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Riess v. Target Corp.

June 15, 2010

DANA RIESS AND CHRISTOPHER RIESS PLAINTIFFS,
v.
TARGET CORPORATION, JOHN/JANE DOES 1-20 AND/OR ABC OPINION CORPORATIONS 1-20, FICTITIOUS CORPORATIONS AND/OR COMMERCIAL ENTITIES, J/S/A DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irenas, Senior District Judge

Plaintiffs, Dana and Christopher Riess (the "Riesses"), brought this negligence and loss of consortium action in New Jersey, but their claims arise out of events that occurred in the Middle District of Florida. The Riesses are New Jersey residents, and Defendant Target Corporation ("Target") operates stores nationwide, including in New Jersey. Before the Court is Target's motion to transfer venue to the Middle District of Florida. Because it would be more burdensome for the Riesses to pursue their claims in Florida than it would be for Target to defend itself in New Jersey, and considering the Riesses' choice of forum, this Court will deny Target's motion to transfer venue to the Middle District of Florida.

I.

The Complaint, filed on December 30, 2009, alleged two counts against Target. The first count stated that a Target employee negligently watered plants in the Target garden center, creating a slippery surface and causing Dana Riess to slip, wrench her back and sustain severe and permanent injuries. The second count alleged that Christopher Riess lost the consortium of his wife Dana as a result of this incident.

Target removed this case to the District of New Jersey from the Superior Court of New Jersey on February 12, 2010.*fn1 Target filed a motion to transfer venue from the District of New Jersey to the Middle District of Florida on March 12, 2010. The Riesses filed a brief in opposition to Target's transfer of venue motion on March 29, 2010.

II.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), a district court may transfer a civil action to any other district where it might have been brought "[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses [or] in the interest of justice." Venue is proper wherever a defendant corporation is subject to personal jurisdiction at the time the action is commenced and wherever "a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred." 28 U.S.C. § 1391. In this case, venue is proper in both New Jersey and the Middle District of Florida.*fn2

In the Third Circuit, to determine whether to transfer venue pursuant to § 1404(a), courts balance the private and public interest factors outlined in Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873 (3d Cir. 1995):

With regard to the private interests, courts consider: (1) the plaintiff's choice of forum; (2) the defendant's preferred forum; (3) where the claim arose; (4) the convenience of the parties; (5) the convenience of the witnesses, but only to the extent that the witnesses may be unavailable for trial in one of the fora; and (6) the location of books and records, again, only to the extent that they may not be available in one of the fora.

Coutz v. Geico Direct, 2009 WL 210670 (D.Del. 2009) (quoting Jumara, 55 F.3d. at 879).

With regard to the public interests, courts consider: (1) the enforceability of the judgment; (2) practical considerations that could make the trial easier, quicker, or less expensive; (3) court congestion; (4) local interest in the controversy; (5) public policies of the fora; and (6) the trial judge's familiarity with the applicable state law. Id.

In balancing these factors, "district courts [are vested] with broad discretion to determine, on an individualized, case-by-case basis, whether convenience and fairness considerations weigh in favor of transfer." Jumara, 55 F.3d. at 883.

Courts in the Third Circuit treat the plaintiff's choice of venue as "a paramount consideration," Shutte v. Armco Steel Corp., 431 F.2d 22, 25 (3d Cir. 1970), particularly when he chooses his home forum. Wm. H. McGee & Co. v. United Arab Shipping Co., 6 F. Supp. 2d 283, 289 (D.N.J. 1997). The defendant's choice of forum merits "considerably less weight than [p]laintiff's." EVCO Tech. & Dev. Co. v. Precision Shooting Equip., Inc., 379 F. Supp. 2d 728, 730 (E.D. Pa 2005). In addition, the defendant bears the burden of persuasion and must tip the balance "strongly" in its favor. Id. (quoting Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 508 (1947)).

III.

Target contends that this Court should grant its motion to transfer venue to the Middle District of Florida based solely on the fact that the events giving rise to the claims occurred in that district. Brief in Support of Defendant's Motion to Have the Case Transferred at 6 (hereinafter Def. Br.). The fact that the events took place elsewhere reduces the weight assigned to a plaintiff's choice of forum, Newcomb v. Daniels, Saltz, Mongeluzzi & Barrett, Ltd., 847 ...


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