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Courtois v. TMG Health, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 4, 2018

KIMBERLY LINE COURTOIS Plaintiff
v.
TMG HEALTH, INC. Defendant

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOYNER, J.

         This case is presently pending before this Court on Motion of the Defendant, TMG Health, Inc. to Transfer Venue to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. For the reasons outlined in the paragraphs which follow, the motion shall be granted.

         Factual Background

         The instant litigation arises out of the March 3, 2017 termination of Plaintiff, Kimberly Line Cortois, from her position as the Defendant's Vice President of Human Resources. At the time of her termination, Ms. Cortois was 58 years of age and had held her position for ten years. Plaintiff's complaint avers that she was fired without cause and that she was the only female employee over the age of 50 reporting directly to Susan Rawlings Molina (the President and Chief Executive Officer of TMG), whose employment was terminated. The complaint further alleges that inasmuch as she was replaced by someone who was ten years younger, Plaintiff's firing was violative of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. §626, et. seq., Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §2000e-5, et. seq., the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. §2617, et. seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA), 43 P.S. §951, et. seq.

         After answering the complaint and generally denying the allegations that Plaintiff's termination was discriminatorily motivated and unlawful, TMG now seeks to transfer venue from this Court to the Middle District of Pennsylvania in Scranton. In support of its motion, Defendant notes that the Plaintiff herself resides in Kingston, Pennsylvania which is some 21 miles from the federal courthouse in Scranton and that her office had been located at TMG's National Center of Excellence for Medicare/Medicaid Services in Jessup, Pennsylvania, approximately 13 miles from Scranton. Thus, argues Defendant, the Middle District is a more appropriate and convenient venue for adjudicating this dispute than is the Eastern District.

         Discussion

         In filing its motion, Defendant specifically invokes 28 U.S.C. §1404, subsection (a) of which reads:

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 of division to which all parties have consented.

         As is obvious from the language of the statute, the threshold question under §1404(a) is whether the proposed venue is an appropriate one. Cameli v. WNEP-16 The News Station, 134 F.Supp.2d 403, 405 (E.D. Pa. 2001). The moving party bears the burden of proving that venue is proper in the transferee district and that transfer is appropriate, i.e., that transfer will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and will promote the interest of justice. Jumara v. State Farm Insurance Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3d Cir. 1995); Lindley v. Caterpillar, Inc., 93 F.Supp.2d 615, 617 (E.D. Pa. 2000). Further, the Supreme Court has observed that “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 Organization, Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 497 U.S. 22, 29108 S.Ct. 2239, 2244, 101 L.Ed.2d 22 (1988)(quoting Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 622, 84 S.Ct. 805, 812, 11 L.Ed.2d 945 (1964)).

         In undertaking this individualized analysis, Courts in the Third Circuit are called upon to balance a variety of private and public interest factors in reaching their conclusions regarding whether transfer is or is not properly granted. Although not exclusive, the private factors which are appropriately considered include: (1) the plaintiff's choice of forum 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; (6) the location of books and records (similarly limited to the extent that the files could not be produced in the alternative forum). Jumara, supra; Navetta v. KIS Care School, Inc., Civ. A. No. 14-5724, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59113 at *5 (E.D. Pa. May 4, 2016). The relevant public interest factors 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 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 879-880; Cameli, supra.

         A. Private Interest Factors

         As a general legal principle, “a plaintiff's choice of a proper forum is a paramount consideration in any determination of a transfer request and that choice should not be lightly disturbed.” Shutte v. Armco Steel Corp., 431 F.2d 22, 25 (3d Cir. 1970); Navetta, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS at *6. Where, however, the operative facts and the events giving rise to the lawsuit took place outside of the chosen forum, the plaintiff's venue selection is entitled to considerably less deference. Aetna, Inc. v. People's Choice Hospital, LLC, Civ. A. No. 17-4354, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40689 at *9 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 13, 2018); Cameli, supra. Likewise, “[w]hen the plaintiff is not a resident of the chosen forum, she must make a strong showing of convenience in order for her choice to be given deference.” Navetta, at *7 (citing Windt v. Qwest Communications International, Inc., 529 F.3d 183, 190 (3d Cir. 2008)). And, “when the vast majority of the acts giving rise to the plaintiff's claims take place in another forum, that weighs heavily in favor of transfer.” Jelley v. Colton Auto, Inc., Civ. A. No. 17-1221, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13678 at *10 (W.D. Pa. Jan. 29, 2018); Hamilton v. Nochimson, Civ. A. No. 09-2196, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62644 at *8 (E.D. Pa. July 21, 2009); Hayes v. Transcor America, LLC, Civ. A. No. 08-293, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53074 at *14 (E.D. Pa. June 23, 2009).

         Here, Plaintiff resides in Kingston, Pennsylvania and by her own admission, worked “day-to-day out of” Defendant's Medicare/Medicaid Services location at 25 Lakeview Drive, Valley View Business Park, Jessup, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Hence, both Plaintiff's residence and her place of employment are situate in the Middle District and from this we conclude that while Plaintiff's choice of forum is entitled to some deference, it is not entitled to the same weight as it would have been were Plaintiff a resident of the Eastern District and when considered in tandem with Defendant's forum preference, we find these factors to essentially be on par with one another.

         In looking to where the underlying claim arose, we note that although Plaintiff's declaration asserts that she frequently traveled to Defendant's corporate headquarters which was at all relevant times located in the Eastern District[1] and reported to and regularly communicated with several executive level employees who worked out of the corporate headquarters, it appears that Ms. Molina had an office in both locations and that she likewise regularly traveled to the Jessup office. Although Plaintiff asserts that her compensation was determined by the executive compensation group which was located at the corporate headquarters in Conshohocken, the Plaintiff's termination occurred from the Jessup offices. In this regard, the Declaration of Michael Walsh, TMG's General Counsel and Interim Corporate Development Officer, states that both he and Ms. Molina were in the Jessup office with the specific intention of meeting with Plaintiff to inform her of her ...


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