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M.K. v. Visa Cigna Network Pos Plan

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

May 15, 2013

M.K., Plaintiff,
v.
VISA CIGNA NETWORK POS PLAN, Defendant.

AMENDED ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE

LUCY H. KOH, 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 Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001 et seq., by wrongfully denying Plaintiff's claims for medical services. See ECF No. 1, § 30 ("Compl."). Before the Court is a Motion to Transfer Venue from the Northern District of California to the District of Utah filed by Defendant Visa Cigna. ECF No. 12 ("Mot. to Transfer"). The Court finds this matter appropriate for determination without oral argument and VACATES the hearing and Case Management Conference set for May 16, 2013. See Civil L.R. 7-1(b). Having reviewed the parties' submissions and the relevant law, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion to Transfer Venue.

I. BACKGROUND

Visa Cigna is an employee welfare benefit plan regulated by ERISA. Compl. § 3. Plaintiff, a minor, is a beneficiary of Visa Cigna by virtue of her father's employment with Visa, Inc. and his participation in the Visa Cigna plan. Compl. §§ 2, 4. Plaintiff, her parents, and her siblings reside in American Fork, Utah. Compl. §§ 2, 8.

On June 7, 2011, Plaintiff was admitted to Avalon Hills, an adolescent residential eating disorder treatment facility in Utah. Compl. §§ 19-20. Plaintiff remained in residential treatment at Avalon Hills from June 7, 2011, through her discharge on December 9, 2011. Compl. § 27.

On June 9, 2011, Visa Cigna denied Plaintiff's claim for benefits for her residential 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 appeal for the same reasons expressed in the original denial. Compl. § 28.

Plaintiff filed her Complaint in this judicial district on September 6, 2012. ECF No. 1. In her Complaint, Plaintiff contends that venue is proper in this judicial district pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132(e)(2), because "Defendant is doing business in this judicial district, in that it covers participants residing and seeking health benefits in this judicial district." Compl. § 5. Visa Cigna answered Plaintiff's Complaint on November 14, 2012. ECF No. 11. On January 14, 2013, Visa Cigna filed a Motion to Transfer Venue from the Northern District of California to the District of Utah. See Mot. to Transfer. Plaintiff filed an opposition to the motion, ECF No. 14. ("Opp'n"), to which Defendant filed a reply, ECF No. 15 ("Reply").

II. LEGAL STANDARD

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. 173, 181 (1979)). ERISA's venue provisions permit a plaintiff to bring a federal action where: "(1) a plan is administered, or (2) a breach took place, or (3) a defendant resides or (4) a defendant may 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 (citing Varsic, 607 F.2d at 248).

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 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). "Section 1404(a) reflects an increased desire to have federal civil suits tried in the federal system at the place called for in the particular case by considerations of convenience and justice." Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964). "[T]he purpose of the section is to prevent the waste of time, energy and money' and to 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)).

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

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

(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 process to compel attendance of unwilling non-party witnesses, and (8) the ease of access to sources of proof.

Id. at 498-99. "No single factor is dispositive, and a district court has broad discretion to adjudicate motions for transfer on a case-by-case basis." Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. Kempthorne, No. 08-1339, 2008 WL 4543043, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Oct.10, 2008) (citing Stewart Org., Inc., 487 U.S. at ...


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