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Emerson v. Toyota Motor North America, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

December 9, 2014

ANNITA EMERSON, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
TOYOTA MOTOR NORTH AMERICA, INC., et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE Re: ECF No. 21

JON S. TIGAR, District Judge.

Before the Court is a Motion to Transfer Venue filed by the Defendants, Toyota Motor North American, Inc., and Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. (collectively, "Toyota"). ECF No. 21. Plaintiff Annita Emerson opposes the motion. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will GRANT the motion.

I. BACKGROUND

In this putative class action, Plaintiff Emerson alleges that certain Highlander vehicles designed, marketed, and sold by Toyota possess defective power lift gates. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 1. Plaintiff is, and was at all relevant times to this matter, a resident of San Ramon, California. ECF No. 24 at 3. In March 2013, the power lift gate on Plaintiff's Toyota Highlander failed at her home in San Ramon. Id . Plaintiff had her vehicle serviced at a Toyota certified repair center in San Ramon. Id . Toyota refused to pay for repairs and would not accept Plaintiff's warranty claim, and Plaintiff paid about $4, 700 out of pocket to fix her car. Id.

Plaintiff filed her complaint in the Central District of California on June 12, 2014. ECF No. 21 at 2. The complaint stated that the Central District of California was a proper venue because it is the location of Toyota's headquarters, and is where the operative facts occurred. Id . The Central District assigned District Judge John F. Walter to Plaintiff's case, but on June 13, 2014, Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the action. ECF No. 21 at 1. On June 19, 2014, Plaintiff re-filed her action in the Northern District. ECF No. 1. Plaintiff amended the complaint to reflect the change in venue. ECF No. 21 at 2.

On September 12, 2014, Defendants filed this motion to transfer venue, claiming that Plaintiff's voluntary dismissal of the Central District action and subsequent re-filing in the Northern District constituted improper judge-shopping, warranting transfer. Toyota also asserts that the convenience of parties and witnesses also weighs in favor of transfer. Plaintiff opposes the motion, contending that her choice of forum should be afforded substantial weight. ECF No. 24 at 2.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

"For the convenience of 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). 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) (quotation omitted). It places "discretion in the district court to adjudicate motions for transfer according to an individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness.'" Stewart Org. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988) (quoting Van Dusen, 376 U.S. at 622).

Courts considering transfer must engage in a two-step analysis. First, courts determine whether the action could have been brought in the target district. Hoffman v. Blaski, 363 U.S. 335, 344 (1960). Second, courts undertake an "individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness." Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988) (quoting Van Dussen, 376 U.S. at 622). Factors the Court should consider in analyzing the interests of justice include: "(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 of other claims, (7) any local interest in the controversy, and (8) the relative court congestion and time of trial in each forum." Williams v. Bowman, 157 F.Supp.2d 1103, 1106 (N.D. Cal. 2001). The moving party bears the burden of establishing the factors in favor of transfer. Id.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Venue in the Target District

Both parties agree that venue in the target district of the Central District of California would be proper under § 1404(a), as it is a venue in which this action could have been brought. Plaintiff could not very well contest this point now, as she previously filed a nearly-identical complaint in the Central District, stating that "[v]enue is proper in the Central District of California... because a substantial part of the events, acts and omissions giving rise to these claims occurred in the Central District of California, where Defendants are headquartered." ECF No. 21-4 at ¶ 7. Thus, Plaintiff's Opposition acknowledges that "venue is proper in both the Central and Northern District of California." ECF No. 24 at 4.

B. Transfer in the Interests of Justice

Plaintiff asserts, however, that considerations of convenience and fairness militate in favor of the case remaining in the Northern District. Plaintiff notes that the law generally affords some weight to a Plaintiff's choice of venue. ECF No. 24 at 6. Plaintiff is a resident of the Northern District, where many of the operative facts occurred, and argues that this also presents good reason for the case to remain in this forum. ECF No. 24 at 6-10. Plaintiff notes that the pendency before this Court of a related case, Rivera v. Toyota Motor Company, No. ...


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