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Contact Office Installations, Inc. v. Hollman, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

November 28, 2017

CONTRACT OFFICE INSTALLATIONS, INC. d/b/a SITELINE INTERIOR CARPENTRY, Plaintiff,
v.
HOLLMAN, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          HONORABLE MARVIN E. ASPEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Contract Office Installations, Inc., d/b/a Siteline Interior Company (“Siteline”) filed this breach of contract action in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, alleging Defendant Hollman, Inc. (“Hollman”) failed to pay Siteline for work it performed installing wood and laminate lockers in four fitness facilities. (Notice of Removal (Dkt. No. 1).) Hollman removed the case to federal court on May 18, 2017 and filed its answer on June 8, 2017. (Dkt. Nos. 1, 8.) Presently before us is Hollman's motion to transfer venue to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division. (Mot. (Dkt. No. 12).) For the reasons stated below, we deny Hollman's motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Hollman is a Texas corporation with its principal place of business in Irving, Texas. (Notice of Removal ¶ 4; Compl. (Dkt. No. 1-1) ¶ 2.) Hollman manufactures wood and laminate lockers in Texas for various facilities, including fitness centers, country clubs, and colleges. (Compl. ¶ 2; Hollman Aff. (Dkt. No. 12-1) at 1.) Hollman sells the lockers it manufacturers to various purchasers around the country. (Hollman Aff. at 1.) Hollman arranges for the delivery of the lockers, but it does not perform installation. (Id.) In some instances, Hollman contracts out the installation to independent contractors. (Id. at 2.)

         Siteline is a Midlothian, Illinois interior carpentry subcontractor engaged in various construction projects in the Chicago area. (Compl. ¶ 1.) As relevant here, Siteline entered into contracts to install Hollman's lockers in connection with construction projects at (1) the Los Angeles Valley College Athletic Training Facility (“the LA Valley Project”); (2) the Chicago Cubs' locker room at Wrigley Field (the “Wrigley Project”); (3) Credit Suisse in New York City (the ”Credit Suisse Project”); and (4) the Naperville Park District in Naperville, Illinois (the “Fort Hill Project”). (Id. ¶ 4.) Siteline alleges it contracted with Hollman for each project. (See Id. ¶¶ 5-19.)

         However, Hollman asserts it entered into installation contracts with Cal Installations, LLC (“Cal Installations”), a Texas-based company, to furnish labor and materials in connection with the installation of Hollman's lockers, and Cal Installations subcontracted work for each of the facilities to Siteline. (Jefferson Aff. (Dkt. No. 12-2) at 1.) Hollman contends it did not participate in the agreements between Cal Installations and Siteline. (Mot. at 3.) It asserts that the “majority of the communications surrounding these agreements came in the form of agreements between Cal Installations representative, Scott Jefferson, and Siteline, where Siteline would send correspondence and invoices to Cal Installations located in Texas.” (Id.) Neither Cal Installations nor Jefferson is named as a defendant.

         Siteline brought suit against Hollman on March 14, 2017 in state court, asserting claims for breach of contract and, in the alternative, quantum meruit. It alleges that Hollman required Siteline to furnish labor and materials for the LA Valley, Wrigley, Credit Suisse, and Fort Hill Projects, and despite performing all of its contractual duties, Hollman failed to pay Siteline for all of the labor and materials it provided. (Id. ¶¶ 15-54.) After removing the case to federal court and filing its answer, Hollman moved to transfer this action to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Hollman argues transfer would serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses because the operative facts giving rise to the litigation, the situs of material events, the location of proof, and critical witnesses all have a stronger connection to Texas than to Siteline's chosen forum in Illinois. (Mot. at 1.) Hollman also contends the interests of justice favor transfer. (Id. at 2.)

         On September 26, 2017, we requested additional briefing on Hollman's motion to transfer. (Dkt. No. 19.) Both parties filed supplemental briefs in compliance with our Order on October 16, 2017. (Dkt. Nos. 20-21.)

         ANALYSIS

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), a district court may “for the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice . . . transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought.” To succeed on a motion to transfer under § 1404(a), the defendant, as the moving party, bears the burden of showing that: (1) venue is proper in the district where the action was originally filed, (2) venue would be proper in the transferee court, and (3) the transfer will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses as well as the interests of justice. Republic Techs. (NA), LLC v. BBK Tobacco & Foods, LLC, 240 F.Supp.3d 848, 851 (N.D. Ill. 2016); Morton Grove Pharmss., Inc. v. Nat'l Pediculosis Ass'n, 525 F.Supp.2d 1039, 1044 (N.D. Ill. 2007); Graham v. United Parcel Serv., 519 F.Supp.2d 801, 809 (N.D. Ill. 2007). In deciding whether transfer is proper under § 1404(a), we resolve factual conflicts in the non-moving party's favor. Cinema Sys., Inc. v. Lab Methods Corp., 545 F.Supp. 403, 405, n.4 (N.D. Ill. 1982); see also Middleby Marshall, Inc. v. Enertex, Inc., No. 87 C 5338, 1987 WL 16906, at *4 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 9, 1987).

         Here, the parties do not dispute that venue is proper in both this district and the transfer district; accordingly, we focus on whether the transfer will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and the interests of justice. Deciding whether to transfer a case requires “flexible and individualized analysis” based on the circumstances of a particular case. Research Automation, Inc. v. Schrader-Bridgeport Int'l, Inc., 626 F.3d 973, 978 (7th Cir. 2010) (internal citations omitted); see also Graham, 519 F.Supp.2d at 809. District courts determine the weight given to each factor and have wide discretion in deciding whether transfer is appropriate. N. Shore Gas Co. v. Salomon Inc., 152 F.3d 642, 648 (7th Cir. 1998); Tice v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 162 F.3d 966, 974 (7th Cir. 1988); Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219 (7th Cir. 1986).

         A. Convenience Factors

         As the party seeking transfer, Hollman has the burden to show that “the transferee forum is clearly more convenient” than the transferor forum. Heller Fin., Inc. v. Midwhey Powder Co., Inc., 883 F.2d 1286, 1293 (7th Cir. 1989) (internal citations omitted); Coffey, 796 F.2d at 219; Graham, 519 F.Supp.2d at 809. In deciding whether transfer would promote convenience, courts consider such factors as: “(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 parties; and (5) the convenience of witnesses.” Morton Grove Pharms., 525 F.Supp.2d at 1044 (citing Schwartz v. Nat'l Van Lines, Inc., 317 F.Supp.2d 829, 835 (N.D. Ill. 2004)); see also Graham, 519 F.Supp.2d at 809-10.

         1. Plaintiff's ...


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