United States District Court, N.D. California
SOM SWAMY, on Behalf of Himself and on Behalf of All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiff,
TITLE SOURCE, INC., Defendant.
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO TRANSFER
WILLIAM ALSUP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
FLSA action, defendant moves to transfer venue. For the
reasons set forth below, the motion is
Som Swamy is a resident of Danville, California. Representing
a putative class, he seeks to recover unpaid wages that he is
allegedly owed by his employer, defendant Title Source Inc.,
under the Fair Labor Standards Act, California's overtime
statutes, and California's unfair competition laws. The
amended complaint describes both a putative nationwide
collective action under the FLSA and a putative California
class bringing California state law claims (Amd. Compl.
Source is a national real estate valuation company
incorporated in Michigan and headquartered in Detroit. It
employs salaried appraisers nationwide to complete property
valuations (id. at ¶¶ 26-27). Appraisers
can view and select properties to inspect in their geographic
area through an online portal that lists properties requested
for valuation by Title Source clients (Hughes Dep. 20). As an
appraiser, Swamy conducts physical inspections of properties
in the Bay Area during the day and writes reports on them in
the evening (Amd. Compl. ¶¶ 32-34). In addition to
eight-hour weekdays, Swamy works five to ten hours each
weekend to keep up with the workload. He sues to recover
unpaid overtime for work done in excess of 40 hours a week.
brought this motion to transfer venue to the Eastern District
of Michigan, providing as support a declaration from its CFO
that states the majority of putative collective action
members reside closer to Michigan than California
(Hughes Decl. ¶ 18). The undersigned judge granted
plaintiff two weeks to conduct limited venue-related
discovery and to provide its own factual response. Venue
discovery revealed that more putative collective members live
in California than in Michigan and its neighboring states
combined, thus shifting the balance of relevant factors
against transfer. This order follows full briefing -
including supplemental briefing by both parties on
information uncovered in venue discovery - and oral argument.
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 parties do not dispute
that this action may have been brought in the Eastern
District of Michigan. Thus, defendant's motion only
presents the question of whether the convenience of parties
and witnesses and the interest of justice favor transfer.
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). To that end, district courts consider convenience
and fairness factors on an individualized, case-by-case
basis. Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S.
22, 29 (1988). The district court must weigh both private
factors, which go to the convenience of parties and
witnesses, and public factors, which go to the interest of
justice. Decker Coal Co. v. Commonwealth Edison Co.,
805 F.2d 834, 843 (9th Cir. 1986). This order considers these
factors in turn.
Convenience and Fairness.
private convenience and fairness factors include the
plaintiff's choice of forum, the convenience of parties
and witnesses, the ease of access to sources of proof, and
the availability of compulsory process for unwilling
the defendant carries a heavy burden to overcome the
plaintiff's chosen forum; however where, as here,
“an individual . . . represents a class, the named
plaintiff's choice of forum is given less weight.”
Lou v. Belzberg, 834 F.2d 730, 739 (9th Cir. 1987).
As discussed below, defendant nevertheless fails to meet this
contends that plaintiff's choice of forum merits even
less consideration here because the operative facts of this
action occurred in Michigan not California (Dkt. No. 25 at
9). True, defendant decided the employment and payroll
policies that relate to this action in Detroit; however,
defendant also hired dozens of California citizens as
appraisers and implemented policies that allegedly violate
California labor laws (Dkt. No. 31 at 7-8). That defendant is
headquartered in Detroit and decides its policies there
“does not negate the local impact of [its] decisions