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BAFIA v. MARION

July 15, 2004.

STANLEY BAFIA and E.S. WINDOWS, INC., Plaintiffs,
v.
PHILLIP MARION and HARRIS AND STANLEY MANUFACTURING CO., INC., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RONALD GUZMAN, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This action based on diversity jurisdiction is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Transfer Venue Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

  The complaint alleges the following facts. Plaintiff Stanley Bafia is the president and owner of Plaintiff E.S. Windows, Inc. Bafia is an Illinois resident, and E.S. Windows is an Illinois corporation. Bafia is also a minority (45%) owner of Defendant Harris and Stanley Manufacturing Co., Inc. ("Harris"). Defendant Phillip Marion is the president and majority owner (55%) of Harris. Marion is a New Jersey resident, and Harris is a New Jersey corporation.

  E.S. Windows is a window installation company, and Harris is a window manufacturer. E.S. Windows is the largest customer of Harris. In 2001, 2002, and 2003, E.S. Windows deposited money on a regular basis to Harris's bank account in New Jersey to provide Harris with needed capital to continue operations. As E.S. Windows ordered windows from Harris, the costs of the orders were to be deducted from these regular deposits. Any excess deposited amounts were to be refunded to E.S. Windows at the end of each year.

  The complaint alleges that the excess deposits were not in fact refunded to E.S. Windows, and Bafia further alleges that Defendants have failed to pay him his 45% share of Harris's profits. Plaintiffs seek monetary damages against Harris for breach of contract and unjust enrichment; equitable and monetary damages against Marion for breach of fiduciary duties; and an accounting and inspection of books and records under the New Jersey Business Corporation Act.

  DISCUSSION

  Defendants have moved to transfer this action to the District of New Jersey pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), which 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 or division where it might have been brought."*fn1

  Because determining whether transfer is appropriate is made on a case-by-case basis and "involves a large degree of subtlety and latitude," it is "committed to the sound discretion of the trial judge." Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219 (7th Cir. 1986). In analyzing whether transfer is convenient under § 1404(a), courts are directed to consider both private and public interests. Private interests, i.e., the interests of the parties, include: "(1) the plaintiff's choice of forum, (2) the situs of the material events, (3) the relative ease of access to sources of proof, (4) the convenience of the parties, and (5) the convenience of the witnesses." Amoco Oil Co. v. Mobil Oil Corp., 90 F. Supp.2d 958, 960 (N.D. Ill. 2000). The analysis of public interests "`focuses on the efficient administration of the court system, rather than the private considerations of the litigants.'" Id. at 961. Public interests "include[] such considerations as the speed at which the case will proceed to trial, the court's familiarity with the applicable law, the relation of the community to the occurrence at issue, and the desirability of resolving controversies in their locale." Id. at 961-62.

  The movant has the burden of proving that "the transferee forum is clearly more convenient." Coffey, 796 F.2d at 219-20; see Sitrick v. Freehand Sys., Inc., No. 02 C 1568, 2003 WL 1581741, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 27, 2003) ("[The movant] `bears a heavy burden to show that the inconvenience of the parties and witnesses and the dictates of justice are substantial enough to overcome the presumption in favor of Illinois courts.") (citation omitted); Sec. & Exch. Comm'n v. Barzilay, No. 99 C 5023, 2001 WL 127367, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 14, 2001) (noting that the movant must "properly and convincingly demonstrate" that transfer is warranted).

  A. Private Factors

  1. Plaintiff's Choice of Forum and Situs of Material Events

  The plaintiff's choice of forum is generally given substantial weight, and the presumption in favor of the plaintiff's choice "`may be overcome only when the private and public interest factors clearly point toward trial in the alternative forum.'" Barzilay, 2001 WL 127367, at *2 (quoting Macedo v. Boeing Co., 693 F.2d 683, 688 (7th Cir. 1982)); see also In re Nat'l Presto Indus., Inc., 347 F.3d 662, 664 (7th Cir. 2003) (quoting Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 508 (1947)) ("`[U]nless the balance is strongly in favor of the defendant, the plaintiff's choice of forum should rarely be disturbed. . . . Rarely, however, is not never.'"). Deference to the plaintiff's choice of forum is minimized where it is neither the plaintiff's home forum nor the situs of material events. See Coleman v. Buchheit, Inc., No. 03 C 7495, 2004 WL 609369, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 22, 2004); see also Sitrick, 2003 WL 1581741, at *2 (noting that less deference is given to the plaintiff's choice of forum "when it lacks any significant contact with the underlying forum").

  Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' choice of their home forum should not be given any weight in this case because the material events occurred in New Jersey, not Illinois. Specifically, Defendants argue that the window purchase contracts were accepted and therefore formed in New Jersey, the funds were deposited into Harris's bank account and were allegedly withheld in New Jersey, and the windows were sold in New Jersey. Plaintiffs respond that the contracts were accepted in Illinois, the ...


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