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Gentry v. Leading Edge Recovery Solutions, LLC

United States District Court, Third Circuit

January 10, 2014

MARY GENTRY, Plaintiff,


PETER G. SHERIDAN, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Leading Edge Recovery Solutions, LLC's ("Leading Edge" or "Defendant") Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff Mary Gentry's Complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(2), or in the alternative, to dismiss or transfer this matter to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York for improper venue pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(3) and 28 U.S.C. § 1404 (ECF No. 5).[1] In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. The Court decides this matter without oral argument pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 78(b). For the reasons set forth herein, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction is denied as moot and Defendant's Motion to Transfer this matter to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York is granted.


Plaintiff Mary Gentry is a resident of Mercer County, New Jersey. (Compl. at ¶ 2). Defendant Leading Edge Recovery Solutions, LLC is a business entity "regularly engaged" in the business of collecting debts in New Jersey with its principal place of business located in Chicago, Illinois. ( Id. at ¶ 3). On April 16, 2013, Defendant sent a letter to Plaintiff's debt settlement company, the Law Offices of Robert S. Gitmeid & Associates, PLLC located in New York, New York, in an attempt to collect a debt in the amount of $9, 427.63 allegedly owed by Plaintiff to FIA Card Services, N.A. ( Id. at ¶¶ 6, 8).[2] According to the Plaintiff, the debt at issue arose out of consumer purchases made "primarily for personal, family or household purposes[.]" ( Id. at ¶ 7). In the letter, which was addressed to the Plaintiff and signed by the Defendant's Collections Department, the Defendant wrote: "We must determine whether you have willful intentions in resolving this indebtedness. Furthermore, we have been authorized to recommend whether or not our client should refer this matter to their attorney network for a review to determine whether legal action should be commenced against you." (Pl.'s Br. in Opp. to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss or Transfer ("Pl.'s Opp. Br.") at Ex. A). According to the Plaintiff, this statement "was an implied threat that Plaintiff would be sued if she did not pay her alleged debt." (Compl. at ¶ 10).

On April 26, 2013, Plaintiff filed a civil action for damages against Defendant in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Mercer County alleging that Defendant's actions violated certain provisions of the FDCPA. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(5), which forbids a debt collector from "threat[ening] to take any action that cannot legally be taken or that is not intended to be taken[]" and 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(10), which prohibits a debt collector from "us[ing] any false representation or deceptive means to collect or attempt to collect any debt or to obtain information concerning a consumer." (Compl. at 5). In her Complaint, Plaintiff argues that "[b]y threatening that legal action would be taken against [her], when in fact no such action was intended to be taken, [the Defendant] falsely raised the specter of potential legal action, in violation of the FDCPA." ( Id. ). Plaintiff claims that she "sustained actual damages including, but not limited to, emotional and mental pain and anguish" as a result of Defendant's conduct. ( Id. at ¶ 16). Accordingly, Plaintiff seeks actual damages, statutory damages, and attorney's fees and costs from the Defendant. The Complaint was formally served upon the Defendant on May 6, 2013. (Def.'s Notice of Removal at ¶ 2).

On May 31, 2013, Defendant filed a timely Notice of Removal to remove this action to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. On June 21, 2013, Defendant filed the instant Motion to Dismiss or Transfer Venue to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. In its Motion, Defendant contends that this matter should be transferred because "the letter that forms the basis of the Complaint... was not only sent by Leading Edge from a non-New Jersey location, [but] it also was delivered to an out-of-state, New York address." (Def.'s Br. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss or Transfer Venue ("Def.'s Br.") at 1). The Defendant argues that "other than the bare allegation that Gentry is a New Jersey resident, there is no assertion concerning this case that relates in any way to New Jersey." ( Id. ). Furthermore, according to the Defendant, both private and public interests "weigh in favor of transfer because the action arose in New York, any non-party witnesses would be from New York, and New York is not an inconvenient forum for either party." ( Id. at 12).


A. Standard of Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), "[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought or to any district or division to which all parties have consented." § 1404(a) was designed to prevent "the wastefulness of time, energy and money" and "to protect litigants, witnesses and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense[.]" Cont'l Grain Co. v. Barge FBL-585, 364 U.S. 19, 26-27, 80 S.Ct. 1470, 4 L.Ed.2d 1540 (1960). The decision to grant a motion to transfer lies within the sound discretion of the trial court. See Cadapult Graphic Sys., Inc. v. Tektronix, Inc., 98 F.Supp.2d 560, 564 (D.N.J. 2000). A plaintiff's choice of venue is not to be "lightly disturbed, " and the moving party has the burden of establishing that the proposed transferee forum is proper and that a balancing of the relevant considerations weighs in favor of transfer. See Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3d Cir. 1995). In making its determination, a "district court is required to develop adequate facts to support its decision and to articulate specific reasons for its conclusion' that transfer to another venue is appropriate." Tischio v. Bontex, Inc., 16 F.Supp.2d 511, 520 (D.N.J. 1998) (quoting Lacey v. Cessna Aircraft Co., 862 F.2d 38, 39 (3d Cir. 1988)).

The terms of § 1404(a) set forth three factors to consider when determining whether to transfer a matter: (1) the convenience of the parties; (2) the convenience of the witnesses; and (3) the interests of justice. See 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The transfer analysis, however, should not be limited to these three factors. Rather, when reviewing a motion to transfer, a court should consider "all relevant factors to determine whether on balance the litigation would more conveniently proceed and the interests of justice better served by transfer to a different forum." Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879.

Although the Third Circuit has emphasized that there "is no definitive formula or list of factors to consider" when deciding a motion to transfer, it has set forth a variety of relevant private and public interests that courts can examine in addition to those explicitly listed in § 1404(a). See id. The relevant private interests include: (1) plaintiff's forum preference; (2) defendant's forum preference; (3) whether the claim arose elsewhere; (4) the convenience of the parties; (5) the convenience of the witnesses; and (5) the location of books and records. See id. The relevant public interests 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 disputes 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." See id.

The transfer analysis is a "flexible and individualized analysis which must be made on the unique facts presented in each case." Lawrence v. Xerox Corp., 56 F.Supp.2d 442, 450 (D.N.J. 1999). Indeed, § 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 Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29, 108 S.Ct. 2239, 101 L.Ed.2d 22 (1988) (quoting Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 622, 84 S.Ct. 805, 11 L.Ed.2d 945 (1964)). A district court's "determination that transfer to another district is appropriate represents an exercise[] of structured discretion by trial judges appraising the practical inconveniences posed to the litigants and the court should a particular action be litigated in one forum rather than another.'" Lawrence, 56 F.Supp.2d at 450 (internal citations omitted). Ultimately, the moving party bears the burden of persuasion to prove that "the proposed alternative forum is not only adequate, but also more convenient than the present forum." Id. at 451.

B. Analysis

1. Personal Jurisdiction ...

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