United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
October 6, 2005.
AVCO CORPORATION, on behalf of its LYCOMING ENGINES DIVISION, Plaintiff,
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.
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
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.
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 Avco's choice of the Eastern Division.
See Sanders v. Franklin, 25 F. Supp. 2d 855, 858 (N.D. Ill.
1998) ("plaintiff's choice of forum is given deference unless . . .
[it] lacks any significant connection to the cause of action").
Avco argues that a plaintiff's choice of forum should rarely be
disturbed unless the balance weighs strongly in favor of
transfer, relying on Peterson v. United States Steel Corp.,
624 F. Supp. 44, 45 (N.D. Ill. 1985). But Avco's reliance on
Peterson is inapposite because that case presented a different
set of facts. Most importantly, defendants in Peterson
maintained offices in plaintiff's chosen forum. See id. Here, defendants' connections with the
Northern District of Illinois are exclusively in the Western
Division. Thus, Peterson offers no support for Avco's argument.
Second, the site of defendants' conduct relevant to this case
weighs strongly in favor of transfer. Defendants assert, and Avco
does not dispute, that any material acts they have undertaken in
connection with this case took place in the Western Division.
Stenberg Aff. ¶ 11; Simonovich Aff. ¶ 11. Avco, on the other
hand, fails to show that any material events occurred in the
Eastern Division. Thus, this prong favors transfer.
Third, there is easier access to evidence in the Western
Division. In response, Avco provides a list of anticipated
evidence: "aircraft/engine wreckage, manufacturing equipment,
various documentation, and party/non-party witnesses" located
throughout the United States. Pl.'s Opp. ¶ 15. In their
affidavits, defendants state that their principal and sole places
of business, as well as their employees, equipment, and
documents, are located in the Western Division. Stenberg Aff. ¶¶
5-12; Simonovich Aff. ¶¶ 5-12. Avco does not dispute these
statements. To the extent that anticipated evidence is available
in the Northern District, access in the Western Division is
superior to the Eastern Division. As a result, this prong weighs
in favor of transfer.
Avco's argument on the availability of evidence misses the
point. Throughout its opposition, Avco insists that the evidence
in this case spreads across the United States and discovery
requires extensive travel. See, e.g., Pl.'s Opp. ¶¶ 15, 30, 33.
But the broad geographic coverage of the anticipated evidence
does not preclude the finding that at least defendants' evidence
is most readily available in the Western Division.
Finally, the parties' convenience is not a significant factor
here. Having little material connection to the Eastern Division,
Avco and its counsel would be burdened with little additional inconvenience if this case is transferred to the Western
Division. See Blumenthal v. Mgmt. Assistance, Inc.,
480 F. Supp. 470, 474 (N.D. Ill. 1979) (inconvenience of counsel becomes
a factor of consideration only when it bears directly on the cost
of litigation). Nor would defendants be significantly
inconvenienced if the case remains in the Eastern Division.
Accordingly, convenience of the parties is a neutral factor.
II. Convenience of Witnesses
The analysis of this factor slightly favors transfer. In their
supporting affidavits, defendants state that their witnesses will
have longer travels to court if the case remains in the Eastern
Division. See Stenberg Aff. ¶ 13; Simonovich Aff. ¶ 13. In
response, Avco argues that Chicago is more convenient to
out-of-state witnesses because of its "proximity to the airports
and the ease of available accommodation." Pl.'s Opp. ¶ 30. In a
recent case, this court rejected a similar argument opposing a
transfer to the Western Division. In Simes v. Jackson National
Life Insurance Co., the court found Chicago's convenient
location was exaggerated: "To read the defendants' memorandum, it
would appear that it is but a matter of minutes to travel from
O'Hare or Midway to the Dirksen Federal Building, while traveling
from those airports to Rockford is like trekking to the
Antipodes." No. 05C3816, 2005 WL 2371969, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Sept.
22, 2005) (granting motion to transfer because the Western
Division had material connections to the litigation). Avco's
argument is unpersuasive. The undisputed inconvenience to
defendants if the case remains in the Eastern Division slightly
favors transfer. III. Interest of Justice
Generally, "[t]he `interest of justice' is a separate component
of a § 1404(a) transfer analysis . . ., and may be determinative
in a particular case." Coffey, 796 F.2d at 220 (citations
omitted). But this factor "is given less weight in the case of an
intra-district transfer." Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc., Rubloff
Oakridge Algonquuin, L.L.C., No. 03C3063, 2003 WL 22382999, at
*3 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 16, 2003) (citations omitted). When evaluating
this factor, the court considers "the efficient administration of
the court system." Coffey, 796 F.2d at 221. "That includes due
consideration for the speed in which the case will proceed to
trial, the court's familiarity with the applicable law, and the
public's interest in having the case resolved in a particular
forum." Sanders, 25 F. Supp. 2d at 859 (citing Coffey,
796 F.2d at 221); see also Schwarz, 317 F. Supp. 2d at 837
(considering likelihood of speedy trial and familiarity with
Neither Avco nor Modern Plating relies on arguments based on
the likelihood of speedy trial and familiarity with applicable
law. But defendants' exclusive connections with the Western
Division tip the scales in favor of transfer. Compared to the
Eastern Division, where none of the parties has any connection
material to this case, the Western Division has an interest in
having this case resolved there. Thus, transferring this case to
the Western Division will promote the interest of justice. See
Koos, Inc. v. Performance Indus., Inc., 747 F. Supp. 487, 491
(N.D. Ill. 1990) (granting transfer to a forum having the most
significant contacts with the litigation).
IV. Balancing of the Factors
The court has carefully considered the transfer factors. Avco
has chosen to sue in the Eastern Division, which has no material
connection to this case. Avco's choice of forum merits only
nominal deference. Modern Plating has shown that all of the statutory
factors weigh in favor of transfer to some degree or are
virtually neutral. Most significantly, the Western Division is
defendants' home forum, and all of their evidence and witnesses
are located there. When all the factors are balanced, the
convenience of the parties and witnesses, and the interests of
justice, will be served by transferring this case to the Western
In reaching its decision, the court is mindful that transfer is
inappropriate if it merely shifts the inconvenience for one party
to another. See Vandeveld, 877 F. Supp. at 1169. The distance
between the Eastern and Western Divisions is insignificant, so is
the shifting of inconvenience between Avco and defendants
resulting from transfer. But the lack of connection between the
Eastern Division and this case compels the conclusion that the
Western Decision is a more appropriate forum. Accordingly, Avco's
arguments based on the convenience of the parties and the
distance between the Eastern and Western Divisions are
For the foregoing reasons, Modern Plating's motion to transfer
venue is granted. This case is transferred to the United States
District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Western
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