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Marinac v. Mondelez International, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

July 12, 2019

TIHO MARINAC, Plaintiff,
v.
MONDELEZ INTERNATIONAL, INC., et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          MARK FALK UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court upon sua sponte review of the record. On January 21, 2019, the Court gave the parties notice and directed briefing on whether this case should be transferred under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Order to Show Cause, CM/ECF No. 104. The Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and decides the matter without oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b); L. Civ. R. 78.1(b). For the reasons set forth below, this Court transfers this case to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This is an age discrimination case originally brought under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”). On January 29, 2019, the Court granted Plaintiff Tiho Marinac leave to file an amended complaint to add age discrimination claims under New York State and New York City Human Rights Law. Opinion, CM/ECF No. 102. This amendment was based on the unanimous representation that Plaintiff was employed in New York. When considering Plaintiff's motion to amend, the Court questioned whether this case was proceeding in the most appropriate judicial district. Order at 1. Specifically, both parties took the position that Plaintiff lived and worked in New York and the case was governed by New York anti-discrimination laws (although Plaintiff has thus far maintained his NJLAD claim as an alternative pleading). The Court thus ordered the parties to brief whether this case should be transferred under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Id. at 2. The parties responded; both opposed transfer. Defs.' Ltr., CM/ECF No. 111; Pl.'s Ltr., CM/ECF No. 112.

         The matter is ripe for disposition after the District Court, on April 22, 2019, denied Defendant Mondelez International Holdings' appeal of this Court's decision granting Plaintiff leave to amend. District Court Opinion & Order, CM/ECF Nos. 120- 21.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         “For 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.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). “Therefore, in deciding a motion to transfer, the Court must first determine whether the alternative forum is a proper venue.” Kane v. Ollie's Bargain Outlet Holdings, Inc., 18-cv-3475, 2018 WL 6168085, at *2-3 (D.N.J. Nov. 26, 2018); Weichert Real Estate Affiliates, Inc. v. CKM16, Inc., 2018 WL 652331, at *3 (D.N.J. Jan. 31, 2018). Once proper venue is established, the decision whether to transfer falls in the sound discretion of the trial court. Kane, 2018 WL 6168085, at *2.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Both sides contend the case should remain in New Jersey. Defendants argue this Court is best positioned to adjudicate the New Jersey and New York age discrimination claims because Plaintiff chose this forum and the case has been here for some time. Defs.' Ltr. at 1. Plaintiff is a citizen and resident of New York, acknowledges working for Defendant in New York, and concedes venue is appropriate in the Southern District of New York. Nevertheless, Plaintiff still contends his choice of an arguably improper forum should prevail. Pl.'s Ltr. at 1. However, a review of the record and governing case law supports transfer to the Southern District of New York. See Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3d Cir. 1995) (court balances private and public interest factors to determine whether litigation would more conveniently proceed and interests of justice would be better served by transfer).

         The private interest factors, other than Plaintiff's forum choice, were not materially addressed by the parties, probably due to the proximity of the two districts. The Court primarily bases its decision on two of the public interest factors, as set forth below, which override Plaintiff's choice of forum.

         The connection to New York is compelling and thus New York has a strong public interest in the litigation. Plaintiff is a New York resident and worked from his home in New York City. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 5, 10, ECF No. 108. Therefore, any dispute stemming from his employment more properly belongs in New York. Any possible doubt as to the location where Plaintiff worked is dispelled by Defendants' unequivocal statements in motion briefing filed with this Court:

[ ] “at all times relevant to the complaint [Plaintiff] was employed . . . in New York” (CM/ECF No. 73 at 12.)
[ ] “Plaintiff was unequivocally advised of . . . the fact that he was not employed . . . in New Jersey, but rather in New York” (Id. at 23.)
[ ] “unemployment insurance taxes were paid in the state in which [Plaintiff] work[ed] - New ...

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