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Ambriz v. Coca Cola Co.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

January 27, 2014

DANIEL AMBRIZ, Plaintiff,
v.
COCA COLA COMPANY, Defendant.

ORDER TRANSFERRING ACTION TO CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA Re: ECF No. 22

JON S. TIGAR, District Judge.

In this proposed California class action alleging California Labor Code violations against Defendant The Coca-Cola Company ("Coca-Cola") moves to dismiss, or alternatively, to transfer this action to the Central District of California on the basis of improper venue. ECF No. 22. Plaintiff Daniel Ambriz resides and worked for Coca-Cola in the Central District of California, but filed this proposed class action in the Northern District of California. Ambriz's central contentions in opposing the motion are (1) that venue is proper in this district because jurisdiction over Coca-Cola exists here and (2) that the Court should consider contacts between absent members of the putative class in determining venue. As set forth below, the Court rejects these contentions and concludes that venue is improper in this district and, even if venue were proper, the case should be transferred to the Central District of California in the interests of justice and for the convenience of the parties and witnesses.

I. BACKGROUND

Ambriz filed this proposed class action on July 31, 2013, against Coca-Cola for violations of the California Labor Code and related statutory claims. Ambriz alleges he was employed by Coca-Cola as a field service technician from June 1998 to June 2013. He asserts seven claims against Coca-Cola on his own behalf and on behalf of thirteen subclasses of Coca-Cola's California employees: (1) violations of California Labor Code sections 204, 223, 226.7, 512, and 1198 for failure to provide meal periods; (2) violations of California Labor Code sections 204, 223, 226.7, and 1198 for failure to provide rest periods; (3) violations of California Labor Code sections 223, 510, 1194, 1197, and 1198 for failure to pay hourly and overtime wages; (4) violation of California Labor Code section 226 for failure to provide accurate written wage statements; (5) violation of Labor Code sections 201-203 for late payment of final wages under California; (6) violation of California's Unfair Competition Law; and (7) violations of California's Private Attorney General Act. First Am. Compl. ("FAC"), ECF No. 12.

Coca-Cola moved to dismiss the operative First Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim on September 18, 2013. ECF No. 13. The Court denied that motion in its entirety on November 5, 2013. ECF No. 27. Neither the original Complaint nor the First Amended Complaint state either where Ambriz resides or the location of his employment with Coca-Cola.

According to Coca-Cola, on October 21, 2013, while Coca-Cola's first motion to dismiss was under submission, the parties held a Rule 26(f) conference during which Ambriz's counsel requested that Coca-Cola stipulate to proper venue in the parties' joint case management statement. Sims Decl., ECF No. 22-5 ¶ 2. As part of this request, Ambriz's counsel "revealed for the first time that Plaintiff had worked in the Los Angeles area.'" Id . Ambriz does not contest that the first time he informed Coca-Cola that he worked in Southern California was at the Rule 26(f) conference. The instant motion to dismiss was filed seven days later. In its motion, Coca-Cola states that Ambriz was employed as a Customer Service Technician in Irvine, California, which is located in the Central District of California. Mot. at 2;[1] Luquin-Cooper Decl., ECF No. 22-4 ¶ 3. According to Coca-Cola's personnel records, Ambriz resides in Inglewood, California. Luquin-Cooper Decl. ¶ 4.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

The burden of establishing proper venue lies with Ambriz. Piedmont Label Co. v. Sun Garden Packing Co. , 598 F.2d 491, 496 (9th Cir. 1979). All reasonable inferences and factual conflicts must be resolved in his favor. See Murphy v. Schneider Nat'l, Inc. , 362 F.3d 1133, 1138 (9th Cir. 2004). "The district court of a district in which is filed a case laying venue in the wrong division or district shall dismiss, or if it be in the interest of justice, transfer such case to any district or division in which it could have been brought." 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a).

Even where venue is proper, the court may transfer any civil action to another jurisdiction where it may have been brought "for the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interests of justice." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). In a motion to dismiss for improper venue under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3), the court may consider facts outside the pleadings, and the pleadings need not be accepted as true. See Murphy v. Schnieder National, Inc. , 362 F.3d 1133, 1137 (9th Cir. 2004).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Motion to Transfer Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a)

Coca-Cola first moves to dismiss for improper venue pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3), arguing that Ambriz has not established that any defendant resides in this district, 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(1), or that "a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred" in the Northern District of California, 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2).

Ambriz makes three arguments in opposition. First, Ambriz argues that Coca-Cola waived its opportunity to file a second motion to dismiss because it knew or should have known, prior to filing its first motion, where Ambriz worked. Second, Ambriz argues that venue is proper because Coca-Cola "has continuous and systematic contacts that would be sufficient to subject it to personal jurisdiction" here. Third, Ambriz contends that venue is proper ...


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