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Joseph v AXA Equitable Life Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 12, 2018

MISBAH JOY JOSEPH, Plaintiff,
v.
AXA EQUITABLE LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY Defendant.

          REPORT & RECOMMENDATION

          CATHY L. WALDOR, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          This matter comes before the Court by way of referral from the Honorable Kathrine Hayden to issue a report and recommendation regarding Defendant's, AXA Equitable Life Insurance (“AXA”) request to transfer this case to the Southern District of New York. (See Brief, ECF No. 8.) This motion was filed on July 12, 2018. Plaintiff, Misbah Joy Joseph (“Joseph”), opposed this motion on July 23, 2018. (Opposition Brief (henceforth “Opp. Brief”), ECF No. 11.) Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78, the Court declined to hear oral argument. For the reasons set forth more fully below, the Court recommends that AXA's Motion to Transfer be GRANTED.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, Joseph, filed this Complaint against her former employer, AXA, in the District of New Jersey on March 20, 2018. (See Complaint, ECF No. 1.) Joseph was hired by AXA as the company's United States Head of Training in 2012 and was promoted to the Head of Culture, Engagement, Employer Branding, and the Chief Diversity Officer in July of 2017. (Complaint, at 3.)

         Joseph alleges that she was terminated by AXA in December of 2017 because of her decision to adopt a child and elect leave under the company's paid parental leave policy, which would have allowed for sixteen weeks of paid time off following the adoption. (Complaint, at 5.) Joseph has brought claims under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”), and New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”). (Complaint, at 6-11.) Joseph has also brought common law claims for breach of contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith, intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”), negligent infliction of emotional distress (“NIED”), and civil conspiracy. (Complaint, at 13-16.)

         Defendant AXA moved to transfer this case to the Southern District of New York, arguing that venue is not proper in the District of New Jersey. (Brief, at 4.) According to Defendant, transferring the case to the Southern District of New York would be best for the convenience of the parties and in the interest of justice. (Brief, at 9.) Plaintiff Joseph opposed AXA's motion to transfer, claiming that venue is both proper and most appropriate in the District of New Jersey. (Opp. Brief, at 5 and 11.)

         A. Defendant's Arguments

         Defendant maintains that venue is improper in New Jersey under 28 U.S.C. 1391(b) because the court does not have personal jurisdiction over AXA. (Brief, at 6.) Personal jurisdiction depends on a determination of residency and according to Defendant, AXA does not reside in New Jersey under 28 U.S.C. 1391(b)(1). (Brief, at 7.) Defendant argues that the New Jersey Court does not have general jurisdiction over AXA because AXA is headquartered in and has its principal place of business in New York. (Brief, at 7.) AXA also contends that the New Jersey Court does not have specific jurisdiction over AXA because there is no connection between New Jersey and the alleged events about which Plaintiff complains. (Brief, at 7.)

         Defendant further argues that venue is improper under 28 U.S.C. 1391(b)(2) because the alleged events about which Plaintiff complains occurred in New York, not in New Jersey. (Brief, at 7.) Plaintiff's claims do not arise out of any contacts by AXA with New Jersey and virtually all of the alleged events upon which Plaintiff bases her claim occurred in New York, as did the decisions regarding her termination from AXA. (Brief, at 8.)

         According to defendant, consideration of the private and public interest factors demonstrate that the Southern District of New York is the appropriate venue under 28 U.S.C. 1404(a). (Brief, at 9.) Defendant maintains that consideration of the private interest factors include that New York is AXA's preferred venue and where a substantial part of the alleged events occurred. (Brief, at 11.) The Southern District of New York is convenient for the parties given that New York is the location of AXA's headquarters, and where Plaintiff travelled for three years. (Brief, at 12.) Further, New York would be a more convenient location than New Jersey in terms of court appearances, discovery and trial. (Brief, at 12.) AXA believes New York is more convenient for the witnesses because all of the expected non-party witnesses are employed by AXA and work primarily at the company's New York office or are regularly there as part of their normal course of business. (Brief, at 12.)

         Defendant further proposes that the public interest factors demonstrate that the Southern District of New York is the proper venue, because New York has a greater interest in deciding the controversy. (Brief, at 13.) Plaintiff has asserted claims under New York State and New York City statutes and therefore the New York courts have a stronger interest in resolving Plaintiff's claims than the New Jersey Courts. (Brief, at 13.)

         B. Plaintiff's Arguments

         Alternatively, Plaintiff believes venue is proper in New Jersey under 28 U.S.C. 1391(b). (Opp. Brief, ECF No. 11.) Plaintiff argues that the District of New Jersey maintains personal jurisdiction over AXA under 28 U.S.C. 1391(b)(1) because AXA purposefully availed itself of a New Jersey forum by hiring a New Jersey resident as an employee who worked out of their New Jersey office for a substantial period of time. (Opp. Brief, at 8.) Further, Plaintiff maintains that venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. 1391(b)(2) because AXA's decision to terminate her was based on business related reasons that relied on her overall work performance and employment history- much of which was rooted in her employment while in AXA's New Jersey office. (Opp. Brief, at 10.)

         According to Plaintiff, consideration of the private and public interest factors demonstrate that New Jersey, not New York, is the appropriate venue under 28 U.S.C. 1404(a). (Opp. Brief, at 11.) Plaintiff notes that the burden of establishing the need for transfer rests with the movant, in this case AXA. (Opp. Brief, at 11.) Joseph asserts that New Jersey has a greater interest in deciding the case because Plaintiff is a New Jersey ...


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