United States District Court, D. New Jersey
H. RODRIGUEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on a Motion to Transfer [Dkt. No.
6] and a Motion to Dismiss [Dkt. No. 7] filed by Defendant,
Beam Suntory, Inc. (“Defendant” or the
“Company”). The Court has considered the written
submissions of the parties, as well as the arguments advanced
at the hearing on November 21, 2019. For the reasons stated
on the record that day, as well as those that follow,
Defendant's Motion to Transfer [Dkt. No. 6] will be
granted. Accordingly, the pending Motion to Dismiss pursuant
to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(b)(6) is not considered herein.
case arises out of the failure of an employer to award its
employee bonus payments allegedly owed upon his departure
from the company. Plaintiff, Timothy Hassett
(“Plaintiff” or “Mr. Hassett”)
entered into an employment agreement (“Letter
Agreement”) with Defendant on or about June 25, 2014.
(Compl. ¶ 9). Plaintiff was employed by Defendant as the
Senior Vice President and President of Americas.
(Id. at ¶¶ 7, 8). At the time Plaintiff
was hired, he was residing in New Jersey with his family;
Defendant is located in Chicago, Illinois, the location where
Plaintiff worked from 2014 through 2017. (Id. at
to the Complaint, “[p]ursuant to the Letter Agreement,
as Senior Vice President and President of Americas, Mr.
Hassett's compensation included but was not limited to
the following: (i) a Base Salary in the amount of $500, 000,
reviewable on an annual basis; (ii) participation in the
company's Executive Incentive Plan (EIP) bonus program,
also called the Annual Incentive Plan(AIP) program; and(iii)
an annual Long Term Incentive award (LTI).”
(Id. at ¶ 13). As Senior Vice President and
President of Americas, Plaintiff reported directly to the
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Matthew Shattock
(“Mr. Shattock”). (Id. at ¶ 10).
“On or about October 2017, Beam issued a Long-Term
Incentive Plan (LTI) Award Statement to Mr. Hassett,
informing him that his 2015-2017Award was $1, 250, 000.00.
Upon information and belief, Mr. Hassett's 2017 AIP bonus
was valued at approximately $600, 000.00).”
(Id. at ¶¶ 14-15).
the same time, Plaintiff was afforded a position with a
different company, and his father became terminally ill.
(Id. at ¶¶ 16-17). As a result, Plaintiff
advised Mr. Shattock that he intended to leave the Company in
early October. (Id. at ¶ 19). According to
Plaintiff, “Mr. Shattock asked him to extend his
departure date on multiple occasions in order to assist with
the transition to Mr. Hassett's replacement and to
accommodate Mr. Shattock's schedule.”
(Id.). He and Mr. Shattock ultimately agreed that he
would resign in mid-November and Plaintiff would assist in
the transition. “In exchange, Mr. Shattock promised
that Mr. Hassett would be entitled to either all or a portion
of his LTI and 2017 AIP bonuses.” (Id.).
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant's “practice was to
pay Senior Executive employees both their LTI and AIP bonuses
even though such employees were not employed by the Company
at year-end.” (Id. at ¶ 30).
on” his agreement, Plaintiff decided to forgo his other
available leave time under Company policies and the Family
Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). (Id. at
¶ 21). Before resigning, Plaintiff requested payment of
his bonuses; but on the date of his departure, the Company
“would not pay him any portion of his LTI and AIP
bonuses, on the purported basis that Mr. Hassett was not
employed as of December 31, 2017.” (Id. at
¶ 23). After his resignation, Plaintiff returned to his
home in New Jersey but continued to conduct employee reviews
for Defendant at its request. (Id. at ¶ 27).
initiated this action against Defendant on March 11, 2019.
[Dkt. No. 1]. Plaintiff's Complaint alleges claims for
Breach of Contract (Count I), Good Faith and Fair Dealing
(Count II), Unjust enrichment (Count III), and failure to pay
wages under Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act
(“IWPCA”) (Count IV). On May 15, 2019 Defendant
filed a Motion to Transfer this action to the Northern
District of Illinois [Dkt. No. 6] and a Motion to Dismiss the
Complaint for failure to state a claim [Dkt No. 7] pursuant
to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(b)(6). The motions have been fully
briefed and the Court heard oral argument on both motions at
a hearing held on November 21, 2019.
Standard of Review
1404 provides: “for the convenience of parties and
witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may
transfer any civil action to any other district . . . where
it might have been brought.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).
Analysis under § 1404 is flexible and must be made on
the unique facts of each case. Ricoh Co., Ltd. v.
Honeywell, Inc., 817 F.Supp. 473, 479 (D.N.J. 1993). The
moving party bears the burden of establishing that the
transfer is appropriate and must establish that the alternate
forum is more convenient than the present forum. Jumara
v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3d Cir. 1995).
The Third Circuit has enumerated a number of private and
public factors to be weighed when deciding a motion to
transfer venue under § 1404(a).
private interest factors incorporate the preferences of the
parties in the context of the litigation, and include (1) the
choice of forum of the plaintiff; (2) the defendant's
preference; (3) the ease of access to sources of proof; (4)
the convenience of the witnesses-only to the extent that a
witness may actually be unavailable for trial in one of the
fora; and (4) where the claim arose. The second category
analyzes the public interest including (1) practical
considerations which could make the litigation easier and
more expeditious, or inexpensive; (2) court congestion and
administrative difficulties; (3) the local interest in
resolving local controversies at home; and (4) the public
policies of the fora. Mendoza v. U.S. Custom & Border
Protection, No. 05-6017, 2007 WL 842011, at *3 (D.N.J.
March 19, 2007) (citing Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879)
(internal citations omitted).
initial matter, this case could have been brought in the
Northern District of Illinois. When jurisdiction is based on
the diversity of the parties pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1332, such as the present case, a civil action may be brought
(1) a judicial district where any defendant resides, if all
defendants reside in the same State, (2) a judicial district
in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving
rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property
that is the subject of the action is situated, or (3) a
judicial district in which any defendant is subject to
personal jurisdiction at the time ...