United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
Darnell Jones, II J.
about February 8, 2019, Philadelphia resident James Battle
(“Plaintiff”) initiated the present personal
injury action against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and Wal-Mart
Stores East, LP (collectively “Defendants”) in
the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. On March 8,
2019, Defendants removed the case to this Court. (Defs.'
Mot. Transfer Venue 4, ECF No. 16.) Defendants now move under
28 U.S.C. § 1404 for transfer of venue to the Middle
District of Pennsylvania. (Defs.' Mot. Transfer Venue.)
is employed by and makes deliveries for Leonards Express,
Inc., a Delaware company. (Pl.'s Resp. 2, ECF No. 17-1.)
He alleges that, on March 13, 2017, he was making a
delivery-and as such, was a business invitee-at the Wal-Mart
store located at 390 Highridge Park, Pottsville, Pennsylvania
when he allegedly fell and sustained personal injuries.
(Compl. ¶¶ 4, 7, Notice of Removal Ex. A, ECF No.
1.) Plaintiff asserts his fall was caused by “raised
concrete” at the Wal-Mart. (Compl. ¶ 7.) He
alleges he sought and received treatment for his injuries
from facilities located in Philadelphia and Bala Cynwyd,
Pennsylvania, and from facilities located in Wilmington and
Newark, Delaware. (Pl.'s Resp. 2.) Plaintiff intends to
call witnesses from the Pennsylvania and Delaware medical
providers at trial. (Pl.'s Resp. 6-7.) Plaintiff is also
engaged in an ongoing worker's compensation matter in
Philadelphia. (Pl.'s Resp. 2.)
support of their motion, Defendants argue that Plaintiff fell
at the Pottsville Wal-Mart, which is located within the
Middle District, and that said Wal-Mart is 110 miles from
this Court, and 55.9 miles from the Middle District's
courthouse. (Defs.' Mot. Transfer Venue 6, 7 nn.1-2.)
Defendants also assert their key witnesses-Mr. Baggett and
Mr. Hanley, who are full-time employees at the Pottsville
Wal-Mart-would experience “substantial
interference” in their business and personal lives if
the matter were to move forward in the Eastern District of
Pennsylvania. (Defs.' Mot. Transfer Venue 7.) Defendants
claim they and their witnesses would experience
“extreme inconveni[ence]” due to travel, time,
and expense, if this matter were to continue in this Court.
(Defs.' Mot. Transfer Venue 8.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
U.S.C. § 1404(a) provides: “For the convenience of
parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district
court may transfer any civil action to any other division
where it might have been brought.” 28 U.S.C. §
1404(a). Venue is proper for a civil action when the claim is
brought in “a judicial district in which a substantial
part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim
occurred[.]” 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2). The decision
of whether to grant a transfer pursuant to § 1404(a)
lies in the discretion of the trial court. See Shutte v.
ARMCO Steel Corp., 431 F.2d 22, 25 (3d Cir. 1970), cert.
denied, 401 U.S. 910 (1971); Weinstein v. Friedman,
859 F.Supp. 786, 788 (E.D. Pa. 1994). The discretion to
transfer is broad, and the defendant has the burden of
showing transfer is proper. See Jumara v. State Farm
Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3d Cir. 1995); Tranor v.
Brown, 913 F.Supp. 388, 391 (E.D. Pa. 1996). In
determining whether to grant a motion to transfer pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1404, courts in the Third Circuit
“consider all relevant [pubic and private] factors
[(hereinafter “§ 1404 factors”)] to ascertain
whether, on balance, the litigation would more conveniently
proceed and the interest of justice be better served by
transfer to a different forum.” Jumara, 55
F.3d at 879.
relevant private factors include: (1) plaintiff's forum
preference as manifested in the original choice; (2)
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). See id.
relevant public 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. See id. at 879-80.
“Unless the balance of convenience of the parties is
strongly in favor of defendant, the plaintiff's choice of
forum should prevail.” Shutte, 431 F.2d at 25
(emphasis in original).
threshold question is whether the action could have
originally been brought in the proposed transferee court.
See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1391(b)(2), 1404(a).
Plaintiff alleges he fell and sustained injuries while making
a delivery at the Pottsville Wal-Mart. (Pl.'s Resp. 1.)
This Court takes judicial notice that Pottsville is in
Schuylkill County, and Schuylkill County is in the Middle
District of Pennsylvania. Because the events giving rise to
the claim occurred in the Middle District of Pennsylvania,
this action could have originally been brought there.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2). As such, this Court
turns to the § 1404 factors.
Private Interest Factors
first two private interest factors consider the parties'
respective preferred venues. Here, the parties each prefer
their local courts. However, “[i]t is black letter law
that 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, 431 F.2d at 25 (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted). Plaintiff argues he
chose Philadelphia County because he is a resident of that
county, he currently has an open worker's compensation
claim in that county, the medical providers he will call
during trial are based in or near that county, and
Philadelphia is between the situs of his accident
(Pottsville) and the headquarters of his employer (Delaware).
(Pl.'s Resp. 6-7.) Defendants argue the case should
proceed in the Middle District of Pennsylvania because the
incident occurred within the territory of that jurisdiction
and the Middle District courthouse is approximately half as
far as the Eastern District courthouse is from the Wal-Mart
where Plaintiff fell. However, “transfer is not
warranted where the effect would be to shift inconvenience
from defendant to plaintiff.” Edwards v. Equifax
Info. Servs., LLC, 313 F.Supp.3d 618, 622 (E.D. Pa.
2018). On balance, the parties' venue preferences cancel
each other out.
third private interest factor-the situs of the event giving
rise to the suit-favors transfer to the Middle District. The
fourth private interest factor is the convenience and burdens
on the parties with respect to their respective physical and
financial conditions. Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879. The
record reflects that Defendants are a large corporation and
Plaintiff makes deliveries for Leonards Express, Inc.
Defendants have not apprised the court that ...