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M.K v. Visa Cigna Network Pos Plan

March 14, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lucy H. Koh United States District Judge


Plaintiff M.K. ("Plaintiff") brings suit against Defendant Visa Cigna Network POS Plan ("Defendant" or "Visa Cigna") for allegedly violating the Employee Retirement Income Security 20 Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001 et seq., by wrongfully denying Plaintiff's claims for 21 medical services. See ECF No. 1, ¶ 30 ("Compl."). Before the Court is a Motion to Transfer 22 Venue from the Northern District of California to the District of Utah filed by Defendant Visa 23 Cigna. ECF No. 12 ("Mot. to Transfer"). The Court finds this matter appropriate for 24 determination without oral argument and VACATES the hearing and Case Management 25 Conference set for May 16, 2013. See Civil L.R. 7-1(b). Having reviewed the parties' submissions 26 and the relevant law, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion to Transfer Venue. 27 28


Visa Cigna is an employee welfare benefit plan regulated by ERISA. Compl. ¶ 3. Plaintiff, 3 a minor, is a beneficiary of Visa Cigna by virtue of her father's employment with Visa, Inc. and his 4 participation in the Visa Cigna plan. Compl. ¶¶ 2, 4. Plaintiff, her parents, and her siblings reside 5 in American Fork, Utah. Compl. ¶¶ 2, 8. 6 On June 7, 2011, Plaintiff was admitted to Avalon Hills, an adolescent residential eating 7 disorder treatment facility in Utah. Compl. ¶¶ 19-20. Plaintiff remained in residential treatment at 8 Avalon Hills from June 7, 2011, through her discharge on December 9, 2011. Compl. ¶ 27. 9 On June 9, 2011, Visa Cigna denied Plaintiff's claim for benefits for her residential 10 treatment at Avalon Hills because Visa Cigna believed that this residential treatment was "not medically necessary." See Compl. ¶ 26; Def's Answer to Compl. ("Answer"), ECF No. 11, ¶ 26.

Plaintiff appealed this decision. Compl. ¶ 28. On December 20, 2011, Visa Cigna denied the 13 appeal for the same reasons expressed in the original denial. Compl. ¶ 28. 14 Plaintiff filed her Complaint in this judicial district on September 6, 2012. ECF No. 1. In 15 her Complaint, Plaintiff contends that venue is proper in this judicial district pursuant to 29 U.S.C. 16 § 1132(e)(2), because "Defendant is doing business in this judicial district, in that it covers 17 participants residing and seeking health benefits in this judicial district." Compl. ¶ 5. Visa Cigna 18 answered Plaintiff's Complaint on November 14, 2012. ECF No. 11. On January 14, 2013, Visa 19 Cigna filed a Motion to Transfer Venue from the Northern District of California to the District of 20 Utah. See Mot. to Transfer. Plaintiff filed an opposition to the motion, ECF No. 14. ("Opp'n"), to 21 which Defendant filed a reply, ECF No. 15 ("Reply"). 22


Federal venue is governed by statute. See Bohara v. Backus Hosp. Medical Benefit Plan, 390 F. Supp. 2d 957, 960 (C.D. Cal. 2005) (citing Leroy v. Great Western United Corp., 443 U.S. 25 173, 181 (1979)). ERISA's venue provisions permit a plaintiff to bring a federal action where: "(1) 26 a plan is administered, or (2) a breach took place, or (3) a defendant resides or (4) a defendant may 27 be found." Varsic v. U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, 607 F.2d 245, 248 (9th Cir. 1979) (citing 29 U.S.C. § 1132(e)(2)). Through these provisions, "Congress intended to give ERISA plaintiffs an expansive range of venue locations." Bohara, 390 F. Supp. 2d at 960 2 (citing Varsic, 607 F.2d at 248). 3

A motion to transfer venue from one district to another is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Section 1404(a) provides that: "[f]or the convenience of the parties and witnesses, in 5 the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division 6 where it might have been brought." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). "Section 1404(a) reflects an increased 7 desire to have federal civil suits tried in the federal system at the place called for in the particular 8 case by considerations of convenience and justice." Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 9 (1964). "[T]he purpose of the section is to prevent the waste 'of time, energy and money' and 'to 10 protect litigants, witnesses and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense.'" Id.

(quoting Continental Grain Co. v. The F.B.L.-585, 364 U.S. 19, 27 (1960)).

United States District Court For the Northern District of California

When determining whether a transfer is proper, a court must employ a two-step analysis. A

13 court must first consider the threshold question of whether the case could have been brought in the 14 forum to which the moving party seeks to transfer the case. See Hoffman v. Blaski, 363 U.S. 335, 15 344 (1960); see also Hatch v. Reliance Ins. Co., 758 F.2d 409, 414 (9th Cir. 1985) ("In determining 16 whether an action might have been brought in a district, the court looks to whether the action 17 initially could have been commenced in that district.") (internal quotation marks and citations 18 omitted). Once the party seeking transfer has made this showing, district courts have discretion to 19 consider motions to change venue based on an "individualized, case-by-case consideration of 20 convenience and fairness." Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988) (quoting Van 21 Dusen, 376 U.S. at 622). 22

Pursuant to Section 1404(a), a Court should consider: (1) the convenience of the parties, (2) 23 the convenience of the witnesses, and (3) the interest of justice. 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). As the Ninth 24 Circuit explained in Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495 (9th Cir. 2000), additional 25 factors that a court may consider include: 26

(1) the location where the relevant agreements were negotiated and executed, (2) the state that is most familiar with the governing law, (3) the plaintiff's choice of forum, (4) the respective parties' contacts with the forum, (5) the contacts relating to the plaintiff's cause of action in the chosen forum, (6) the differences in the costs of litigation in the two forums, (7) the availability of compulsory ...

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