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Barbara R. Daly, Individually and As Executor of the Estate of v. Central Refrigerated Service

July 5, 2011

BARBARA R. DALY, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF JAMES F. DALY, DECEASED PLAINTIFF,
v.
CENTRAL REFRIGERATED SERVICE, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is Defendant's motion to transfer venue to the Southern District of Iowa [8]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Defendant's motion.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

On May 11, 2009, a tractor-trailer driven by Anthony Johnson, an employee of Defendant Central Refrigerated Service, Inc. ("Defendant"), collided with a vehicle driven by Plaintiff Barbara J. Daly ("Plaintiff") on Interstate 80 in Scott County, Iowa. Plaintiff suffered injuries as a result of the accident. Her husband, James F. Daly -- who was a passenger in her vehicle at the time -- died following the collision. Todd Iagulli, an individual in a separate vehicle, was injured in the same accident. Mr. Iagulli filed a lawsuit against Defendant in Iowa state court, which Defendant removed to the Southern District of Iowa (in which jurisdiction the accident took place).*fn1

On August 16, 2010, Plaintiff, a resident of St. Charles, Illinois, filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of Illinois (in which jurisdiction the town of St. Charles is located) against Defendant, which is incorporated under the laws of Nebraska and has its principal place of business in Utah, as well as Anthony Johnson, a resident of Texas. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss and to transfer venue to the Southern District of Iowa on the grounds that Anthony Johnson was a resident of Texas, the accident took place in the jurisdiction of the Southern District of Iowa, and Mr. Iagulli's case concerning the same accident is pending in that jurisdiction. On October 25, 2010, Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the case. She re-filed the case on the following day against Defendant only (not naming Anthony Johnson as a defendant). Count I of Plaintiff's complaint asserts a wrongful death action; Count II seeks recovery of funeral and burial expenses; Count III asserts a negligence claim for personal injury.

On November 21, 2010, Defendant filed the instant motion [8] to transfer venue to the Southern District of Iowa pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).

II. Legal Standard Governing Motions to Transfer Venue

A district court, "[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, * * * may transfer any civil action to any other district court where" jurisdiction and venue would have been proper at the time the suit was initiated. 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Transfer is thus appropriate when (1) venue is proper in the transferor court and venue and jurisdiction would be proper in the proposed transferee court, (2) the transfer would serve the convenience of the parties, (3) the transfer would serve the convenience of the witnesses, and (4) transfer would be in the interests of justice. See Continental Cas. Co. v. Staffing Concepts, Inc. 2009 WL 3055374, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Sep. 18, 2009); see also Research Automation, Inc. v. Schrader-Bridgeport Int'l, Inc., 626 F.3d 973, 978 (7th Cir. 2010); Roberts & Schaefer Co. v. Merit Contracting, Inc., 99 F.3d 248, 254 (7th Cir. 1996). Considering additional factors -- such as the location of material events -- may be appropriate given the Seventh Circuit's teaching that the specified statutory "factors are best viewed as placeholders for a broader set of considerations, the contours of which turn upon the particular facts of each case." Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219 n.3 (7th Cir. 1986); see also Research Automation, 626 F.3d at 98 (holding that the statutory structure of § 1441(a) "affords district courts the opportunity to look beyond a narrow or rigid set of considerations in their determinations").

"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, 796 F.2d at 219. The moving party bears the burden of establishing that a transfer of venue is warranted based on the particular facts of the case. See id. at 219-20. The first factor, the plaintiff's choice of forum, typically is accorded significant weight. See In re Nat'l Presto Indus., Inc., 347 F.3d 662, 664 (7th Cir. 2003) ("[U]nless the balance is strongly in favor of the defendant, the plaintiff's choice of forum should rarely be disturbed" (quoting Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 508 (1947))). The Seventh Circuit has stated, however, that the Plaintiff's choice of forum has only "minimal value where none of the conduct occurred in the forum selected by the plaintiff." Chicago, Rock Island, & Pac. R.R. Co. v. Igoe, 220 F.2d 299, 304 (7th Cir. 1955).

III. Analysis

A. Venue Is Proper in this Court and Would Be Proper in the Proposed Transferee Court

Venue is proper in both this Court and the Southern District of Iowa pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a)(1)-(2). Venue is proper in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a)(1) because Plaintiff resides in the Northern District of Illinois. Venue would be proper in the proposed transferee court under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a)(2) because all of the events giving rise to Plaintiff's claim occurred in the Southern District of Iowa.

B. Convenience of the Parties Favors Transfer

In assessing the convenience of the parties, courts should consider (1) the plaintiff's choice of forum, (2) the location of material events, (3) the availability and accessibility of witnesses, (4) the relative ease of access to sources of proof, and (5) the accessibility of resources in each forum. See Research Automation, ...


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