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PAYNE v. MARKETING SHOWCASE

February 25, 1985

MARE PAYNE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MARKETING SHOWCASE, INC., ETC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Decker, Senior District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

On August 2, 1984, Mare Payne ("Payne") filed a ten-count complaint against Marketing Showcase, Inc. ("MSI"), Charles Offset Co. ("COC"), Charles Communications Co., Inc. ("CCC"), and four officers of these corporations. The first three counts allege violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), 18 U.S.C. § 1962(a), (c), and (d). The remaining counts allege pendent state law claims. The case is before the court on defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint for improper venue under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(3) or, in the alternative, to transfer this case pursuant to either 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) or § 1404(a).

I. Factual Background

Payne was paid on a net commission basis. Under her employment contract, which was expressly governed by New York law, MSI deducted certain charges, such as printing costs, from her commissions. The gist of Payne's complaint is that all of the defendants conspired to defraud and actually defrauded her of the true amount of her commissions by falsely inflating the deductible charges. The complaint alleges that defendants intentionally misrepresented to Payne the amount of these charges either in person, by mail, or by wire while she was in Chicago.

Payne was a resident of New York when she brought this action. MSI, COC, and CCC are New York corporations. It is undisputed that MSI is licensed to do business in Illinois and transacts business in this district. Three of the individual defendants reside in New York, and one resides in New Jersey. In addition, the individual defendants submitted affidavits to the effect that they have little, if any, contact with Illinois and that all relevant documents are located in New York. Many of the principal witnesses reside in New York also.

Plaintiff contends that venue is proper in the Northern District under 18 U.S.C. § 1965(a) and 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). Defendants move to dismiss the complaint for improper venue under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(3) or, in the very least, to transfer this case to the Southern District of New York in the interest of justice under 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). If venue is proper here, defendants move to transfer the case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).

II. Discussion

The purpose of statutory venue provisions "is to protect the defendant against the risk that a plaintiff will select an unfair or inconvenient place of trial." Leroy v. Great Western United Corp., 443 U.S. 173, 183-84, 99 S.Ct. 2710, 2716-17, 61 L.Ed.2d 464 (1979) (original emphasis). Venue must be properly laid as to each defendant. Eaby v. Richmond, 561 F. Supp. 131, 140 n. 2 (E.D.Pa. 1983). In addition, where multiple causes of action are joined, venue must be proper as to each one. International Patent Development Corp. v. Wyomont Partners, 489 F. Supp. 226, 230 (D.Nev. 1980). Although there is a split of authority on the question, this court follows the rule that where, as here, a defendant challenges venue under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(3), the plaintiff has the burden of proving that venue is proper in this district. Pfeiffer v. International Academy of Biomagnetic Medicine, 521 F. Supp. 1331, 1336 (W.D.Mo. 1981); see Grantham v. Challenge-Cook Bros., Inc., 420 F.2d 1182, 1184 (7th Cir. 1969).

A. Venue Under 18 U.S.C. § 1965(a)

Section 1965(a), the venue provision for civil RICO actions, provides that a suit may be instituted in any district where a defendant "resides, is found, has an agent, or transacts his affairs." Id.*fn1 Although this section was intended to liberalize existing venue provisions, plaintiff must show that there is venue over each defendant due to his own contacts with the district as opposed to those of a co-defendant. Farmers Bank v. Bell Mortgage Corp., 452 F. Supp. 1278, 1281 (D.Del. 1978).

MSI is clearly "found" and "transacts [its] affairs" here for purposes of § 1965(a). The only basis for venue that Payne raises with respect to the other defendants is that they have an agent, namely MSI, in this district. Payne reasons that because defendants constituted an enterprise to defraud her, each of them became an agent of the other. This circular logic is flawed.

First, this court long ago rejected the co-conspiratorial theory of venue. Commonwealth Edison Co. v. Federal Pacific Electric Co., 208 F. Supp. 936, 941 (N.D.Ill. 1962). Payne must prove that each defendant has engaged in some significant or substantial act pursuant to the RICO conspiracy in this district. Farmers Bank, 452 F. Supp. at 1281; Eaby, 561 F. Supp. at 140 n. 2. Second, the first court to construe the RICO venue provision held that the term "has an agent," like its antitrust counterpart, does not apply to corporate defendants. King v. Vesco, 342 F. Supp. 120, 123 (N.D.Cal. 1972). Thus, since Payne does not allege that any of the individual defendants has an agent in this district, the concept of agency is of no help to her in this case.

Even if the court discounts the sound reasoning of King, plaintiff still has not sufficiently shown that MSI is an agent of the other defendants. Payne's assertion that MSI procures advertisers for inserts and coupons printed by COC does not establish an agency relationship among all defendants. See Westinghouse Electric Corp. v. Rio Algom Ltd., 448 F. Supp. 1284, 1301-03 (N.D.Ill.), aff'd in part and rev'd in part on other grounds sub nom. Westinghouse Electric Corp. v. Kerr-McGee Corp., 580 F.2d 1311 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 955, 99 S.Ct. 353, 58 L.Ed.2d 346 (1978). Similarly, while plaintiff alleges that all of the corporations are ...


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