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Johns v. Panera Bread Co.

July 21, 2008

PATI JOHNS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PANERA BREAD COMPANY, A DELAWARE CORPORATION; AND PANERA LLC, A DELAWARE LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: United States District Judge United States District Court

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the Court on the Motion to Transfer Venue ("Motion") filed by the defendants Panera Bread Company and Panera LLC (collectively "Panera" or "Defendants"). Docket No. 6. The plaintiff Pati Johns ("Plaintiff" or "Johns") filed an 22 Opposition and Panera submitted a Reply. Docket Nos. 15, 18. For 23 the following reasons, Panera's Motion is GRANTED.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, a resident of Antioch, California, was employed as a General Manager at the Antioch Panera bakery-cafe from March 28 2005, until January 12, 2008. First Am. Compl. ("FAC"), Docket No. 3, ¶ 6. Panera is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Richmond Heights, Missouri. Id. ¶ 7. Panera owns and operates approximately 500 bakeries nationwide, 32 of which are located in California. Id. ¶ 10; Higgins Decl., Docket 5 No. 7, ¶ 9.*fn1

Plaintiff brought the present action alleging wage and hour violations on behalf of two putative classes against Panera. The first is a nationwide, Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA) opt-in collective action. Id. ¶ 21. The second putative class is defined as "[a]ll current and former General Managers employed by Panera in the State of California within the last four years."

Id. ¶ 22. The second putative class alleges violations of various California laws, including the California Labor Code and California's Business and Professions Code § 17200 et seq. Id. ¶¶ 44-69.

III. 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 § 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." Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964) (internal quotation marks omitted). "A motion for transfer lies within the broad discretion of the district court, and must be determined on an individualized basis." Foster v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., No. C 07-4928, 2007 WL 4410408, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 14, 2007) (relying on Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 498 (9th Cir. 2000)). To support a motion for transfer, the moving party must establish that venue is proper in the transferor district, the transferee district is one where the action might have been brought, and the transfer will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and will promote the interests of justice.

Foster, 2007 WL 4410408, at *2. It is clear, and the parties do not argue otherwise, that venue in this district is proper and 1that the action might have been brought in the proposed transferee district, the Eastern District of Missouri. See Opp'n at 2. Thus, the issue to be decided is whether Panera has satisfied its burden of demonstrating that transfer will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and will promote the interests of justice.

In determining this issue, courts look to the following factors: (1) plaintiff's choice of forum; (2) convenience of the parties and witnesses; (3) ease of access to the evidence; (4) familiarity of each forum with the applicable law; (5) feasibility of consolidation with other claims; (6) any local interest in the controversy; and (7) the relative court congestion and time of trial in each forum. See Foster, 2007 WL 4410408, at *2. In addition, a forum selection clause is a significant but not dispositive factor in a court's § 1404(a) analysis. Jones, 211 F.3d at 498.

IV. DISCUSSION

A. Plaintiff's Choice of Forum

In general, a plaintiff's choice of forum carries substantial 6 weight in a motion to transfer venue. See, e.g., Foster, 2007 WL 7 4410408, at *2; Flint v. UGS Corp., No. C 07-4640, 2007 WL 4365481, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 12, 2007). In class actions, however, a plaintiff's choice of forum is often accorded less weight. See Lou v. Belzberg, 834 F.2d 730, 739 (9th Cir. 1987) (stating that "[a]lthough great weight is generally accorded plaintiff's choice of forum, . . . when an individual . . . represents a class, the named plaintiff's choice of forum is given less weight"). "In judging the weight to be accorded [the plaintiff's] choice ...


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