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AVCO CORPORATION v. PROGRESSIVE STEEL TREATING INC.

October 6, 2005.

AVCO CORPORATION, on behalf of its LYCOMING ENGINES DIVISION, Plaintiff,
v.
PROGRESSIVE STEEL TREATING, INC., an Illinois corporation, and MODERN PLATING CORPORATION, an Illinois corporation, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SUZANNE CONLON, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Invoking the court's diversity jurisdiction, Avco Corporation, on behalf of its Lycoming Engines Division, sues Modern Plating Corporation and Progressive Steel Treating, Inc. (collectively "defendants") to recover settlement payments made by Lycoming for claims arising from an airplane crash. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1404(a) and (b), Modern Plating moves to transfer venue to the court's Western Division sitting in Rockford, Illinois. For the reasons set forth below, Modern Plating's motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

  The following facts are derived from the complaint, the answers, and the motion papers. For the purposes of this motion, the court assumes that these facts are true.

  Avco is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Providence, Rhode Island. Lycoming, operating in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, is an unincorporated division of Avco. Modern Plating is an Illinois corporation with its principal place of business in Freeport, Illinois. Progressive Steel is an Illinois corporation with its principal place of business in Rockford, Illinois.

  Freeport and Rockford are both located in the court's Western Division. Defendants assert that all of their employees live and work in the Western Division. Their activities relevant to this case occurred in the Western Division, and all their relevant documents and equipment are located in the Western Division.

  Avco, however, has chosen the Eastern Division for its suit. This case arises from an airplane crash in Meridian, Mississippi. While piloting a Piper PA-32R-301 at an altitude of approximately 500 to 600 feet on June 7, 2002, Dr. Mark D. Williams found that the engine had stopped. Dr. Williams executed a forced landing. As a result, he was seriously injured, and the airplane was destroyed.

  Based on its investigation of the crash, Lycoming, the manufacturer of the doomed engine, blames a zinc-plated crankshaft gear bolt for the engine failure. Lycoming believes the bolt fractured due to hydrogen embrittlement, and manufacturing defects caused the embrittlement. Lycoming claims defendants were involved in the manufacturing of the bolt in question — Modern Plating performed the zinc plating and baking and Progressive Steel performed the heat-treating. Thus, Lycoming contends defendants are liable for the engine failure.

  In its complaint on behalf of Lycoming, Avco seeks to recover the settlement payments Lycoming made to Dr. Williams, his wife, and the insurer of his airplane for their damages resulting from the unfortunate crash. In their respective answers, defendants deny liability. Modern Plating moves to transfer venue pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1404(a) and (b), supported by affidavits from James Stenberg, its president, and Jim Simonovich, the president of Progressive Steel. Avco opposes. DISCUSSION

  A district court may transfer a civil action to any district or division where the case may have been brought for "the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). A court may also transfer a case from one division to another in the same district. 28 U.S.C. § 1404(b). To prevail on a motion to transfer under § 1404(a), Modern Plating must demonstrate: "(1) venue is proper in the transferor district; (2) venue and jurisdiction are proper in the transferee district; and (3) the transfer will serve the convenience of the parties, the convenience of the witnesses, and the interests of justice." Schwarz v. Nat'l Van Lines, Inc., 317 F. Supp. 2d 829, 833 (N.D. Ill. 2004) (citing Vandeveld v. Christoph, 877 F. Supp. 1160, 1167 (N.D. Ill. 1995)). Modern Plating has the further burden of establishing, "by reference to particular circumstances, that the transferee forum is clearly more convenient." Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219-20 (7th Cir. 1986). In assessing a motion to transfer, the court must consider the statutory factors in light of all of the circumstances of the case. Id. at 219. The weight accorded to each factor is committed to the sound discretion of the court. Id.

  The parties do not dispute that venue and jurisdiction are proper in either division; they disagree only on whether the Eastern or Western Division is a more appropriate forum for this case. Therefore, the court considers the convenience of the parties and witnesses, and the interests of justice.

  I. Convenience of the Parties

  The convenience of the parties and witnesses is the most important § 1404(a) factor. See Dunn v. Soo Line R.R., 864 F. Supp. 64, 65 (N.D. Ill. 1994) (citing Rose v. Franchetti, 713 F. Supp. 1203, 1214 (N.D. Ill. 1989)). When evaluating this factor, the court considers four prongs: (1) plaintiff's choice of forum; (2) the site of material events; (3) availability of evidence in each forum; and (4) the parties' convenience in litigating in the respective forums. Houck v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 947 F. Supp. 373, 375 (N.D. Ill. 1996) (citing College Craft Cos., v. Perry, 889 F. Supp. 1052, 1054 (N.D. Ill. 1995)). The court analyzes these four considerations in turn.

  First, Avco's choice of forum deserves only nominal deference. Avco has chosen to file this case in the Eastern Division. Plaintiff's choice of forum is generally given substantial weight under § 1404(a), particularly when plaintiff chooses its home forum. See Dunn, 864 F. Supp. at 65 (citing Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 255-56 (1981)). But the Eastern Division is not the home forum for either Avco or Lycoming. Moreover, the Western Division bears a substantial relationship with this case because defendants' principle places of business are located there. Avco's chosen forum is entitled to less weight if it is not its home forum or if it lacks substantial contact with the litigation. Plotkin v. IP Axess, Inc., 168 F. Supp. 2d 899, 902 (N.D. Ill. 2001); see also Countryman v. Stein Roe & Farnham, 681 F. Supp. 479, 482-83 (N.D. Ill. 1987). Accordingly, the court gives nominal weight to ...


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