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Cedillo v. Transcor America, LLC

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

August 27, 2013

RUBEN CEDILLO, TERRY HOUSTON, JUSTIN WRIGHT, CRAIG ARNO, ALONZO Related CLEAVES, JOHN GREENEMEIER, JOHN ROUSSEL, LEONARD HUGALL, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
TRANSCOR AMERICA, LLC, and DOES 1 through 100, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE

SUSAN ILLSTON, District Judge.

Currently before the Court is defendant's motion to transfer venue to the Middle District of Tennessee. Pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b), the Court determines that the matter is appropriate for resolution without oral argument, and VACATES the hearing scheduled for August 30, 2013. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS defendants' motion to transfer venue.

BACKGROUND

On April 8, 2013, plaintiffs filed this putative class action against TransCor America, LLC ("TransCor") and Does 1-100. Plaintiffs are inmates and TransCor is a Tennessee corporation whose business entails the transportation of pretrial detainees and prisoners throughout the United States on behalf of federal, state and local governments. Compl. ¶ 1. Plaintiffs allege that TransCor "transported them sitting in vehicles, in full restraints including handcuffs, leg irons, waist chains, black boxes and connector chains" for more that 59, 67, or 95 continuous hours. Id. ¶ 2. Plaintiffs allege that TransCor's use of excessive force and its official policies, practices, and customs amounted to cruel and unusual punishment and violated their rights under the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Id. ¶ 3. The complaint also alleges a cause of action under the Bane Civil Rights Act, California Civil Code § 52.1. Id. ¶ 4.

There are eight named plaintiffs. Plaintiff Cedillo is a resident of Fresno, California, who was transported from Coalinga, California to Fresno through several counties in the Northern District of California. Compl. ¶¶ 9, 29. His trip took over 59 hours, his restraints caused several injuries, he was not allowed to lie down, and he was sprayed with Lysol disinfectant. Id. ¶¶ 29-30. Plaintiff Houston is a resident of Elroy, Arizona, who was transported from Redding, California to San Luis Obisbo, California, through several counties in the Northern District of California. Id. ¶ 10, 31. His trip lasted over 59 hours, his restraints caused his hands to become swollen, he was not allowed to lie down or stand up, and his guards refused to give him bathroom breaks when he needed them. Id. ¶¶ 31-32.

The six other plaintiffs are residents of Florida (Wright and Hugall), New Jersey (Arno and Greenemeier), Georgia (Cleaves), and Wisconsin (Roussel). Id. ¶ 11-16. It appears that none of these six plaintiffs were transported through California.

Plaintiffs filed this action on behalf of a class consisting of all "inmates transported by Defendant TransCor on or after February 14, 2006, who were forced to remain in a TransCor vehicle for more than 59 continuous hours." Id. ¶ 47. The class is divided into three subclasses: (1) inmates who were transported for 59 to 67 continuous hours, (2) inmates who were transported for 67 to 95 continuous hours, and (3) inmates who were transported for greater than 95 continuous hours. Id.

This case is related to a similar class action filed in this Court, Schilling v. TransCor America, LLC, C 08-00941-SI (N.D. Cal. filed Feb. 14, 2008). In Schilling, the class consisted of inmates who were transported by TransCor for greater than 24 hours. The Court found as a matter of law that the conditions of confinement challenged by plaintiffs - transportation of prisoners over a period of 24 hours or more - did not, on a class-wide basis and without more, constitute unconstitutional deprivations under the Eighth or Fourteenth Amendments. Schilling, Docket No. 205 at 15.

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 citations and quotation omitted). A motion for transfer lies within the broad discretion of the district court, and must be determined on an individualized basis. See Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 498 (9th Cir. 2000).

To support a motion for transfer, the moving party must establish: "(1) that venue is proper in the transferor district; (2) that the transferee district is one where the action might have been brought; and (3) that the transfer will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and will promote the interest of justice." Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 820 F.Supp. 503, 506 (C.D. Cal. 1992).

Courts evaluate the following factors to determine which venue is more convenient to the parties and the witnesses: (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. See Williams v. Bowman, 157 F.Supp.2d 1103, 1106 (N.D. Cal. 2001); see also Jones v. GNC Franchising Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 498-99 (9th Cir. 2000). The Court has broad discretion to address these factors based on the particular facts of each case. E. & J. Gallo Winery v. F. & P. S.p.A., 899 F.Supp. 465, 466 (E.D. Cal. 1994).

DISCUSSION

As an initial matter, the Court finds that venue is proper either in this district or in the Middle District of Tennessee. In an action where jurisdiction is founded on diversity of citizenship, venue is generally proper in a district where any defendant resides. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(1). "[A] defendant that is a corporation is deemed to reside in any judicial district in which it is subject to personal jurisdiction at the time the action is commenced." Id. § 1391(c). TransCor has conceded that venue is proper in the Northern District of California as to the claims of Plaintiffs Cedillo and Houston, because of their transportation through the Norther District ...


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