Id. ¶ 33, 38; see also Pl.'s Br. Opp'n at 10.)

         On March 9, 2017, Equifax timely removed the matter to this Court. On March 17, 2017, Equifax filed an Answer to Johnson's Complaint and the instant Motion to Transfer Venue, which seeks to transfer this matter from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (“Eastern District of Pennsylvania”) to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division (“Northern District of Georgia”). On April 10, 2017, Johnson filed a Response and Brief in Opposition to the Motion to Transfer.[1] Equifax filed a Reply Brief on April 18, 2017, and Johnson filed a Sur-Reply under seal on May 5, 2017.[2]

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         “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). The purpose of transfers under § 1404(a) 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)). District courts have discretion to adjudicate motions to 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, 376 U.S. at 622).

         A request for transfer under § 1404(a) is analyzed under a two-part framework. See Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 878-79 (3d Cir. 1995). First, venue must be proper in both the original and the proposed venue. Id. at 879; see also Murphy v. Trans Union, LLC, No. 12-0499, 2012 WL 3536322, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 15, 2012); Smith v. HireRight Sols., Inc., No. 09-6007, 2010 WL 2270541, at *2 (E.D. Pa. June 7, 2010). Once the moving party establishes that the action could have been brought in the proposed venue, a court must weigh and balance a non-exhaustive list of private and public interest factors to determine whether transfer is warranted. Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879. The private interest factors 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-but only to the extent that the witnesses may actually be unavailable for trial in one of the fora; and [6] the location of books and records (similarly to the extent that the files could not be produced in the alternative forum).

Id. The public interest factors that a court must consider include:

[1] [T]he 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 local 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 defendant bears the burden of proving that transfer is appropriate.” Murphy, 2012 WL 3536322, at *3.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Proper Venue

         We must first determine whether venue is proper in the original and the proposed fora. See Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879. 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(b). A business entity resides “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. § 1391(c)(2).

         Neither of the parties dispute that venue is proper in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.[3] The parties also do not dispute that venue would be proper in the Northern District of Georgia. Indeed, Equifax is a limited liability company with its principal place of business in Georgia.[4] (Def.'s Mot. to Transfer ¶ 1; Smith Decl. ¶ 7.) Further, as discussed in more detail below, all of the operative facts surrounding Johnson's Complaint occurred in Atlanta, Georgia. Therefore, venue is proper in the Northern District ...


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