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Punnoose v. Equifax Information Services LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

June 7, 2018

SHALU PUNOOSE, Plaintiff
v.
EQUIFAX INFORMATION SERVICES, LLC, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOYNER, JUDGE

         This Fair Credit Reporting Act action is presently before this Court on Motion of the Defendant, Equifax Information Services, LLC (“Equifax” or “EIS”) to transfer venue to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Based upon the rationale set forth below, the motion shall be denied.

         Factual Summary

         Plaintiff's cause of action is premised upon the Defendant's alleged failure to provide him with the telephone number of all of the people and/or businesses which had accessed Plaintiff's EIS consumer file within the past twelve months as is required by 15 U.S.C. §1681g(a)(3)[1]. Plaintiff originally filed this suit in the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, Pennsylvania where he lives and Defendant subsequently removed it to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331. Defendant now seeks to transfer venue of this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1404(a) and Plaintiff, in a separate motion which shall be addressed separately, seeks to remand this matter to state court.

         Discussion

         Section 1404(a) states that:

For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action, suit or proceeding to any other district or division where it might have been brought or to any district or division to which all parties have consented.

         It has been observed that §1404(a)'s “purpose is ‘to prevent the waste of time, energy and money' and ‘to protect litigants, witnesses and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense.'” Weber v. Basic Comfort, Inc., 155 F.Supp.2d 283, 284 (E.D. Pa. 2001)(quoting Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616, 84 S.Ct. 805, 11 L.Ed.2d 945 (1964) and Continental Grain Co. v. Barge FBL-585, 364 U.S. 19, 26-27, 80 S.Ct. 1470, 4 L.Ed.2d 1540 (1960)).

         As the foregoing language makes clear, the threshold question under §1404(a) is whether the proposed venue is an appropriate one. Kershner v. Komatsu Ltd., Civ. A. No. 17-4787, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 60439 at *3 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 10, 2018); Vermont Juvenile Furniture Manufacturing, Inc. v. Factory Direct Wholesale, Inc., 317 F.R.D. 16, 21 (E.D. Pa. 2016). 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 v. WNEP-16 the News Station, 134 F.Supp.2d 403, 405 (E.D. Pa. 2001).

         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).

         In applying these principles and considering the foregoing factors, we first note that it is undisputed that this case could well have been commenced in the district to which Defendant would have this matter transferred - the Northern District of Georgia given that is where Defendant's headquarters and principal place of business are located. See, 28 U.S.C. §1391(b), (c). Plaintiff, however, is a resident of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, which is situate within the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Defendant alleges that since Plaintiff originally filed his complaint in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas, he therefore did not specifically choose this forum and thus the Eastern District of Pennsylvania should be afforded no deference. While it is true that Plaintiff's first choice of venue was in the state court system, there is nevertheless no question but that in the federal context, this is the Plaintiff's home district. We simply cannot in good conscience find that Plaintiff's decision to initiate suit in the Bucks County Court warrants a forfeiture of the deference due this district in the §1404(a) analysis. Indeed, the purpose of transfer is not to shift the inconvenience from one party to another and thus a Defendant's desire alone does not provide a sufficient basis to overcome the Plaintiff's choice. See, Perry v. Markman Capital Management, Civ. A. No. 02-744, 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19103 at *31 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 4, 2002)(citing Superior Precast Ins. v. Safeco Insurance Co. Of America, 71 F.Supp.2d 438, 446 (E.D. Pa. 1999) and Elbeco Inc. v. Estrella de Plato Corp., 989 F.Supp. 669, 679 (E.D. Pa. 1997)). Accordingly, in weighing the first two private interest factors and given that the defendant's preference is entitled to considerably less weight than Plaintiff's under the circumstances such that it does not overcome the strong deference accorded the Plaintiff's forum choice, we find that under these factors transfer is not favored. See also, EVCO Technology & Development Co., LLC v. Precision Shooting Equipment, Inc., 379 F.Supp.2d 728, 730 (E.D. Pa. 2005)(“Defendant's preference is entitled to considerably less weight than Plaintiff's, as the purpose of a venue transfer is not to shift inconvenience from one party to another”).

         In considering the next private interest factor - where the claim arose, Defendant asserts that the facts underlying Plaintiff's allegations occurred in Atlanta, Georgia where Defendant is headquartered and where its consumer center and consumer reporting database is located and maintained. Plaintiff submits that “a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania” including “(1) that fact that Plaintiff received his consumer disclosure in this jurisdiction; (2) Plaintiff mailed Defendant his written request letters for the full name, address and telephone number for ‘Commercial Lendin' from this jurisdiction; and (3) Defendant was obligated to send such information to this jurisdiction and omitted to do so.” Additionally, Plaintiff argues that the Eastern District of Pennsylvania “is the ‘situs of events' that led to the underlying issue, as Defendant: (1) was collecting information from Pennsylvania ...


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