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ANDRADE v. CHASE HOME FINANCE

December 12, 2005.

OVIDIO A. ANDRADE and BARBARA ANDRADE, also known as OVIDIO A. DEANDRADE and BARBARA DEANDRADE, Plaintiffs,
v.
CHASE HOME FINANCE, LLC, successor by merger to CHASE MANHATTAN MORTGAGE CORPORATION, and CHASE MANHATTAN BANK USA, N.A., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARK FILIP, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs, Ovidio A. Andrade and Barbara Andrade (collectively, "Plaintiffs"), bring suit against Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corporation ("Chase Mortgage"), which was succeeded through merger by Chase Home Finance ("CHF"), and Chase Manhattan Bank USA, N.A. ("CMBUSA") (collectively, "Defendants"). (D.E. 1 or "Complaint.")*fn1 Plaintiffs allege violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq. (Id.) The case is before the Court on Defendants' motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) to transfer this matter to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, or in the alternative, to the District of New Jersey or the District of Rhode Island. (D.E. 15.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted, and the case is transferred to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs are husband and wife and reside in Rhode Island. (Compl. ¶ 3.) Defendant CMBUSA is a corporation in the business of originating residential mortgage loans (id. ¶ 4); CMBUSA is incorporated under federal law and has its headquarters in Newark, Delaware. (D.E. 17, Ex. A, Declaration of Susan Sinn on May 9, 2005 ("Sinn Decl.") ¶ 3.) Defendant Chase Mortgage was a New Jersey corporation with its headquarters in Edison, New Jersey. (Sinn Decl. ¶ 4.) CHF, the successor by merger to Chase Mortgage, is a Delaware corporation with its executive headquarters in Iselin, New Jersey. (Id.) CMBUSA and CHF are subsidiaries of JPMorgan Chase & Company ("JPMorgan Chase"). (Compl. ¶ 4, 5.) JPMorgan Chase's domestic retail financial headquarters is located in Chicago, Illinois. (Id. ¶ 6.)

  The complaint alleges that shortly before October 17, 2004, Plaintiffs received a solicitation in the mail ("Solicitation Letter") from one or more of the Defendants; the Solicitation Letter offered refinancing of Plaintiffs' home mortgage loan.*fn2 (Id. ¶ 7.) Plaintiffs called the number listed in the Solicitation Letter and stated that they were interested in obtaining refinancing. (Id. ¶ 8.) During this phone call, Plaintiffs were asked for various items of information and had their credit reports pulled. (Id.) The Complaint alleges that Defendants decided not to extend credit to Plaintiffs, relying at least in part on information contained in Plaintiffs' credit reports. (Id. ¶¶ 11, 12.) Plaintiffs received a letter dated October 17, 2004 ("Response Letter"), that informed them of Defendants' decision. (Id. ¶ 14 (citing Compl., Ex. A).)

  Plaintiffs allege that Defendants' decision not to extend credit to them amounted to an "adverse action" as defined in 15 U.S.C. § 1681a(k), for which an adverse action notice was required under 15 U.S.C. § 1681m. (Id. ¶¶ 13, 16.) Plaintiffs allege that the Response Letter did not satisfy the notice requirements of 15 U.S.C. § 1681m (id. ¶¶ 17-19), and further allege that Defendants have a policy and practice of sending form letters similar to the Response Letter when they determine based on credit reports that they do not have loan products suitable for consumers. (Id. ¶ 19.) Accordingly, Plaintiffs claim that Defendants engaged in willful noncompliance with the requirements of the FCRA and therefore should be held liable under 15 U.S.C. § 1681n. (Id. ¶¶ 21, 22.)

  Plaintiffs bring suit on behalf of a putative class, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a) and (b)(3), consisting of "all persons who were sent a [letter similar to the Response Letter] . . . on or after a date two years prior to the filing of this action and before a date 20 days after the filing of this action." (Id. ¶¶ 24, 25.) Plaintiffs allege that there are at least 50 class members. (Id. ¶ 26.)

  Defendants filed an answer to Plaintiffs' complaint with this Court on March 16, 2005. (D.E. 9.) Defendants have now moved to transfer this matter from the Northern District of Illinois to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, or in the alternative, to the District of New Jersey or the District of Rhode Island. (D.E. 15.)

  LEGAL STANDARDS

  Section 1391(b) of Title 28 provides, in relevant part, that venue properly rests in: (1) a judicial district where any defendant resides, if all defendants reside in the same state; or (2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1391(b)(1), (2); see also Barela v. Experian Info. Solutions, Inc., No. 04 C 5144, 2005 WL 770629, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 4, 2005) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)). For the purposes of venue analysis, a corporation is deemed to reside in any judicial district in which it is subject to personal jurisdiction at the time the action is commenced. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c). When deciding a motion to transfer venue, the court must accept as true all of plaintiff's wellpleaded facts in the complaint, unless they are contradicted by affidavits or other appropriate evidence from the defendant. See, e.g., The Heil Co. v. Curotto Can Co., No. 02 C 782, 2004 WL 725737, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 30, 2004) (citing Plotkin v. IP Axess, Inc., 168 F. Supp. 2d 899, 900 (N.D. Ill. 2001)). Although a motion to dismiss for improper venue under Rule 12(b)(3) must be filed before the answer, a motion to transfer venue may be filed at any time. See, e.g., Carter v. Clark Material Handling Co., No. 97 C 4424, 1998 WL 89244, at * 2 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 17, 1998) (citation omitted).

  Under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), "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." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a); see, e.g., Biesek v. Soo Line R.R. Co., No. 03 C 5452, 2004 WL 609323, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 22, 2004). Precedent teaches that pursuant to Section 1404(a), a court may transfer a case where (1) venue is proper in both the transferor and transferee courts; (2) transfer is for the convenience of the parties and witnesses; and (3) transfer is in the interest of justice. See, e.g., Georgouses v. NaTec Res. Inc., 963 F. Supp. 728, 730 (N.D. Ill. 1997) (citation omitted). When evaluating the convenience of the parties and witnesses — which is sometimes referred to as the private interests at stake — a district court considers: (1) the plaintiff's choice of forum; (2) the situs of material events; (3) the relative ease of access to sources of proof; (4) the convenience of the witnesses; and (5) the convenience to the parties. See, e.g., Coleman v. Buchheit, Inc., No. 03 C 7495, 2004 WL 609369, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 22, 2004) (citing Plotkin, 168 F. Supp. 2d at 902). In examining the interests of justice, or what are sometimes referred to as the public interest factors, the court focuses on the efficient administration of the court system, and considerations include "the court's familiarity with the applicable law, the speed at which the case will proceed to trial, and the desirability of resolving controversies in their locale." Morris v. Am. Bioscience, Inc., No. 03 C 7525, 2004 WL 2496496, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 3, 2004) (citing Von Holdt v. Husky Injecting Molding Sys. Ltd., 887 F. Supp. 185, 188 (N.D. Ill. 1995)). The weight accorded to each factor is committed to the sound discretion of the trial judge. See, e.g., Cont'l Ins. Co. v. M/V Orsula, 354 F.3d 603, 608 (7th Cir. 2003) (collecting cases).

  Transfer under Section 1404(a) is not designed to merely shift inconveniences between equally situated parties; "rather, the overall balance of inconveniences, and the broader public interests at play, must clearly weigh in favor of transfer." Barela, 2005 WL 770629, at * 3 (collecting cases). The party seeking to transfer venue "`has the burden of establishing, by reference to particular circumstances, that the transfer forum is clearly more convenient' than the transferor court." Technical Concepts L.P. v. Zurn Indus., Inc., No. 02 C 5150, 2002 WL 31433408, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 31, 2002) (quoting Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219-20 (7th Cir. 1986)). DISCUSSION

  I. Proper Venue

  As is often the case, the parties do not dispute for purposes of this motion that venue would be permissible in this judicial district and in the proposed transferee forum, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (See, e.g., D.E. 17 at 5.) Accordingly, the salient question is whether the movants have met their burden of establishing the propriety of the proposed transfer. See, e.g., Sornberger v. First Midwest Bancorp, Inc., No. 02 C 246, 2002 WL 1182121, at *1 (N.D. Ill. June 4, 2002) (citing Coffey, 796 F.2d at 219-20). The ...


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