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Geraci v. Red Robin International, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage

June 21, 2019

JOHN GERACI, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
RED ROBIN INTERNATIONAL, INC., Defendant.

          OPINION

          RENÉE MARIE BUMB UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         This matter comes before the Court upon motion by Defendant Red Robin International, Inc. (“Defendant”) seeking a transfer of venue to the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion to Transfer Venue will be granted.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On November 1, 2018, Plaintiff John Geraci (“Plaintiff”) filed a putative class action in the United States District Court for District of New Jersey against Red Robin, alleging that “[Red Robin] sent unauthorized telemarketing text messages to Plaintiff's cellular phone in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (the ‘TCPA'), 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(A).” [Complaint, “Compl., ” at ¶ 1]. Plaintiff brings this action pursuant Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 purportedly on behalf of “[a]ll persons who (1) on or after four years prior to [November 1, 2018] (2) were sent Red Robin Royalty text messages after (3) texting Defendant ‘Stop' or (4) where Defendant did not possess prior express written consent.” Id. at ¶ 36.

         On February 15, 2019, Defendant filed the instant motion, requesting that this action be transferred, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), to the United States District Court for the District of Colorado.[1]

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Defendant is a Nevada corporation headquartered in Green Village, Colorado [Defendant's Memorandum in Support of Transfer, “Def.'s Memo., ” p. 9] that owns and operates over 400 casual dining restaurants in 39 states-13 are located in New Jersey. [Woolen Declaration, at ¶ 13]. In addition, Defendant operates the Red Robin Royalty (“Royalty”) Program for its customers that provides them with offers for discounts and other benefits at its restaurants. Id. at ¶ 4. Approximately 97.5% of Royalty Program members live outside of New Jersey. Id. at ¶ 14.

         Plaintiff joined the Royalty Program on August 12, 2013 through Defendant's website, at which time he provided his name, address, date of birth, and cellular telephone number. Id. at ¶ 8. A copy of the exact Terms & Conditions (“Terms”) that the parties allegedly contracted to, which allegedly contains a clause designating Colorado as venue for any action against Defendant, has not yet been produced. Id. at ¶ 9.[2]

         On May 25, 2018, Defendant sent Plaintiff a promotion through an allegedly automated text message that included “Reply STOP to cancel.” [Compl., at ¶ 24]. Plaintiff responded “Stop” and received verification that the text messages would cease. Id. Defendant sent Plaintiff two more allegedly automated text messages containing Red Robin promotions in July and October of 2018. Id. The technology used to communicate with Plaintiff is stored in Colorado, as well as Defendant's information systems. [Woolen Declaration, ¶ 12].

         III. DISCUSSION

         Even if a plaintiff has brought his case in a proper venue, a district court may transfer the case to any other district where it might have been brought “[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Transfer under § 1404(a) is permissible only if the transferee district has personal jurisdiction over the defendant. United States v. Berkowitz, 328 F.2d 358, 361 (3rd Cir. 1964) (citing Goldlawr, Inc. v. Heiman, 369 U.S. 463, 466-67 (1962)).

         “The burden of establishing the need for transfer … rests with the movant, ” Jumara v. State Farm Ins., 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3rd Cir. 1995), and the decision to transfer is within the sound discretion of the district court. Huang v. Sonus Networks, Inc., No. 15-2407, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36009, at *4-5 (D.N.J. Mar. 21, 2016) (citing Gendrikrovs-Bayer v. Bellagio Hotel & Casino, No. 14-6324, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 64984, at *2 (D.N.J. May 15, 2015)).

         This Court has previously set out public and private factors to be considered in weighing whether to transfer venues. Harrison v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, No. 17-4296, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 103646, at *6-7 (D.N.J. June 20, 2018). The following is the non-exhaustive list:

The public interest factors 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 controversies 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.
Private interest factors include: (1) the plaintiff's forum preference; (2) the defendant's forum preference; (3) where the claim arose; (4) the convenience of the parties as indicated by their relative physical and financial condition; (5) the convenience of the witnesses, but only to the extent they may be unavailable for trial in one of the fora; and (6) the location of books and ...

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