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BRYANT v. ITT CORP.

May 12, 1999

JOYCE BRYANT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ITT CORPORATION & METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE CO., DEFENDANTS.



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

  MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the court is defendants ITT Industries, Inc. ("ITT")*fn1 and Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.'s ("MetLife") motion to transfer this case to the Western District of Kentucky pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For reasons that follow, the court grants the motion.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Joyce Bryant ("Bryant") is, and has been since at least 1996, a resident of Beaver Dam, Kentucky. Bryant is suing ITT and MetLife to recover disability income benefits that Bryant claims are due to her under an employee welfare benefit plan which provides group long-term benefits to ITT employees ("the Plan"). ITT, which is the administrator for the Plan, is an Indiana corporation with its principal place of business in New York. MetLife, which is the designated claim administrator for the Plan, is a New York mutual insurance company with its principal place of business in New York. The MetLife claims office with responsibility for administering Bryant's claim for benefits is located in New York. In addition, the Plan is used in New York. Both ITT and MetLife conduct business in Illinois.

According to Bryant's complaint, Bryant was a full-time ITT employee until September of 1994. On September 14, 1994, Bryant stopped working for ITT because of physical and mental impairments. After she stopped working for ITT, Bryant made a claim for benefits under the Plan. Bryant's claim was approved, and she began to receive payment of benefits after the expiration of the six-month elimination period. Bryant received payment of benefits until January of 1997. Between April of 1996 and January of 1997, Bryant received all of her Plan benefits at her home in Kentucky.

In January of 1997, MetLife notified Bryant that it had reviewed her claim and was terminating benefits because Bryant did not qualify for continued benefits under the Plan since she was not disabled from any occupation or employment. MetLife sent the notification letter from its office in New York to Bryant's residence in Kentucky.

Bryant submitted an administrative appeal of the denial of her disability claim. In support of her appeal, Bryant submitted various reports from treating and examining doctors. Those doctors are located in Kentucky. MetLife engaged independent consulting doctors to examine Bryant. Those doctors are also located in Kentucky. Most of the correspondence regarding the challenged decision was exchanged between Bryant and her attorney in Kentucky and MetLife's office in New York. In response to Bryant's appeal, MetLife provided Bryant with a final determination of her claim, upholding the denial of benefits.

In response to the denial of benefits, Bryant filed suit in this court, claiming that defendants' actions violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"). This court has subject matter jurisdiction over the case pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132(e)(1) and 1132(f). In response to Bryant's suit, ITT and MetLife have moved to transfer this case to the Western District of Kentucky pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).

II. DISCUSSION

ITT and MetLife have moved to transfer this case to the Western District of Kentucky pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), arguing that the convenience of the parties and witnesses and the interests of justice weigh in favor of such a transfer. Bryant argues that the case should be kept in Illinois because (1) Bryant worked and earned her entitlement to benefits in Illinois; (2) there are no evidentiary issues which justify overriding Bryant's choice of forum; and (3) the interests of justice do not favor transfer.

Section § 1404(a), which governs the transfer of an action from one federal district court to another, provides: "For the convenience of the 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). A transfer under § 1404(a) is appropriate if: (1) venue is proper in both the transferor and transferee court; (2) transfer is for the convenience of the parties and witnesses; and (3) transfer is in the interests of justice. Vandeveld v. Christoph, 877 F. Supp. 1160, 1167 (N.D.Ill. 1995).

In determining whether a motion under § 1404(a) should be granted, the court must seek to promote the efficient administration of justice and not merely the private interests of the parties. North Shore Gas Co. v. Salomon, Inc., 896 F. Supp. 786, 791 (N.D.Ill. 1995). The determination of whether a case should be transferred pursuant to § 1404(a) is committed to the sound discretion of the trial court. Heller Fin., Inc. v. Midwhey Powder Co., 883 F.2d 1286, 1293 (7th Cir. 1989); Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219 (7th Cir. 1986).

The parties do not dispute that venue is proper in both the Northern District of Illinois and the Western District of Kentucky. See 28 U.S.C. ยง 1391(e)(2). What the parties dispute is whether the convenience of the parties and witnesses and the interests of justice weigh in favor ...


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