Defendant United States Steel is a Delaware corporation with its
principal place of business in Pennsylvania. Defendant
Mid-Continental Coke Company is a Delaware corporation with its
principal place of business in Ohio. Plaintiffs seek recovery for
negligence due to personal injuries sustained by Mr. Peterson on
premises owned by defendant United States Steel in Gary, Indiana,
while he was working as a truck driver for defendant
Mid-Continental Coke Company. Defendants now move to transfer
this action to the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Indiana, Hammond Division, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).
In accordance with the following opinion, the
defendants' motion to transfer is denied.
A district court may transfer any civil action to any other
district or division where it might have been brought for the
convenience of the parties and witnesses, and in the interests of
justice. 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The initial determination in
considering a motion to transfer is whether venue is proper in
the transferee district. In the instant case, venue is clearly
proper in both districts pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a) and (c).
In addition to proper venue, a defendant moving to transfer an
action has the burden of proving that the considerations embodied
in § 1404(a) weigh heavily in favor of transfer. Bodine's Inc. v.
Sunny-O Inc., 494 F. Supp. 1279 (N.D.Ill. 1980); Cunningham v.
Cunningham, 477 F. Supp. 632 (N.D.Ill. 1979). Accordingly,
plaintiffs' choice of forum should rarely be disturbed unless the
balance is strongly in favor of defendant. Hess v. Gray, 85
F.R.D. 15, 24 (N.D.Ill. 1979); Lemke v. St. Margaret Hospital,
552 F. Supp. 833, 839 (N.D.Ill. 1982). Courts sometimes accord
plaintiffs choice of venue less deference where plaintiff is not
a resident of the judicial district in which the action is
brought, as is the case here. Nevertheless, the weight which the
court accords plaintiff's choice of forum should not be confused
with defendant's substantial burden of showing that litigation in
the proposed transferee district would eliminate inconvenience
and better serve the interest of justice. Applying the law to the
facts of the present case, the court finds that defendants have
not sustained their burden.
I. Convenience of the Parties and Witnesses
Defendant Mid-Continental is based in Willowbrook, Illinois,
and defendant United States Steel has offices and personnel in
Chicago, Illinois. Moreover, United States Steel's Gary works
plant, at which the events pertinent to this action are alleged
to have occurred, is only a short distance from Chicago. Given
the close proximity of the defendants to this court, it is
difficult to find that they would be unduly inconvenienced by the
action proceeding in this district.
With respect to the convenience of the witnesses, the court
must consider not only the location of potential witnesses, but
also the nature of their anticipated testimony and whether they
can be compelled to testify. Coats Co., Inc. v. Vulcan Equipment
Co., Inc., 459 F. Supp. 654 (N.D.Ill. 1978). The defendants'
argument regarding the inconvenience of bringing occurrence
witnesses to Chicago from Gary, Indiana, is counterbalanced by
plaintiffs' showing that plaintiffs' medical witnesses would,
likewise, be inconvenienced by the trip from Chicago to Hammond,
Indiana, if a transfer is granted. It is well-established that a
change of venue is inappropriate when the effect is merely to
shift the inconvenience from the defendant to the plaintiff.
Oce-Industrials, Inc. v. Coleman, 487 F. Supp. 548, 553 (N.D.Ill.
1980); Blumenthal v. Management Assistance, Inc., 480 F. Supp. 470
(N.D.Ill. 1979). Moreover, defendants have not shown that this
court's lack of compulsory process over any potential witnesses
would be detrimental to their case. Thus, on balance, the court
finds an insufficient showing that the
convenience of the parties and witnesses weigh heavily in favor
II. Interest of Justice
The final consideration under § 1404(a) is whether a change of
venue would serve the interests of justice. All factors which
make the trial of a case easy, expeditious, and economical are to
be considered. Gulf Oil v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 508, 67 S.Ct.
839, 843, 91 L.Ed. 1055 (1947). In the instant case, no special
circumstances, such as the existence of a related action in the
transferee district with which this case may be consolidated, are
present. Defendants argue that the controlling substantive law in
this action is Indiana law and that therefore transfer to the
Indiana District Court is warranted. In addressing this argument,
the court first notes that federal district courts must often
undertake the task of deciding foreign law. Further, familiarity
with state law does not weigh heavily in consideration of a
motion to transfer since a change of venue under § 1404(a) is to
be "but a change of courtrooms." Van Dusen v. Barrack,
376 U.S. 612, 639, 84 S.Ct. 805, 821, 11 L.Ed.2d 945 (1964).
In essence, the court finds no convincing basis upon which to
hold that the interest of justice would be best served by
transferring this case. As other courts have noted, § 1404(a)
should not be invoked for transfer between courts separated by a
short and easily traveled distance since the intent of the
statute was to eliminate the real inconvenience which may accrue
to parties and witnesses residing a substantial distance from the
district where the action is brought. Jenkins v. Wilson Freight
Forwarding Co., 104 F. Supp. 422, 425 (D.C.N.Y. 1952); Lee v. Ohio
Cas. Ins. Co., 445 F. Supp. 189, 192 (D.C.Del. 1978).
For the foregoing reasons, defendants' motion to transfer this
action to the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Indiana is denied.
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