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Choi v. Sushi Maru Express Corp.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 27, 2018

DAE SUB CHOI, Plaintiff,
v.
SUSHI MARU EXPRESS CORP., SUSHI NARA, KOMOLO, INC., KEVIN KIM, HAK JAE LIM, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          MICHAEL A. HAMMER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's motion for Retransfer of Venue to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York or to the Eastern District of New York, D.E. 42. The Court has considered the motion, opposition, and applicable law. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78, the Undersigned did not hear oral argument and has considered this matter on the papers. For the reasons below, the Court will deny Plaintiff's motion to Retransfer.

         II. Background

         Plaintiff Dae Sub Choi filed this putative class and collective action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against various Defendants alleging wage and hour violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). See generally Complaint, D.E. 1. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants employed him as a sushi chef from approximately November 2011 through November 2016. Id. at ¶ 11. Plaintiff alleges that he was hired to make sushi products at one or more of Defendants' locations. Id. Plaintiff is a New Jersey resident. Id. at ¶ 1. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Sushi Maru Express Corp (“Sushi Maru”) is a New Jersey corporation with its principal place of business in Ridgefield, New Jersey. Id. at ¶ 2. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Sushi Nara is a business entity with its principal place of business in Ridgefield, New Jersey. Id. at ¶ 3. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Komolo, Inc. is a business entity located in Elkridge, Maryland which supplies sushi supplies to the other Defendants. Id. at ¶ 4. Plaintiff alleges that Kevin Kim is a New Jersey resident and managed labor affairs on behalf of Shushi Maru and Sushi Nara. Id. at ¶ 5. Plaintiff also alleges that Hak Jae Lim is a resident of New Jersey and managed labor affairs on behalf of Sushi Maru and Sushi Nara. Id. at ¶ 6.

         On January 30, 2017, District Judge Swain of the Southern District of New York ordered Plaintiff to show cause why venue was proper in the Southern District of New York, and why the case should not be transferred to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey or the Eastern District of New York. Plaintiff filed a response to the Order to Show Cause on February 8, 2017 [D.E. 17]. Defendants also filed a response to the Order to Show Cause on February 20, 2017 [D.E. 18]. On February 21, 2017, the Court deemed the Order to Show Cause satisfied by Plaintiff's response “without prejudice to motion practice by the Defendant in accordance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure . . .” See February 2, 2017 Order, D.E. 19. Thereafter, Defendants moved to transfer this matter to the District of New Jersey [D.E. 22] pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1404(a). On July 10, 2017, the Court issued an order and opinion granting Defendants' motion and transferring this action to this district. See Order and Opinion, D.E. 39.

         Plaintiff now seeks to “retransfer” this action to the Southern District of New York (“SDNY”) or to the Eastern District of New York (“EDNY”). Since the filing of the instant motion, Plaintiff also petitioned the United States Court of Appeals of the Second Circuit for a writ of mandamus or prohibition to direct the SDNY to vacate its order transferring this action to the District of New Jersey. On October 19, 2017, the Second Circuit denied the petition and dismissed the proceeding “because [Plaintiff] has not demonstrated that exceptional circumstances warrant the requested relief.” See Second Circuit Order, D.E. 51, at 2.

         III. Discussion

         Plaintiff asks this Court to retransfer this case back to the Southern District of New York but cites to no authority that would allow this Court to reexamine a decision made by the transferor court.[1] Indeed, the law of the case doctrine generally forbids just such a reconsideration. The law of the case doctrine prevents one district court from reconsidering issues decided by another district court in the same action. See In re City of Phila. Litig., 158 F.3d 711, 717 (3d Cir. 1998). This doctrine “prevents courts from entertaining endless litigation of the same issue and [] promotes finality and judicial economy.” Pub. Interest Research Group v. Magnesium Elektron, Inc. 123 F.3d 111, 116 (3d Cir. 1997). “A disappointed litigant should not be given a second opportunity to litigate a matter that has been fully considered by a court of coordinate jurisdiction, absent unusual circumstances.” Hayman Cash Register Co. v. Sarokin, 669 F.2d 162 (3d Cir. 1982). A district court may reconsider a decision that has become law of the case only upon a showing of unusual circumstances, which Courts have generally held are limited to circumstances

(1) where the transferor judge becomes unavailable, thereby precluding a party from filing a motion for reconsideration; (2) where new evidence is available; (3) where a supervening change in law occurs; or (4) where the decision was clearly erroneous and would work a manifest injustice.

Alexander v. Frankling Res., Inc., Nos. 07-848, 07-1309, 2007 WL 2021787, at *2 (D.N.J. July 9, 2007). “Adherence to the law of the case principles is even more important in this context where the transferor judge and the transferee judge are not members of the same court.” Hayman, 669 F.2d at 169.

         The United States Court for Appeals of the Third Circuit applied this doctrine in Hayman when it reversed the lower court's decision to retransfer an action. In Hayman, the District Court for the District of Columbia transferred an action to the District of New Jersey pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). Thereafter, the District Court in the District of New Jersey found that the case was improperly transferred because that district did not have personal jurisdiction over one of the defendants. The District Court for the District of New Jersey reasoned that the Supreme Court's decision in Hoffman v. Blaski, 363 U.S. 335 (1960) allowed the transferee court to reexamine its personal jurisdiction over the matter.[2] Accordingly, the court transferred the matter back to the District of Columbia.

         On appeal, the Third Circuit reversed the retransfer decision. The Third Circuit distinguished the facts in Hayman from those in Blaski, and instructed that Blaski “should be read to allow a determination of venue and jurisdiction by the transferee court only when this determination has not been previously made by the transferor court.” Hayman, 669 F.2d at 166. The Third Circuit noted that unlike in Blaski, where the Fifth Circuit made no determination of venue or jurisdiction, when the District Court for the District of Columbia transferred the case in Hayman, it specifically determined that personal jurisdiction existed in New Jersey. The Third Circuit found that because the District Court for the District of Columbia made a specific determination that personal jurisdiction existed, that decision became the law of the case. Id. at 166. Therefore, the District Court for the District of New Jersey was subject to the law of the case doctrine. The action was remanded back to the District of New Jersey to determine whether one of the “unusual circumstances” exceptions to the law of the case doctrine applied. Id. at 170.

         The instant matter is similar to Hayman. In this case, the District Court for the Southern District of New York explicitly found that venue was proper in the District of New Jersey pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The July 10, 2017 Opinion and Order transferring this case to the District of New Jersey concluded that “Defendants have demonstrated through a clear and convincing showing, that the interest of justice and convenience to the parties and witnesses strongly favor transfer of this case to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.” See Order and Opinion, D.E. 39, at 4. Moreover, no party contests this Court's personal jurisdiction. Plaintiff claims to be a New Jersey resident, and alleges that Defendants Sushi Maru Express Corp. and Sushi Nara maintain their principal places of business in New Jersey, and that Kevin Kim and Hae Jae Lim ...


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