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Keith Lewis v. Grote Industries

January 24, 2012

KEITH LEWIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GROTE INDUSTRIES, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. Holderman, Chief Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Pending before the court is Defendant Grote Industries, Inc.'s*fn1 "Motion to Dismiss or Alternatively to Transfer Venue." (Dkt. No. 12.) For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted. This matter is hereby transferred to the New Albany Division of the Southern District of Indiana.

BACKGROUND

Grote Industries, LLC ("Grote") is an Indiana Limited Liability Company headquartered in Madison, Indiana, located in southeast Indiana. (Dkt. No. 13, at 1.) Grote's sole business facility in the United States is in Madison, Indiana, where it employs more than one thousand people to manufacture vehicle lighting and safety systems. (Id. at 2.) Grote also has engineering, design, sales, and management personnel at its facility in Madison, and all its business records and inventory is located there. (Id. at 2-3.) Grote sells its products throughout the United States, including making 7% of its sales in Illinois.

Keith Lewis is a citizen and resident of the United Kingdom. (Dkt. No. 17, at 8.) Lewis owns U.S. Patent No. 2,252,407 (the '407 Patent), which covers a lighting apparatus that uses high-power LED lights while also removing the heat that they generate. (Id. at 2.) On October 6, 2011, Lewis filed a complaint in the Northern District of Illinois, alleging that twenty-one different Grote lighting products infringe the '407 Patent. (Dkt. No. 1.)

LEGAL ANALYSIS

Section 1404 of Title 28 of the United States Code provides that "[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." A court may transfer a case under § 1404 when "(1) venue was proper in the transferor district, (2) venue and jurisdiction would be proper in the transferee district, and (3) the transfer will serve the convenience of the parties and the witnesses as well as the interests of justice." United Airlines, Inc. v. Mesa Airlines, Inc., 8 F. Supp. 2d 796, 798 (N.D. Ill. 1998); see also Heller Fin., Inc. v. Midwhey Powder Co., Inc., 883 F.2d 1286, 1293 (7th Cir. 1989). To determine whether the transfer will serve the convenience of the parties and the interests of justice, the court must make an "individualized, case-by-case" determination. Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988) (quotation marks and citation omitted). In that inquiry, Grote, as the moving party, bears the burden of showing that the "transferee forum is clearly more convenient" than the transferor form. Heller Fin., 883 F.2d at 1293 (quotation marks and citation omitted). Additionally, "[d]istrict courts have broad discretion to grant or deny a motion to transfer under § 1404(a) . . . ." Id.

DISCUSSION

The parties do not dispute that venue is proper both here and in the Southern District of Indiana. The court therefore need consider only whether the Southern District of Indiana is clearly more convenient than the Northern District of Illinois. Grote's headquarters and sole facility is in Madison, Indiana, which is in the New Albany Division of the Southern District of Indiana. If the case is transferred to the Southern District of Indiana, trial would likely occur in New Albany, which is just across the Ohio river from Louisville, Kentucky, and is easily accessed from the Louisville airport. Accordingly, the court must evaluate the relative merits of venue in Chicago and New Albany, Indiana, considering the convenience of the parties and witnesses and the interests of justice.

I. Considerations of Convenience

Courts have considered a wide range of convenience factors, including "the plaintiff's choice of forum, the convenience of the witnesses and parties, the situs of material events, and the location of documents and sources of proof." United Air Lines, 8 F. Supp. 2d at 798.

A. Plaintiff's Choice of Forum

Courts have accorded the plaintiff's choice of forum "substantial weight" in the transfer analysis. See, e.g., id. But the weight given to the plaintiff's choice is lessened when, as here, the plaintiff is not a resident of the district he has chosen. See Abbott v. Church & Dwight, Inc., No. 07-C-3428, 2007 WL 3120007, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 23, 2007). The force of the plaintiff's choice is also diminished "if the chosen forum has relatively weak connections with the operative facts giving rise to the claim." Von Holdt v. Husky Injection Molding Sys., Ltd., 887 F. Supp. 185, 188 (N.D. Ill. 1995). The sole connection of the Northern District of Illinois to this litigation is that the defendant sells the allegedly ...


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