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Edsall v. CSX Transportation

November 14, 2006

RICKY LEE EDSALL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Before the Court is defendant's motion to transfer (Doc. 15) to which plaintiff has filed a response (Doc. 19) and the defendant a reply (Doc. 22).

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed his complaint against defendant, his former employer, seeking to recover for alleged work-related injuries under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq. Defendant has filed a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), seeking to transfer this cause of action to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.

In its motion to transfer, defendant argues that plaintiff's choice of venue in this case is not entitled to deference because no nexus exists between the causes of action and the Southern District of Illinois. Defendant, relying on two affidavits, contends that plaintiff worked in or around Garrett, Indiana, for the majority of his employment with the defendant and that he did not spend any time working in Southern Illinois. Defendant also asserts that the case should be transferred because at least twenty-seven (27) potential witnesses are located in the Northern District of Indiana, and that the District Court for the Northern District of Indiana will be able to compel their appearance. Finally, defendant maintains that the interests of justice would be better served by the transfer of this action to the Northern District of Indiana where the alleged injuries occurred.

In response, plaintiff argues that the defendant should be precluded from seeking transfer at this stage of the proceeding because it did not do so when this case was set for trial. Plaintiff also asserts that defendant's motion should be denied because transfer of the case would not further the interest of justice, and that the motion is part of an ongoing "tactic of delay." Plaintiff also claims that his choice of venue should be given substantial deference under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, and that for these reasons the motion to transfer should be denied.

ANALYSIS

I. Motion to Transfer Standards

28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) provides: "[f]or 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." The Seventh Circuit has held that the trial court should consider "the relative ease of access to sources of proofs; availability of compulsory process for attendance of unwilling, and the cost of obtaining attendance of willing witnesses; the possibility of a view of the premises; the state of the court calendar both in the District where the case is pending and in the District to which it is sought have the case transferred." Chicago R.I. & R.P. Co. v. Igoe, 220 F.2d 299, 303 (7th Cir. 1955).

"In passing on a motion for transfer, the district judge must consider the statutory factors in light of all the circumstances of the case. The weighing of factors for and against transfer necessarily involves a large degree of subtlety and latitude, and, therefore, is committed to the sound discretion of the trial judge." Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219 (7th Cir. 1986). Furthermore, "[t]he movant.has the burden of establishing, by reference to particular circumstances, that the transferee forum is clearly more convenient." Id. at 219-20. However, "[l]ess of a showing of inconvenience is needed for a § 1404(a) transfer than that for a forum non conveniens dismissal." Id. at 220.

A. Plaintiff's Choice of Venue

Defendant argues that plaintiff's choice of venue in this case is not entitled to deference because there is no relationship or nexus between the cause of action and the Southern District of Illinois. While courts generally respect a plaintiff's choice of forum, the Seventh Circuit has held that a plaintiff's freedom to select his or her own forum "has minimal value where none of the conduct complained of occurred in the forum selected by the plaintiff .." Igoe, 220 F.2d at 304 (quoting Josephson v. McGuire, 121 F. Supp. 83, 84 (D.C. Mass. 1954)). In the record on this case, plaintiff's own affidavit fails to make any connection at all between the work-related injuries that give rise to the complaint and the Southern District of Illinois. The affidavit provides that plaintiff's employment with CSX required him "to travel East to Alliance and Williard, Ohio, North to Holland and Benton Harbor, Michigan, West to Riverdale and Chicago, Illinois, and in the Chicago Division in Indiana, along the Garrett and Gary line." (Affidavit of Edsall, Sr. at ¶ 2.) Conspicuously absent from the description of plaintiff's various work locations is any mention of any locale within the Southern District of Illinois. Plaintiff also fails to contest the statement of CSX's Senior Claims Representative, Raymond J. Sheahan, III, that "[a]t no time during his railroad career has [P]laintiff worked in Southern Illinois or in any of the counties located within the jurisdiction of this Court." (Affidavit of. Sheahan at ¶ 5.) Accordingly, this Court finds that plaintiff's choice of venue is of little value because none of the conduct complained of occurred in this District.

The Court is simply not persuaded by plaintiff's assertion that under the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA") his choice of venue is entitled to greater consideration. Simply put, plaintiff lacks any significant connection with this forum. As one court properly stated, "as a general rule, when the plaintiff does not reside in his chosen forum nor have any operative facts occurred within the forum, the plaintiff's choice is entitled to less consideration ...


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