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Kane v. Stoll

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 27, 2014

BRADLEY H. KANE, Plaintiff,
ROBERT STOLL, ESQ., et al., Defendants.

Stuart A. Wilkins, Esquire, Law Offices of Stuart A. Wilkins, Sagemore Corporate Center, Marlton, New Jersey, Attorney for Plaintiff,

Peter T. Shapiro, Esquire, Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard & Smith, LLP, New York, New York, Attorney for Defendants.


RENÉE MARIE BUMB, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court upon its own motion as to why this matter should not be transferred to the Central District of California. On June 13, 2014, the Court issued an Order to Show Cause directing the parties to answer by June 24, 2014, as to why this matter should not be transferred. [Docket No. 3]. Plaintiff Bradley H. Kane filed an opposition to the transfer (along with an accompanying motion for remand). [Docket No. 4]. Defendants Robert Stoll and Stoll, Nussbaum and Polakov ("SNP") filed a Memorandum of Law In Support of Transfer and Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Remand [Docket No. 7].

A. Background

i. New Jersey Action

According to the Complaint filed April 23, 2014, [1] in October 2012, Plaintiff's niece, Sammi Kraft, was tragically killed in an automobile accident in Los Angeles, California. Both the owner and the driver were two individuals who resided in Culver City, California and Santa Monica, California, respectively. Plaintiff, the deceased's uncle and an attorney licensed to practice law in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and a licensed inactive attorney in California, flew to California to assist the grieving family. Plaintiff, inter alia, retrieved the police reports, spoke with the District Attorney of Santa Monica regarding pending criminal charges against the driver, and obtained the driver's insurance information. At Plaintiff's suggestion, the family rejected the insurance carrier's offer of settlement. After several conversations, the family and the insurance company agreed to proceed to nonbinding mediation.[2] Prior to the date for the mediation, Plaintiff, presumably on behalf of the family, retained the services of a local attorney in San Diego, California.

One week prior to the scheduled mediation, however, the father of the deceased, Sheldon Kraft, retained the services of Defendants Stoll and his law firm SNP to represent the family in the mediation. Defendant Stoll is an attorney licensed in California. Defendant SNP is a California professional corporation engaged in the practice of law in California. Plaintiff alleges he thereafter transmitted his entire legal file to Defendants "with a transmittal letter confirming that the customary referral fee would be forthcoming." Complt. ¶ 56. In December 2013, Defendants settled the wrongful death case against one of the parties. Plaintiff seeks a portion of that settlement, alleging that Defendants have breached their contract to pay the agreed-upon referral fee.

ii. California Action

Prior to the filing of Plaintiff's Complaint with this Court, Defendant SNP filed a lawsuit in the Central District of California, Stoll, Nussbaum and Polakow v. Bradley H. Kane, No. 14-2690.[3] In the California action, SNP alleges that on April 11, 2013, the Kraft family had retained it to represent them in the wrongful death and survival action. The Kraft family entered into a contingent fee agreement with SNP, and pursuant to that contractual relationship, SNP filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Kraft family in the Los Angeles Superior Court. That lawsuit is currently pending, except one of the defendants in that action has settled for $3, 000, 000. (Plaintiff seeks a percentage of that settlement in the New Jersey action.)

SNP alleges that at no time before the Krafts signed the contingent fee agreement with SNP did SNP have any relationship with Plaintiff. Moreover, there was no contract, oral or written, between the Kraft family members and Plaintiff. Any work Plaintiff did was done at no charge because he was a family member and he had informed the Krafts of this.[4] SNP further alleges that Plaintiff has wrongfully attempted to bribe the Krafts with money if they would support his claim for attorneys fees. SNP alleges that Kane is interfering with its attorney-client relationship with the Kraft family by making unfounded claims for attorneys fees from a portion of the settlement proceeds.

B. Legal Analysis

Title 28, United States Code, Section 1404(a) permits a district court to transfer a civil action for the convenience of parties and witnesses or in the interest of justice, to another district where the action may have been brought. In assessing whether a transfer is in the interest of justice, a court should "consider both the private and public interests affected by the transfer." Bus. Store, Inc. v. Mail Boxes Etc., No. 11-3662 , 2012 WL 525966, at *3 (D.N.J. Feb. 16, 2012)(citation omitted). The private interests include:

(1) plaintiff's forum preference as manifested in the original choice; (2) the 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 (only to the extent that the witnesses may actually be unavailable for trial in one of the fora; and (6) the location of ...

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