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Falkenstein v. Shipco Transport, Inc.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

October 24, 2013

JOHN FALKENSTEIN, Plaintiff,
v.
SHIPCO TRANSPORT, INC., Defendant.

ORDER ON MOTION TO CHANGE VENUE Re: Dkt. No. 11

WILLIAM H. ORRICK, District Judge.

Before the Court is the Motion to Change Venue of defendant Shipco Transport, Inc. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS the motion and hereby TRANSFERS this action to the Central District of California.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff John Falkenstein's ("Falkenstein") First Amended Complaint ("FAC") alleges that Shipco Transport, Inc. ("Shipco") is liable for a default judgment that he obtained against Shipco Transport SDN BHD ("Shipco Malaysia") for injuries sustained while working as a longshoreman at the Port of Los Angeles. FAC ¶¶ 4-8. Falkenstein's FAC asserts that Shipco is liable for the debts of Shipco Malaysia because they are "one and the same entity" and states causes of action alleging fraudulent conveyance, alter ego, and resulting trust. FAC ¶ 8.

Falkenstein is a resident of Los Angeles County. FAC ¶ 1. Shipco is a corporation organized under the laws of the State of New Jersey with its principal place of business in New Jersey and offices throughout the United States, including branch offices in Los Angeles and the City of South San Francisco. FAC ¶ 2. Shipco Malaysia is a corporation organized under the laws of Malaysia with its principal place of business in Malaysia. FAC ¶ 3.

Falkenstein filed the underlying personal injury action in the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles. Dkt. No. 11, Declaration of Robert G. Campbell ("Campbell Decl.") ¶ 3. Shipco Malaysia failed to appear, and on December 17, 2009, the court entered a default judgment against it for $3, 238, 390.02. See FAC, Ex. B. After obtaining the default judgment, Falkenstein began collection proceedings and took post-judgment discovery aimed at several entities in Southern California, including Shipco's branch office in Los Angeles County. Dkt. No. 11 at 1.

Falkenstein deposed two employees of the Shipco Los Angeles branch office, Aidee Gamino and Gary Osterbach, who testified that Shipco and Shipco Malaysia are "related entities" and that the Shipco Los Angeles office handles "operational issues" with Shipco Malaysia "on a daily basis." Compl. ¶¶ 10, 15. They also stated that bookkeeping, accounting, and financial transactions between Shipco and Shipco Malaysia are handled through Shipco's corporate headquarters in New Jersey. Cook Decl., Ex. E at 28:7-17; 29:9-24; 59:5-18; 65:17-66:6.

Falkenstein originally filed this case in the Superior Court of California, San Francisco County, and Shipco removed the case to this Court. Dkt No. 1. Shipco asserts that venue in the Northern District is inconvenient because the underlying injury, tort action, and post-judgment discovery occurred in the Central District of California. Dkt. No. 11. Shipco also alleges that as of the date of its Motion to Change Venue, Shipco Malaysia is appealing the underlying default judgment and Falkenstein continues to conduct collection proceedings in Los Angeles. Dkt No. 11 at 1-2. Falkenstein counters that the case should not be transferred to the Central District because relevant evidence and potential witnesses are located in New Jersey. Dkt. No. 12 at 7-8. In its reply brief, Shipco proposes transferring the case to New Jersey as an alternative to a transfer to the Central District of California. Dkt. No. 15 at 1-2. Falkenstein did not seek leave to file a sur-reply. At the hearing on October 23, 2013, Falkenstein stated that if the case is transferred, he has a strong preference for the Central District of California because it is more convenient for him and witnesses are located in Southern California.

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 section 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). The moving party bears the burden of showing that the inconvenience of litigating in this forum favors transfer. Florens Container v. Cho Yang Shipping, 245 F.Supp.2d 1086, 1088 (N.D. Cal. 2002). A motion for transfer lies within the broad discretion of the district court, and must be determined on an individualized basis. 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." Williams v. Bowman, 157 F.Supp.2d 1103, 1106 (N.D. Cal. 2001).

Courts evaluate the following factors to determine which venue is more convenient: (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, 157 F.Supp.2d at 1106. The Court has broad discretion to address these factors based on the particular facts of each case. Inherent.com v. Martindale-Hubbell, 420 F.Supp.2d 1093, 1098 (N.D. Cal. 2006).

DISCUSSION

I. VENUE IS PROPER IN EACH OF THE ...


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