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Pete Tittl et al v. Hilton Worldwide

March 13, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jennifer L. Thurston United States Magistrate Judge


Defendants Hilton Worldwide, Inc. and Hilton Reservations Worldwide, LLC ("Defendants" or "Hilton") seek a change of venue to the Central District. (Doc. 20 at 1). Plaintiffs Pete Tittl and Ryan Bohlim ("Plaintiffs") filed their opposition on February 27, 2013 (Doc. 25), to which Defendants filed a reply on March 6, 2013 (Doc. 26). On March 13, 2013, the Court heard oral arguments of the parties. At that time, the Court's tentative ruling was to deny the motion and stay the action. However, after further reflection, review of the case authority and review of the Local Rules of the Central District, the Court reverses itself. Therefore, for the following reasons, Defendants' motion is GRANTED.

I. Factual and Procedural History

Rick Young initiated an action against Hilton Worldwide, Inc., and Hilton Reservations Worldwide, LLC by filing a complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court on January 27, 2012.*fn1 (Doc. 2 19-1 at 1). The defendants removed the action to the Central District, where the court granted their 3 motion to dismiss the complaint. (Doc. 19-2 at 1; Young v. Hilton, Case No. CV12-1788 R (PJWxx), 4 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84163 (C.D. Cal. June 18, 2012)). The court found Young was unable to state 5 a claim under Cal. Penal Code § 632 because he "had no objectively reasonable expectation that his 6 conversation with the 1-800 HAMPTON number would not be overheard or recorded." Accordingly, 7 the complaint was dismissed with prejudice on June 18, 2012. Id. 8

On October 17, 2012, Pete Tittl initiated this class action in the Kern County Superior Court by 9 filing a complaint against Defendants in Case No. S-1500-CV- 277927 SPC. (Doc. 1, Exh. A). He alleged Defendants illegally recorded his telephone conversations and were liable for violations of Cal. Penal Code §630 and Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200. Id. In addition, Mr. Tittl filed a "Notice of Related Case" with the complaint, identifying Young v. Hilton Worldwide, Inc. as an action "involving the same parties and . . . the same or similar claims." (Doc. 1-1 at 24). On December 14, 2012, Defendants filed a notice of removal, thereby commencing the action in this Court. (Doc. 1).

Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint on January 11, 2013, identifying Ryan Bohlim as an additional plaintiff and alleging Defendants were also liable for illegal cellular and cordless conversation recording pursuant to Cal. Penal Code § 632.7. (Doc. 15). According to Plaintiffs, "Hilton has engaged in a pattern and practice of recording and/or eavesdropping on . . . confidential telephone conversations and conversations on cellular phones between Hilton representatives and persons with whom those representatives speak to on the telephone . . . in violation of California Penal Code sections 632 and 632.7." Id. at 7.

On February 1, 2013, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim (Doc. 17) and a motion to change venue to the Central District of California or, in the alternative, to stay the action (Doc. 20). To maximize the Court's limited resources, the Court declined to take action on the motion to dismiss pending the outcome of Defendant's motion to change venue, which is now before the Court. (Doc. 24) 2

II. Legal Standard

"For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may 4 transfer any civil matter to any other district or division where it might have been brought." 28 U.S.C. 5 § 1404(a). The Supreme Court explained the § 1404(a) analysis should be an "individualized, case-6 by-case consideration of convenience and fairness." Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 622 (1964). 7

Accordingly, courts consider several factors, including: 8

(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 with 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 Decker Coal Co. v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 805 F.2d 834, 843 (9th Cir. 1986)); see also Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 498-99 (9th Cir. 2000). Further, the Court may consider "administrative difficulties flowing from court congestion and [the] local interest in having localized controversies decided at home." Decker Coal, 805 F.2d at 843.

The party seeking a change of venue has the burden to demonstrate the transfer is appropriate. Commodity Futures Trading Comm'n v. Savage, 611 F.2d 270, 279 (9th Cir. 1979). Whether to grant a change of venue is within the discretion of a district court. See Ventress v. Japan Airlines, 486 F.3d 1111, 1118 (9th Cir. 2007) (explaining the determination of venue "involves subtle considerations and is best left to the discretion of the trial judge").

III. Discussion and Analysis

A. Convenience of the parties

Evaluating the parties' convenience, the Court considers Plaintiffs' choice of forum, the parties' contacts with the forum, and the contacts relating to Plaintiffs' claims in the chosen forum. Jones v. GNC Franchising, 211 F.3d 495, 498-99 (9th Cir. 2000), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 928 (2000).

As an initial matter, Plaintiffs and defendant disagree over the amount of weight that should be given to the plaintiffs' choice of forum. The Ninth Circuit explained the Court "must balance the preference accorded plaintiff's choice of forum with the burden of litigating in an inconvenient forum." Jones, 211 F.3d at 498. In general, a plaintiff's choice of forum is given substantial weight, 2 because courts attach a "strong presumption in favor of [the] plaintiff's choice of forum." Piper 3 Aircraft v. Reyno 454 U.S. 235, 255 (1981); Decker Coal, 805 F.2d at 843. However, ...

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