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Madrazo v. Welcome Hotel Group, LLC

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 25, 2018

PAUL MADRAZO Plaintiff
v.
WELCOME HOTEL GROUP, LLC, et al. Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION INTRODUCTION

          NITZA I. QUIÑONES ALEJANDRO, J.

         Before this Court is a motion to transfer venue to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey filed by Defendants Welcome Hotel Group, LLC, and Edison Holdings NJ, LLC (collectively, “Defendants”), on the basis of forum non conveniens pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1404(a). [ECF 5]. Plaintiff Paul Madrazo (“Plaintiff”) opposes the motion. [ECF 6]. The issues raised in the motion have been fully briefed and are now ripe for disposition. For the reasons set forth herein, Defendants' motion to transfer is granted.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff, a resident of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, filed a complaint in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas which asserted negligence claims against three defendants, Welcome Hotel Group, LLC, Edison Holdings NJ, LLC, and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, LLC.[2] [See ECF 5-5, Compl. at pp. 2-17]. Each of the negligence claims is premised on an alleged slip and fall that occurred at a hotel located in Trenton, New Jersey, owned and/or controlled by the named defendants. [See id.]. Defendants Welcome Hotel Group, LLC, and Edison Holdings NJ, LLC, both of which maintain their principal places of business in Edison, New Jersey, removed the matter to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. [ECF 1]. Defendants then filed the underlying motion to transfer venue pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1404(a) for forum non conveniens.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Section 1404(a) provides that “[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.” 28 U.S.C. §1404(a). The purpose of transferring venue under §1404(a) “is to prevent the waste of time, energy, and money, and to protect litigants, witnesses and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense.” Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964). In determining whether transfer is appropriate, “the district court is vested with wide discretion, ” Plum Tree, Inc. v. Stockment, 488 F.2d 754, 756 (3d Cir. 1973), consistent with federal law. Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 877-78 (3d Cir. 1995).

         Analysis of a request for transfer under §1404(a) generally has two components. First, both the original venue and the requested venue must be proper. Jumara, 55 F.3d at 878. Hence, venue is proper “(1) where the defendant resides, (2) where a substantial part of the events giving rise to the claim occurred, or (3) where personal jurisdiction may be had over any defendant if no other venue is proper.” Park Inn Intern., LLC v. Mody Enters., Inc., 105 F.Supp.2d 370, 375 (D. N.J. 2000) (summarizing the statutory venue requirements of 28 U.S.C. §1391(a)). If venue is proper, the court must then undertake a balancing test to decide whether the convenience of the parties and witnesses and the interest of justice would be better served by a transfer to a different forum. Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879; Coppola v. Ferrellgas, Inc., 250 F.R.D. 195, 197 (E.D. Pa. 2008). Although there is no definitive formula or specific list of the factors to consider, when determining whether a transfer is warranted, a court should weigh existing relevant private and public interests in its decision process. These interests are the following:

The private interests include[]: plaintiffs forum preference as manifested in the original choice; the defendant's preference; whether the claim arose elsewhere, the convenience of the parties as indicated by their relative physical and financial condition; the convenience of the witnesses-but only to the extent that the witnesses may actually be unavailable for trial in one of the fora; and the location of books and records (similarly limited to the extent that the files could not be produced in the alternative forum).
The public interests include[]: the enforceability of the judgment; practical considerations that could make the trial easy, expeditious, or inexpensive; the relative administrative difficulty in the two fora resulting from court congestion; the local interest in deciding local controversies at home; the public policies of the fora; and the familiarity of the trial judge with the applicable state law in diversity cases.

Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879-80 (citations omitted).

         The party seeking the transfer bears the burden of establishing the need for the transfer. Id. at 879.[3] “Transfer is not warranted, however, if the result is merely to shift the inconvenience from one party to the other.” DermaMed, Inc. v. Spa de Soleil, Inc., 152 F.Supp.2d 780, 783 (E.D. Pa. 2001). “[U]nless the balance of convenience of the parties is strongly in favor of defendant, the plaintiffs choice of forum should prevail.'” Penn Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. BNC Nat. Bank, 2010 WL 3489386, at *8 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 2, 2010) (quoting Shutte v. Armco Steel Corp., 431 F.2d 22, 25 (3d Cir. 1970)).

         DISCUSSION

         As noted above, and contrary to the suggestion in Plaintiff's response, Defendants seek transfer of this matter to the District of New Jersey pursuant to the forum non conveniens provision, 28 U.S.C. §1404(a), only, and not pursuant to §1406.[4] As to the threshold inquiries required under §1404(a), this Court finds that venue is proper in this District because Defendants have effectively waived any argument that venue in this District is improper.[5] In addition, this matter could have been brought in the District of New Jersey since all Defendants reside in New Jersey and “a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred” in New Jersey. 28 U.S.C. §1391(b)(1)-(2).

         Notably, Plaintiff does not dispute that this case could have been brought in the District of New Jersey. As described above, Plaintiff's claims arise out of a slip and fall that occurred at a hotel in Trenton, New Jersey. As such, because “a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to [Plaintiff's] claims occurred” in the District of New Jersey, venue is proper in that District. See §1391(b)(2). Having made this determination, this Court will now consider the Jumara private and public factors to determine whether the convenience of the parties and witnesses and the interest of justice weigh in favor of transfer.

         PRIVATE ...


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