The opinion of the court was delivered by: BUCKLO
The plaintiffs, Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund ("Central States") and Howard McDougall, filed suit against the defendant Salasnek Fisheries, Inc. ("Salasnek") to recover pension contributions under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et. seq. ("ERISA"). Salasnek now moves this Court to transfer the case to the Eastern District of Michigan pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is denied.
Central States is a multi-employer pension fund that provides retirement benefits to individuals who are covered by collective bargaining agreements between employers and local unions affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters ("IBT"). Central States' sole and exclusive office is located in Rosemont Illinois. Salasnek is a Michigan corporation that has been a contributing employer of Central States since January 1958.
On or about December 20, 1988 Salasnek and Local 337 of the IBT ("Local 337") entered into a collective bargaining agreement ("1988-1992 Agreement").
Pursuant to this agreement, Salasnek promised to contribute to Central States for each employee, including part-time employees, covered by the agreement.
In August of 1996, Central States audited Salasnek, and determined that Salasnek had not fully contributed for its part-time employees. Salasnek asserted that contributions were not due based on the 1993-1996 Agreement. Central States refuses to accept the 1993-1996 Agreement because its exclusion of part-time employees violates Central States' participation rules and federal law. Furthermore, Central States claims that the 1993-1996 Agreement is not binding on it under the Trust Agreement.
Salasnek admits that it is bound by the Trust Agreement. Answer to Compl. at P 10. However, Salasnek disputes Central States' claims and asserts that the 1993-1996 Agreement is valid and binding on Central States. As such, Salasnek has fully contributed to the fund.
Under Section 1404(a), a court may transfer a case if the moving party shows that (1) venue was proper in the transferor district, (2) venue and jurisdiction would be proper in the transferee district, and (3) the transfer will serve the convenience of the parties and the witnesses as well as the interests of justice. College Craft Cos. v. Perry, 889 F. Supp. 1052, 1054 (N.D. Ill. 1995) (citation omitted). Neither party has argued that the first two elements have not been satisfied. Under ERISA venue is proper both in this district because the plan is administered here and in the transferee district because Salasnek resides there and the alleged breach took place there. 29 U.S.C. § 1132(e)(2). Hence, I will focus my analysis on which forum best serves the convenience of the parties and the witnesses and is in the interests of justice.
A. Considerations of Convenience
Salasnek, as the moving party, bears the burden of demonstrating that the "transferee forum is clearly more convenient" than the transferor forum. Heller Financial, Inc. v. Midwhey Powder Co., 883 F.2d 1286, 1293 (7th Cir. 1989) (citing Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219-220 (7th Cir. 1986)). Considerations include the plaintiff's choice of forum, the convenience of the parties and witnesses, and the location of documents and sources of proof. Chemical Waste Management, Inc. v. Sims, 870 F. Supp. 870, 876 (N.D. Ill. 1994). Transfer is inappropriate if it will simply shift the inconvenience of one party to the other. Sage Products, Inc. v. Devon Industries, Inc., 148 F.R.D. 213, 216 (N.D. Ill. 1993) (citations omitted). Because each case requires an individualized balancing of the factors involved, the decision to transfer is committed to the discretion of the Court. Coffey, 796 F.2d at 219.
1. Plaintiff's Choice of Forum
The plaintiff's choice of forum is entitled to substantial weight under Section 1404(a), especially if it is also the plaintiff's home forum. Indeed, the balance must weigh strongly in the defendant's favor before a plaintiff's choice of forum will be disturbed. Chemical Waste, 870 F. Supp. at 876 (citations omitted). Furthermore, since ERISA was designed to "protect the financial integrity of employee benefit plans" by allowing them to choose their forum to minimize costs, Central States' choice of forum is entitled to especially great weight. See, e.g., Dugan v. M & W Dozing & Trucking, Inc., 727 F. Supp. 417, 419 (N.D. Ill. 1989); Central States S.E. & S.W. Areas Pension Fund v. C & M Trucking, Inc., 1989 U.S. Dist. LEXIS ...