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Swamy v. Title Source, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

June 12, 2017

SOM SWAMY, on Behalf of Himself and on Behalf of All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiff,
TITLE SOURCE, INC., Defendant.




         In this FLSA action, defendant moves to transfer venue. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is Denied.


         Plaintiff 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. ¶¶ 1-7).

         Title 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.

         Defendant 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.


         “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 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.

         The 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.

         1. Convenience and Fairness.

         The 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 witnesses.

         Ordinarily, 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 lighter burden.

         Defendant 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 ...

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