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Bliss Network Management v. Hunter Ems

February 28, 2011

BLISS NETWORK MANAGEMENT,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
HUNTER EMS, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

MEMORANDUM OPINION

The plaintiff, Bliss Network Management ("Bliss"), originally brought this action in New Jersey Superior Court, Ocean County, against the defendants, Hunter EMS, Inc. and Hunter Ambulette-Ambulance, Inc. (collectively, "Hunter"), asserting claims for (1) tortious interference with prospective economic advantage, (2) tortious interference with contractual relations, and (3) injurious falsehood/disparagement. (Dkt. entry no. 1, Rmv. Not., Ex. A, Compl. at 3-5.) The defendants removed the action to federal court based upon 28 U.S.C. § ("Section") 1332. (Rmv. Not. at 1-3.) The defendants now move to transfer venue to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York or, in the alternative, to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(2) and (3). (Dkt. entry no. 5, Mot. to Transfer Venue.) The plaintiff opposes the motion. (Dkt. entry no. 7, Pl. Br.) The Court determines the motion on the briefswithout an oral hearing, pursuant to Rule 78(b). For the reasons stated herein, the Court will grant part of the motion seeking to transfer venue.

BACKGROUND

Bliss is a citizen of New Jersey and "has been in business for many years as a network provider authorized by insurance companies . . . to arrange ambulance transport services for patients to and from hospitals as well as other medical facilities." (Compl. at ¶ 1.) The defendants are New York corporations in the business of providing ambulance services in the transport of patients to and from hospitals and medical facilities, primarily on Long Island, licensed to provide such services in New York only. (Dkt. entry no. 6, Def. Br. at 1.)

The defendants characterize Bliss as a "broker" of the ambulance-related services the defendants provide, and Bliss and the defendants are parties to "non-exclusive sub-contractor agreements . . . whereby Hunter agreed to provide medical transportation services for the patients of hospitals in New York, when requested by Bliss." (Id.) Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield ("Empire") is a health insurance organization with an office in New York City providing health benefits exclusively to residents of the State of New York, for which Bliss arranges ambulance transport services. (Compl. at ¶ 1; dkt. entry no. 6, Leibowitz Decl. at ¶¶ 34-35.)

Bliss claims that in September 2010, Hunter "began wrongfully usurping Plaintiff's role as the authorized network provider" by writing to Bliss's hospital clients, "advising them that [Hunter] is now a participating Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield Provider" and that the hospitals no longer needed to contact Bliss to order ambulance transport, but rather could now contact Hunter directly. (Compl. at ¶¶ 7-8.) Bliss contends that in making such representations, Hunter "fraudulently omitted that while [Hunter] may now be a participating Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield provider, they still need Empire's authorization to be the provider for the specific transport." (Id. at ¶ 9.)

The defendants now move to transfer venue pursuant to Section 1404(a). (Mot. to Transfer Venue; Def. Br. at 11.) In the alternative, the defendants contend the Complaint must be dismissed (1) for lack of personal jurisdiction over the defendants in New Jersey, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2), and (2) for improper venue, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(3). (Def. Br. at 16, 26.) The plaintiff requests that the Court deny Hunter's motion, and instead consider transferring the action to this Court's Newark Vicinage. (Pl. Br. at 21.)

DISCUSSION

A court may transfer an action pursuant to Section 1404(a) regardless of whether the transferring court has personal jurisdiction over the defendant. See Goldlawr, Inc. v. Heiman,369 U.S. 463, 466-67 (1962). While the "question of personal jurisdiction, which goes to the court's power to exercise control over the parties, is typically decided in advance of venue, . . . a court may reverse the normal order of considering personal jurisdiction and venue" when justification exists to address the venue issue first. Leroy v. Great W. United Corp., 443 U.S. 173, 180 (1979). Where a defendant simultaneously moves for a transfer of venue and challenges the Court's personal jurisdiction, "the interests of judicial economy are best served by initial address of the transfer issue." Dworin v. Deutsch, No. 06-1571, 2006 WL 3095945, at *2 (D.N.J. Oct. 30, 2006). Accordingly, the Court addresses the venue issue first, and because we determine that the defendants have shown that a transfer of venue is appropriate under Section 1404(a), we do not reach the questions of whether Hunter is subject to the exercise of personal jurisdiction of this Court or whether the Complaint should be dismissed for improper venue.

I. Legal Standard

Section 1404 provides for the transfer of an action to a more convenient forum. 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Pursuant to Section 1404, "a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought."

Id. A court may do so only if the transfer is "in the interest of justice" and "[f]or the convenience of parties." Id.

Transfer is appropriate only when the proposed venue is one in which the action might have originally have been brought. Id. Thus, the Court must make an initial determination that the proposed forum is appropriate. Zapf v. Bamber, No. ...


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