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Wilson v. Conair Corporation

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 27, 2014

DELIA WILSON, on behalf of herself and others similarly situated, Plaintiff,


WILLIAM B. SHUBB, District Judge.

Plaintiff Delia Wilson brought this putative class action arising out of her purchase of an allegedly defective curling iron from defendant Conair Corporation. Defendant now moves to dismiss for improper venue under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3) or to transfer venue under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Defendant also moves for a more definite statement under Rule 12(e).

I. Factual & Procedural Background

Defendant is a Delaware corporation headquartered in New Jersey with sales and marketing offices in Connecticut. (Compl. ¶ 10 (Docket No. 1).) Plaintiff, who resides in Goleta, California, alleges that she purchased one of defendant's products, a Conair Instant Heat 1½" Curling Iron, in early 2010 at a Sally Beauty Supply in Fresno, California. (Compl. ¶ 9 (Docket No. 1).) Within a month, plaintiff alleges that the curling iron malfunctioned. (Id. ¶ 13.) Defendant then sent plaintiff a replacement iron that plaintiff claims was defective, allegedly short-circuiting without warning and emitting a shower of sparks. (Id. ¶¶ 13-16.)

Plaintiff first filed a class action complaint in the Central District of California on June 6, 2014. (Def.'s Req. for Judicial Notice Ex. B (Docket No. 8-4).)[1] Plaintiff subsequently dismissed that complaint and filed the present class action complaint ("Complaint") in the Eastern District of California on June 11, 2014. The Complaint seeks certification of a class consisting of "All persons who purchased Conair Styling Irons in California, " (Compl. ¶ 30), and brings claims for: (1) violation of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act ("CLRA"), Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1750 et seq.; (2) violation of the Unfair Competition Law ("UCL"), Cal. Bus. & Profs. Code §§ 17200 et seq.; and (3) breach of implied warranty, (Compl. ¶¶ 40-72).[2]

II. Analysis

A. Venue

"A defendant over whom personal jurisdiction exists but for whom venue is improper may move for dismissal or transfer for improper venue under 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). A defendant for whom venue is proper but inconvenient may move for a change of venue under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)." Action Embroidery Corp. v. Atl. Embroidery, Inc. , 368 F.3d 1174, 1181 (9th Cir. 2004). Defendant moves under both provisions here. Thus, the court must first determine if venue is proper. If so, then the court must determine whether another venue is nevertheless more convenient.

1. Improper Venue under Rule 12(b)(3)

Rule 12(b)(3) authorizes the court to dismiss an action for improper venue. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(3); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) ("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."). The plaintiff has the burden of proving that venue is proper in the district in which the suit was initiated. Munns v. Clinton , 822 F.Supp.2d 1048, 1079 (E.D. Cal. 2011) (England, J.) (citing Piedmont Label Co. v. Sun Garden Packing Co. , 598 F.2d 491, 496 (9th Cir. 1979)).

Venue is proper in "a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred." 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2). This provision "does not require that a majority of the events have occurred in the district where suit is filed, nor does it require that the events in that district predominate." Rodriguez v. Cal. Highway Patrol , 89 F.Supp.2d 1131, 1136 (N.D. Cal. 2000). Courts routinely find venue proper in UCL and CLRA cases where the plaintiff encountered false advertising and purchased the product in question in the forum district. See, e.g., Allen v. Similasan Corp., Civ. No. 12-376 BTM WMC, 2013 WL 2120825, at *8 (S.D. Cal. May 14, 2013) (finding venue to be proper where one plaintiff had purchased product from Colorado-based defendant in California); Nilon v. Natural-Immunogenics Corp., Civ. No. 12-930 BGS, 2012 WL 2871658, at *2 (S.D. Cal. July 12, 2012) ("The Court concludes that venue is proper because the alleged events that led Plaintiff to purchase the product (i.e. Defendant's alleged false advertising) took place in California."); cf. Sidco Indus. Inc. v. Wimar Tahoe Corp. , 768 F.Supp. 1343, 1346 (D. Or. 1991) (determining that, in trademark and unfair competition cases, venue is proper where the confusion caused by the advertising occurs).

Like the plaintiff in Allen, 2013 WL 2120825, at *8, plaintiff alleges that she purchased a defective product from defendant in the Eastern District, (Compl. ¶ 9), and later received a second defective product from defendant as a result of this initial purchase, [3] (id. ¶¶ 13-14). Plaintiff also alleges she encountered and relied upon defendant's marketing and advertising while in the Eastern District, (Hurst Decl. ¶ 2 (Docket No. 19-1)); thus, the confusion caused by defendant's alleged false advertising occurred in the Eastern District. See Sidco , 768 F.Supp. at 1346. Plaintiff has therefore established that "a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred" in the Eastern District. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2).

In arguing that venue is improper, defendant relies on Hawkins v. Gerber Products Co., 924 F.Supp.2d 1208, 1215 (S.D. Cal. 2013), and Rikos v. Procter & Gamble Co., Civ. No. 10-1974 BEN (CAB), 2011 WL 1456096, at *1 (S.D. Cal. April 13, 2011). In particular, defendant points to language in Hawkins where the court endorsed the proposition that "in a false advertising action, the heart of the matter lies where the marketing and manufacturing decisions were made, which is typically at Defendant's headquarters." 924 F.Supp.2d at 1215.

Plaintiff's reliance on these cases is misplaced, as in both Hawkins and Rikos the issue was whether to transfer venue under § 1404(a), not whether venue was proper in the first place under § 1406(a). For the purposes of defendant's Rule 12(b)(3) motion, the court need not determine where "the heart of the matter lies." To the contrary, venue may be proper in more than one district, as there may be more than one district in which "a substantial part of the events giving rise to the claim occurred." See Sidco , 768 F.Supp. at 1346 ...

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