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Rodgers v. Stater Bros. Markets

United States District Court, S.D. California

May 24, 2017

JENNIFER LYNN RODGERS, Plaintiff,
v.
STATER BROS. MARKETS, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE [DOC. NO. 5]

          HON. MICHAEL M. ANELLO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Jennifer Lynn Rodgers has filed the instant action against Defendant Stater Bros. Markets alleging causes of action for negligence and premises liability pursuant to California law. See Compl., Doc. No. 1. Specifically, Plaintiff, a resident of Idaho, alleges she visited one of Defendant's grocery stores in Lake Elsinore, California on September 7, 2015. She alleges she visited the store as a customer, and while walking on Defendant's property, “she slipped and fell on a puddle of water from melted ice on the floor” and “sustained significant injuries.” See Compl. ¶ 6.

         Defendant now moves to transfer venue, requesting the Court transfer this action to the Central District of California, Eastern Division. See Doc. No. 5.

         Legal Standard

         Section 1391(b) of Title 28 of the U.S. Code provides, in pertinent part, that a “civil action may be brought in-(1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the State in which the district is located; [or] (2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the subject of the action is situated[.]” 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b); see Costlow v. Weeks, 790 F.2d 1486, 1488 (9th Cir. 1986); see Decker Coal Co. v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 805 F.2d 834, 842 (9th Cir. 1986). “[T]he 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 interests 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, “[f]or 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 or to any district or division to which all parties have consented.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).

         Discussion

         Defendant argues transfer is proper under sections 1404 and 1406, but does not make any arguments in support of its assertion that 1406 applies here. In other words, Defendant does not argue that venue is improper in this district as would be required for the Court to transfer this case pursuant to section 1406. Rather, Defendant only argues in terms of 1404(a), which generally applies where venue is proper, and allows courts to transfer actions in their discretion. See Allstar Mktg. Grp., LLC v. Your Store Online, LLC, 666 F.Supp.2d 1109, 1130 (C.D. Cal. 2009). Further, based on Plaintiff's opposition brief, Plaintiff treats Defendant's motion as a motion to transfer venue pursuant to section 1404(a). Accordingly, because neither party argues otherwise, the Court assumes venue is proper in this district and analyzes Defendant's motion as a motion to transfer venue pursuant to section 1404(a).[1]

         “[T]he purpose of [section 1404(a)] is to prevent the waste of time, energy, and money to protect litigants, witnesses and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense.” Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964) (internal quotations omitted). Pursuant to 1404(a), district courts have “discretion to adjudicate motions for transfer according to an ‘individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness.'” See Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 498 (9th Cir. 2000) (quoting Stewart Org. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988)). To determine whether transfer is appropriate, courts weigh “multiple factors, ” including the convenience to the parties and witnesses. See Jones, 211 F.3d at 498-99. Courts may also consider the following factors, if relevant:

(1) the location where the relevant agreements were negotiated and executed, (2) the state that is most familiar with the governing law, (3) the plaintiff's choice of forum, (4) the respective parties' contacts with the forum, (5) the contacts relating to the plaintiff's cause of action in the chosen forum, (6) the differences in the costs of litigation in the two forums, (7) the availability of compulsory process to compel attendance of unwilling non-party witnesses, and (8) the ease of access to sources of proof.

Jones, 211 F.3d at 498-99. The burden is on the defendant seeking transfer to show why transfer is justified. See Allstar, 666 F.Supp. at 1131.

         As an initial matter, for transfer to be appropriate, the Central District of California, Eastern Division must have been a district in which the case “might have been brought.” See 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Here, the parties do not dispute that this action might have been brought in the Central District. The events giving rise to Plaintiff's causes of action occurred in the Central District of California, Eastern Division. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b); see also Doc. No. 5-2, Decl. of Tamara Ulufanua-Ciraulo (stating that the location at which Plaintiff allegedly fell is located in Riverside County); see also 28 U.S.C. § 84(c)(1) (stating that the Central District of California, Eastern Division includes Riverside county).

         Because Defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that the balance of equities weighs in favor of transferring this case, the Court outlines Defendant's arguments. First, regarding the convenience of witnesses, Defendant argues that “the witnesses to the incident include Defendant Stater employees who work and reside in Riverside and San Bernardino counties” and litigation would be “substantially less burdensome” for those witnesses in the Central District, Eastern Division. See Doc. No. 5. Defendant states that “[w]itnesses would include the store manager, assistant manager, and courtesy clerks, all of whom are located in Riverside County.” See Doc. No. 5.

         Second, regarding convenience of the parties, Defendant argues it would be “far less burdensome for Defendant to litigate this action in the Central District-Eastern Division” because Defendant's corporate headquarters and its principal place of business are in San Bernardino, California, which is in the Eastern Division. See Doc. No. 5; see also 28 U.S.C. § 84(c)(1) (stating that the Central District of California, Eastern Division includes San Bernardino county). Defendant also contends that “all of the documentary evidence in this case regarding the incident, investigation and policies and procedures are located in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.” See Doc. No. 5.

         Third, Defendant argues the interests of justice would be served by transferring the case because “sources of proof” such as witnesses and evidence “are almost exclusively in Lake Elsinore, in ...


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