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Goel v. Patni Computer Systems

May 11, 2007

VISHAL GOEL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PATNI COMPUTER SYSTEMS, INC. DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Byron G. Cudmore, U.S. Magistrate Judge

OPINION

Plaintiff filed this lawsuit in McClean County Circuit Court against his former employer, Patni Computer Systems, Inc. ("Patni"). Patni removed the case to federal court based on diversity jurisdiction, to which Plaintiff did not object.

The case is now before the Court on Defendant's motion to transfer venue to the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1404 (a). (d/e 6). For the reasons below, the Court denies the motion.

BACKGROUND

Patni is a company organized under the laws of the Republic of India, providing computer consultants to businesses throughout the United States. (Complaint ¶ 10). Patni asserts it is incorporated in Massachusetts and has its principal place of business in Massachusetts. Patni has a registered agent in Illinois, and its Illinois clients include the State Farm Fire and Casualty Company ("State Farm") located in Bloomington. (Complaint ¶ 12). Reportedly, about 80 Patni employees work in the Bloomington office and nearly 400 Patni employees work in the Bloomington area. (d/e 12, p. 6).

Pursuant to a "Master Alliance Agreement," Patni fills works orders from State Farm with Patni employees. (Complaint ¶ 13, 23-26). Apparently pursuant to such a work order, Patni employed Plaintiff, a citizen of India, to provide computer consulting for State Farm in Bloomington, Illinois, beginning in January 2004. (Complaint ¶ 13). Plaintiff came into the United States to perform this work on "H-1B non-immigrant status." Id. This status was achieved on petition by Patni and approval by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. (Complaint ¶ 14, 27). Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, H-1B employees must be paid the prevailing local wage or the actual wage, whichever is greater, in order to eliminate economic advantage to hiring foreign workers. (Complaint ¶ 17).

Plaintiff alleges that Patni systemically underpays its H-1B employees by paying them "significantly less than State Farm pays Patni to obtain the services described on the work order . . . ." (Complaint ¶ 30). Patni allegedly also pays less than the actual or prevailing wage, in violation of federal law, and in violation of its representations on the H-1B petition (the "Labor Condition Application Form," or "LCA"). (Complaint ¶ 3).

Patni allegedly represented in its LCA that Plaintiff's annual salary would be $44,000.00, but Plaintiff alleges he was paid significantly less. He also alleges Patni did not pay him for overtime and made improper deductions from his paycheck. Plaintiff maintains that he signed, under duress, a limited power of attorney giving Patni the right to "receive, endorse and deposit" for Patni's benefit any tax refunds due Plaintiff personally. (Complaint ¶61-65).

Plaintiff found other employment in May 2005, apparently in California. After securing that new employment, Plaintiff began making requests to Patni for the money owed him. Patni officials allegedly refused, instead labeling Plaintiff as an "absconder" and demanding "bond." This alleged false characterization precluded Plaintiff from receiving a termination allowance from Patni to which he was entitled. (Complaint ¶ 54, 84). Patni executives also allegedly warned Plaintiff to drop the issue or face trouble in his new job and harassment of his parents in India. (Complaint ¶ 70).

In January 2007, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit in McClean County Circuit Court, pursuing three counts: 1) common law fraud based on Patni's false statements in the LCA (Count I); 2) conversion, based on Patni's wrongful deductions and withholdings from Plaintiff's paycheck (Count II); and, 3) unjust enrichment (Count III), based on Patni's refusal to pay the promised accrued leave, overtime, and salary represented in the LCA.

STANDARD

"For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interests 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). The party seeking the transfer bears the burden of demonstrating the balance tips in their location. Heller Financial, Inc. v. Midwhey Powder Co., Inc., 883 F.2d 1286, 1293 (7th Cir. 1989)(movant "has the burden of showing that 'the transferee forum is clearly more convenient.'")(quoted cite omitted). The decision rests in the discretion of the district court, reviewed for "'clear abuse of discretion.'" Tice v. American Airlines, Inc., 162 F.3d 966, 974 (7th Cir. 1998)(quoted cites omitted); In re National Presto Industries, Inc., 347 F.3d 662, 664-65 (7th Cir. 2003)(declining to grant mandamus seeking venue transfer, even though factors appeared to weigh in favor of transfer).

Plaintiff does not dispute that venue would be proper in Massachusetts. (d/e 12, p.5). Accordingly, the analysis focuses on whether transfer to Massachusetts is "for the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interests of justice."

In assessing the relative convenience of the competing forums, relevant factors include: 1) the plaintiff's choice; 2) the location of material events; and, 3) the accessibility of evidence (documents and witnesses). "[I]nterests of justice" encompasses factors such as efficient court administration (for example, speed of resolution),*fn1 the court's familiarity with the applicable law, and the locale's interest in and relation to the dispute. Coffey v. Van Corn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 220-21 (7th Cir. 1986)(efficiency); Law Bulletin Publishing Co. v. LRP Publications, Inc., 992 F.Supp. 1014, 1019-20 (N.D. Ill. 1998)(judicial economy, court's familiarity with law); ...


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