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GEO. F. MARTIN CO. v. ROYAL INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA

May 14, 2004.

GEO. F. MARTIN COMPANY, et al., Plaintiffs, v ROYAL INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants


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

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE AND TRANSFERRING ACTION TO THE DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA
On May 14, 2004, this Court heard argument on defendants' motion to transfer venue. Having carefully considered the arguments of the parties and the papers submitted, the Court hereby GRANTS defendants' motion and transfers the case to the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. Reasons for the Court's decision are set forth below.

BACKGROUND

  This lawsuit arises out of the parties' relationships to each other concerning events which occurred in Minnesota. Plaintiff Geo. M. Martin Company (Martin) manufactures corrugated stackers for use in the paper processing industry. Plaintiff Gary Forde (Forde) suffered an industrial injury in 1999 in Minnesota while using a Martin stacker, and Forde sued Martin in 2000 in Minnesota as a result (the underlying action). At the time of the injury, defendant Royal Insurance Company of America (Royal) was Martin's excess liability insurance carrier. In March 2002, "[b]efore trial, Forde entered what is known in Minnesota as a `Loy-Teigen' agreement, whereby he accepted the limits of Martin's primary insurance and agreed to limit his recovery at trial to the limits of Martin's excess coverage with Royal-515 million." Motion at 1, 3. Plaintiffs allege that "[a]s the case proceeded toward trial, Forde again offered to settle with Martin for an amount within Royal's policy limit, but Royal refused to settle." Oppo. at 2.

  After trial in Minnesota, the jury assessed Fordes' compensatory damages at $35 million. Id Royal paid its policy limit of $15 million in accord withe the Loy-Teigen agreement. Although "Forde had waived any damages in excess of Royal's policy limits, Martin voluntarily paid him another $5 million to avoid further litigation." Motion at 2.

  In the instant lawsuit, Forde and Martin allege that "Royal wrongfully failed to settle the underlying action within its $15 million excess policy limit." Motion at 2. Forde sues as an assignee of Martin's insurance claim. Id Despite the existence of the Loy-Teigen settlement agreement, Forde alleges that he is entitled to $19 million, while Martin alleges that it is entitled to $5 million. Id. Now before the Court is Royal's motion to transfer the action to the United States District Court for the District for Minnesota.

  LEGAL STANDARD

  "For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil matter to any other district or division where it might have been brought." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The purpose of section 1404(a) is to "`prevent the waste of time, energy, and money' and `to protect litigants, witnesses and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense.'" VanDusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616, 84 S.Ct. 805, 809 (1964). citing Continental Grain Co. v. The FBL-585, 364 U.S. 19, 26-27, 80 So. Ct. 1470, 1474-75 (1960). A motion for transfer lies within the broad discretion of the district court, and must be determined on an individualized basis. See Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 498 (9th Cir. 20001 citing Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29, 108 S.Ct. 2239, 2244 (1988).

  To support a motion for transfer, the moving party must establish: (1) that venue is proper in the transferor district; (2) that the transferee district is one where the action might have been brought; and (3) that the transfer will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and will promote the interests of justice. See Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 820 F. Supp. 503, 506 (C.D. Cal. 1992). In determining the convenience of the parties and witnesses and the interests of justice, courts in this district have recently considered the following factors: (1) plaintiff's choice of forum, (2) convenience of the parties, (3) convenience of the witnesses, (4) ease of access to the evidence, (5) familiarity of each forum with the applicable law, (6) feasibility of consolidation of other claims, (7) any local interest in the controversy, and (8) the relative court congestion and time of trial in each forum.

 Williams v. Bowman. 157 F. Supp.2d 1103, 1106 (N.D. Cal. 2001). citing Queentex Enterprises, Inc. v. Sara Lee Corp., 2000 WL 246599 at *2 (N.D. Cal. 2000) (additional citation omitted).

  As the Williams court noted, this "list does not exhaust the possibilities." Id. See. e.g. Decker Coal Co. v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 805 F.2d 834, 843 (9th Cir. 1986); Jones, 211 F.3d at 498-99. Like the Williams court, this Court finds that the Queentex test "comports with the text of section 1404(a) and Ninth Circuit precedent." Williams, at 1106.*fn1

  DISCUSSION

  On a motion to transfer, the moving party must first demonstrate that venue is proper in both the transferor and transferee courts, as required by the first two components of the Goodyear test. Thereafter, the court uses the multi-factor determination set forth in Queentex to establish the third element of Goodyear: convenience to the parties and witnesses, and the interests of justice. No party contests the fact that this action could have been brought in Minnesota. As explained below, this Court finds that the balance of factors weighs in favor of transfer.

 1. Plaintiff's choice of forum

  Generally, a court affords a plaintiff's choice of forum "substantial weight." Williams. 157 F. Supp.2d at 1106 (citation omitted). However, a court will substantially reduce its deference to a plaintiff's choice of forum when the plaintiff does not reside in the venue or when the forum lacks a significant connection to the activities alleged in the complaint, Id. Finally, "[i]f there is any indication that plaintiff's ...


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