United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
IN RE PROCESSED EGG PRODUCTS ANTITRUST LITIGATION THIS DOCUMENT APPLIES TO ALL DIRECT ACTION PLAINTIFF CASES
E.K. PRATTER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
trial a little over a month away, Heinz no longer wanted its
egg claim in the same basket as its fellow Direct Action
Plaintiffs (DAPs). Plaintiff H.J. Heinz Company, L.P. moved
to sever its claims from those of its co-plaintiffs in this
multidistrict litigation in the Eastern District of
Pennsylvania and transfer its claim to the Northern District
of Illinois, to be consolidated with the Kraft
Plaintiffs' action owned by the same parent company, The
Kraft Heinz Company. Heinz argues that severing and
transferring its claim would be judicially economic and
convenient for the courts and parties involved. Because Heinz
failed to adequately establish its need to sever and transfer
its claim, its motion is denied.
facts of this case are well documented in the Court's
prior rulings. See, e.g., In re Processed Egg Products
Antitrust Litig, 206 F.Supp.3d 1033 (E.D. Pa.
2016). To briefly summarize this decade-old
litigation, the plaintiffs allege that the defendants
participated in a multi-prong price-fixing scheme designed to
decrease the supply of eggs and thereby increase egg prices.
At issue in this motion is whether Plaintiff Heinz can sever
its claims from those of its co-plaintiffs in Winn-Dixie
Stores, Inc. et al. v. Michael Foods, Inc. et al, No.
11-510, and transfer its claim for consolidation with the
Kraft Plaintiffs' action which was recently remanded from
this Court to the Northern District of Illinois. See
Kraft Foods Global, Inc. et al. v. United Egg Producers et
al, No. 11-8808 (N.D. 111.) (Doc. No. 15).
alongside its co-plaintiffs, filed Winn-Dixie Stores,
Inc. et al. v. Michael Foods, Inc. e/a/., No. 11:510, on
January 12, 2011. Rose Acre Farms, Inc., United Egg
Producers, Inc. (UEP), and United Export Marketers, Inc.
(USEM) are the remaining defendants in the Heinz action. The
Kraft Plaintiffs-Kraft Foods Global, Inc., The Kellogg Co.,
General Mills, Inc., and Nestle USA, Inc.-filed a separate
case, Kraft Foods Global, Inc. v. United Egg Producers et
al, on December 12, 2011 in the Northern District of
Illinois. The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation
transferred the Kraft Action to this Court on January 9,
2012. After this transfer, both Heinz and Kraft were among
the other DAPs involved in this multidistrict litigation.
to 28 U.S.C. § 1407(a) and this Court's Case
Management Order No. 20 (Doc. No. 822), the Kraft Plaintiffs
filed an uncontested motion for a suggestion to the Judicial
Panel to remand Kraft Foods Global, Inc. v. United Egg
Producers et al. to the Northern District of Illinois,
and the Court granted this request. Or. Granting Remand (Doc.
No. 1917); see 28 U.S.C. § 1407(a); Lexecon
Inc. v. Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach, 523
U.S. 26, 35 (1998) (holding that cases transferred to a
multidistrict litigation must be remanded to their original
district for trial). The Judicial Panel issued a conditional
transfer order transferring the Kraft Action to the Northern
District of Illinois on August 16, 2019. See
Conditional Transfer Or., No. 12-88 (Doc. No.
The case was assigned to Judge Charles R. Norgle on September
16, 2019. Rose Acre, UEP, and USEM are among the remaining
defendants in the Kraft Action. On September 18, 2019, Heinz
filed this motion to sever and transfer its claim.
Kraft and Heinz merged into a new corporate entity, The Kraft
Heinz Company, on July 2, 2015. As a result of the merger,
Kraft Heinz became the owner of the claims brought by both
Kraft and Heinz in this multidistrict litigation. Heinz
asserts that both cases continued to be litigated as separate
matters after the merger "[b]ecause Kraft Foods Global
and Heinz had different co-plaintiffs and counsel in their
respective actions, subject to different fee and cost
agreements." Heinz' Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Sever
and Transfer Claim at 2 (Doc. No. 1970-1).
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure give district courts broad
discretion in deciding whether to sever a case by way of
severing parties or claims. See, e.g., BancMortgage Fin.
Corp. v. Guarantee Title & Trust Co., No. 99-2932,
2000 WL 1521600, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 6, 2000). Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 21 states: "On motion or on its own,
the court may at any time, on just terms, add or drop a
party. The court may also sever any claim against a
party." In deciding whether to sever, courts consider
"convenience of the parties, avoiding prejudice, and
promoting expedition and economy." Graudins v. Retro
Fitness, LLC, 921 F.Supp.2d 456, 468 (E.D Pa. 2013)
(citing BancMortgage, 2000 WL 1521600, at *2);
see also Official Comm. of Unsecured Creditors v.
Shapiro, 190 F.R.D. 352, 355 (E.D. Pa. 2000). "A
claim may be severed ... for the purpose of facilitating
transfer. Where the administration of justice would be
materially advanced by severance and transfer, a court may
properly sever the claims against one or more defendants for
the purpose of permitting the transfer of the action against
other defendants." Cain v. N.Y. State Bd. of
Elections, 630 F.Supp. 221, 225-26 (E.D.N.Y.1986)
district court may decide "[f]or the convenience of the
parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice," to
transfer any civil action to any other district or division
where the action might have been brought. 28 U.S.C. §
1404(a). Section 1404(a) grants district courts "broad
discretion to determine, on an individualized, case-by-case
basis, whether convenience and fairness considerations weigh
in favor of transfer." Jumara v. State Farm Ins.
Co., 55 F.3d 873, 883 (3d Cir. 1995) (citing Stewart
Organization, Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 30-31
(1988)). In making their determinations, district courts
typically balance various private and public interests
related to the convenience and fairness of selecting the
appropriate venue. In re Howmedica Osteonics Corp.,
867 F.3d 390, 401 (3d Cir. 2017) (citing Jumara, 55
F.3d at 879).
there is no definitive set of factors that must be considered
prior to transfer, in Jumara v. State Farm Insurance
Company, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals enumerated
many public and private factors courts have considered when
determining whether to transfer an action pursuant to §
1404(a). 55 F.3d at 879. Private interests include:
"plaintiffs forum preference as manifested in the
original choice; the defendant's preference; whether the
claim arose elsewhere; the convenience of the parties as
indicated by their relative physical and financial condition;
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 the location of books and records . . . ."
Id. at 879 (citations omitted). Public interests
include: "the enforceability of the judgment; practical
considerations that could make the trial easy, expeditious,
or inexpensive; the relative administrative difficulty in the
two fora resulting from court congestion; the local interest
in deciding local controversies at home; the public policies
of the fora; and the familiarity of the trial judge with the
applicable state law in diversity cases." Id.
at 879-80 (citations omitted).
addition to the Jumara factors, "courts in our
district have held that where there is a strong likelihood of
consolidation with a related action, a transfer of venue is
warranted." Villari Brandes & Kline, P.C v.
Plainfield Specialty Holdings II, Inc., No. 09-2552,
2009 WL 1845236, at *5 (E.D. Pa. June 26, 2009) (citing
Prudential Ins. Co. of Am. v. Rodano, 493 F.Supp.
954, 95 (E.D. Pa. 1980); Maxlow v. Leighton, 325
F.Supp. 913, 915-17 (E.D. Pa. 1971)); see Palagano v.
NVIDIA Corp., No. 15-1248, 2015 WL 5025469, at *3 (E.D.
Pa. Aug. 25, 2015). "[T]hepresence of a related action
in the transferee forum is such a powerful reason to grant a
transfer that courts do so even where other Jumara
factors, such as the convenience of the parties and
witnesses, would suggest the opposite." Villari
Brandes & Kline, P.C., 2009 WL 1845236, at *5
(collecting cases); see also Elan Suisse Ltd. v.
Christ, No. 06-3901, 2006 WL 3838237, at *4 (E.D. Pa.
Dec. 29, 2006).
movant has the burden to establish the need for a transfer.
Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879 (citations omitted).
"The party seeking a transfer should support its motions
with affidavits and other documentation that establishes that
the interests of justice and convenience of the parties would
best be served by a transfer." One World Botanicals
Ltd. v. Gulf Coast Nutritionals, Inc.,987 F.Supp. 317,
326 (D.N.J. 1997) (citing Plum Tree, Inc. v.
Stockment,488 F.2d 754, 755-57 (3d Cir. 1973)). A
district court should not transfer a case ...