The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM ALSUP, District Judge
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO TRANSFER
In these antitrust cases, defendants jointly have moved under
28 U.S.C. 1404(a) to transfer venue to the Southern District of
Texas. Defendants have carried their burden of proving that the
convenience of parties and witnesses, and the interest of
justice, would clearly and substantially be improved by such a
transfer. The motion is therefore GRANTED.
The complaint in the first of these cases was filed May 2,
2005. Certain plaintiffs, a consumers group and individual
consumers, purchased caskets and other funeral-industry products
and services. Another plaintiff, Pioneer Valley Casket Co, Inc.,
is an independent, low-cost casket seller. Defendants are
funeral-home chains, a casket manufacturer and its parent
company. Plaintiffs accuse defendants of violating Sections 1 and
2 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1-2, and the California Unfair Competition Law, Cal. Bus.
& Prof. Code §§ 17200-210. The consumers group, Funeral Consumers
Alliance, Inc., and the individual consumers, sue on behalf of a
putative nationwide class of consumers who bought Batesville
caskets from the funeral-home co-defendants, Service Corporation
International (SCI), Alderwoods Group, Inc., and Stewart
Enterprises, Inc. Pioneer Valley sues on behalf of a putative
nationwide class of independent casket retailers. Specifically,
plaintiffs claim defendants
conspired through a group boycott to prevent
independent casket retailers from selling caskets
marketed under the Batesville brand and others,
engaged in a campaign of disparagement against
independent casket retailers and their wares, and
jointly worked to restrict casket price competition
and to coordinate casket pricing by restricting or
preventing price advertising, sharing price
information and promoting "sham" discounting.
On August 2, 2005, defendants jointly moved under
28 U.S.C. 1404(a) to transfer these cases (collectively, "In re Funeral
Consumers Antitrust Litigation") to the Southern District of
Texas. This motion applies to the following of cases, described
here by plaintiff name and case number: FCA (No. C 05-01804
WHA), Rocha (No. C 05-02501 WHA), Berger, (No. C 05-02502
WHA), Magsarili (No. C 05-02792 WHA), and Pioneer Valley (No.
C 05-02806 WHA).
"For 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."
28 U.S.C. 1404(a). The section's purpose is "to prevent the waste of
time, energy and money and to protect litigants, witnesses and
the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense." Van
Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964) (internal quotation
marks omitted). A district court has discretion "to adjudicate
motions for transfer according to an individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness." Stewart
Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988) (citation
omitted). A court must "balance the preference accorded
plaintiff's choice of forum with the burden of litigating in an
inconvenient forum." Decker Coal Co. v. Commonwealth Edison
Co., 805 F.2d 834, 843 (9th Cir. 1986).
In weighing each case, a court also should consider:
(1) the relative ease of access to sources of proof,
(2) availability of compulsory process for attendance
of unwilling witnesses, (3) the cost of obtaining
attendance of willing witnesses, (4) the possibility
of view of premises, if appropriate to the action,
(5) all other issues related to making a trial easy,
expeditious and inexpensive, (6) the relative
congestion of the two courts, (7) the local interest
in having localized controversies decided at home,
(8) the interest in having the trial of a diversity
case in a forum that is at home with the law that
must govern the action, (9) avoidance of unnecessary
problems in conflict of laws, or in the application
of foreign law, and (10) the unfairness of burdening
citizens in an unrelated forum with jury duty, (11)
the location where relevant agreements were
negotiated and executed, (12) the respective parties'
contacts with the forums, (13) contacts relating to
the plaintiff's causes of action in the chosen forum,
and (14) the differences in the costs of litigation
in the two forums.
Ibid.; Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495
(9th Cir. 2000).
2. ACTION COULD HAVE BEEN BROUGHT IN THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF
There is no dispute that plaintiffs could have brought this
action either here or in the Southern District of Texas. The
unfair competition claim could have been brought in any court of
competent jurisdiction, although this does not mean the
California law reaches extra-territorial conduct. See Cal. Bus.
& Prof. Code § 17203. Antitrust venue may be laid in any district
in which a corporate defendant "may be found or transacts
business." 15 U.S.C. 22. That means that large corporations are
subject to suit in virtually every corner of the country, given
their commonly wide scope of operations these days. Such breadth
of operations provokes motions such as the present one to
transfer venue under 28 U.S.C. 1404(a).
The Court finds that venue would have been proper in the United
States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. It
would have had jurisdiction over the federal antitrust actions under 28 U.S.C. 1331 and supplemental ...