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James-Velardo v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 12, 2017

MARINA JAMES-VELARDO and CHRISTOPHER WALLACE, Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and. JOSEPH LEWIS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          GENE E.K. PRATTER United States District Judge

         Marina James-Velardo and Christopher Wallace complain that Joseph Lewis caused them serious injuries when he negligently operated a United States Postal Service Mack Tractor-Trailer and collided with their vehicle. The United States has moved to transfer this action to Florida, where the alleged tortious conduct took place. Ms. James-Velardo and Mr. Wallace, both citizens of Pennsylvania, oppose that motion. For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny the motion.

         Background

         Ms. James-Velardo and Mr. Wallace, who both reside in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, allege that Mr. Lewis, a resident of Jacksonville, Florida, suddenly and without warning made a left turn, crossed over into their lane of travel, and struck their motor vehicle. The accident took place in Jacksonville while Mr. Lewis was working as a United States Postal employee. Both Ms. James-Velardo and Mr. Wallace allege that they have suffered serious injuries as a result of the accident. Ms. James-Velardo and Mr. Wallace each ask for no more than $50, 000 in damages and allege claims of negligence.

         Shortly after the Complaint was filed, the United States moved to transfer this action to the Middle District of Florida pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), arguing that the Middle District of Florida would be a more convenient forum.

         Legal Standard

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), “[f]or 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.” Once it is determined that a case could have been brought in the proposed transferee district, a court must weigh a variety of private and public factors to determine whether the matter should be transferred under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The private factors include:

[1 P]laintiff'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 limited to the extent that the files could not be produced in the alternative forum)

Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3d Cir. 1995) (internal citations omitted). The public factors 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 (citations omitted). The movant carries the heavy burden of establishing the need for transfer, as the plaintiff's choice of venue “should not be lightly disturbed.” Id. at 879.

         Discussion

         The United States argues that this matter should be transferred to the Middle District of Florida. No one argues that the Middle District of Florida would not be a proper venue. Thus, the analysis turns to the consideration of the private and public Jumara factors.

         The United States argues first that Ms. James-Velardo and Mr. Wallace's choice of forum is entitled to little deference because the operative facts occurred elsewhere, citing cases that support the proposition that “where none of the operative facts of the action occurred in the plaintiff's chosen forum, the choice is afforded less weight.” See Gaskins v. National R.R. Passenger Corp., No. CIV. A. 00-5144, 2001 WL 322518 at *1 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 21 2001); Silong v. United States, No. 5:05-CV-55-OC-10GRJ, 2006 WL ...


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