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Martinez v. Knight Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 23, 2017



         This action came before the court on May 2, 2017, for hearing of a motion to change venue filed by defendant Knight Transportation, Inc. (Doc. No. 8.) Attorney Craig Ackermann appeared telephonically on behalf of plaintiff Robert Martinez. Attorneys Richard Rahm appeared on behalf of defendant Knight Transportation, Inc. Oral argument was heard and the motion was taken under submission. For the reasons discussed below, the court will deny defendant's motion to change venue.


         On September 30, 2016, plaintiff Robert Martinez filed a class action complaint in Tulare County Superior Court against defendant Knight Transportation, Inc., d/b/a Arizona Knight Transportation, Inc. (“Knight”). (Doc. No. 2-1 at 8.) On November 14, 2016, defendant removed the action to this federal court based on diversity of citizenship jurisdiction. (Doc. No. 2.)

         Plaintiffs complaint alleges the following seven claims against defendant Knight: (i) failure to provide meal breaks in violation of California Labor Code § 226; (ii) failure to separately pay for non-productive work and rest breaks in violation of Labor Code § 1194; (iii) failure to pay missed rest break premiums under Labor Code § 226.7; (iv) failure to provide accurate wage statements under Labor Code § 226; (v) failure to pay wages due at termination under Labor Code §§ 201-203; (vi) unfair business practices under the California Business and Professionals Code § 17200; and (vii) a claim for civil penalties under the Private Attorneys' General Act of 2004 (“PAGA”), Labor Code § 2699, et seq. (Doc. No. 2-1 at 8.)

         The complaint alleges the following. Defendant Knight is a publicly-traded corporation that provides trucking services throughout the United States. (Doc. No. 2-1 at 12, ¶ 14.) Defendant Knight is headquartered in Arizona and maintains service centers nation-wide, including in California and Nevada. (Id. at 11-12, ¶¶ 4, 13-14.) Plaintiff Martinez is a Nevada resident who was employed by defendant as a truck driver and assigned to a Nevada service center. (Id. at 12, ¶ 13.)

         Plaintiff worked for defendant Knight from September 2015 through March 2016. (Id. at 12, ¶ 13.) During that time, plaintiff and similarly situated employees were not provided with off-duty meal breaks; authorized or permitted to take off-duty rest breaks; paid premium pay for missed meal and rest breaks; or paid separate and hourly wages for non-driving work tasks, and for rest breaks taken while driving routes in California. (Id. at 12, ¶ 13.) Plaintiff and similarly situated employees also did not receive all wages due to them upon separation from employment. (Id.)

         Plaintiff has proposed the following class: “All current and former truck drivers employed by Defendant Knight Transportation, Inc. and who drove one or more routes of five hours or more within California for Defendant during either the Non-California Resident Class Period (for Non-California residents) or during the California Class Period (for California residents).” (Id. at 15, ¶ 27.) The California resident Class Period runs from August 7, 2015, through the date of trial, and the non-California resident Class Period runs from four years prior to the date of the filing of this complaint through the present. (Id. at 9, ¶ 1.)

         On March 21, 2017, defendant Knight filed a motion to change venue, seeking transfer of this action to the District of Arizona pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). (Doc. No. 8.) Plaintiff filed an opposition on April 4, 2017. (Doc. No. 9.) Defendant filed a reply on April 25, 2017. (Doc. No. 13.) At the May 2, 2017 hearing, the court directed the parties to file additional briefing clarifying their positions as to the impact of a recent class action settlement in a separate litigation involving defendant upon resolution of the pending motion. (Doc. No. 15.) Plaintiff filed his supplemental brief on May 8, 2017, (Doc. No. 17), and defendant filed its brief on May 12, 2017, (Doc. No. 18).


         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), a court may transfer a case to another district where it might have been brought.[1] “Section 1404(a) provides for transfer to a more convenient forum, not to a forum likely to prove equally convenient or inconvenient.” Mainstay Bus. Sols. v. Indus. Staffing Servs., No. CIV S-10-3344 KJM GGH, 2012 WL 44643, at *1 (E.D. Cal. Jan 9, 2012) (citing Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 645-46 (1964)).

         A court considering a motion to transfer venue must determine whether venue is proper in this district; whether plaintiff could have brought the action in the transferee district; and whether the transfer will promote convenience and fairness. Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988); Hoffman v. Bilaski, 363 U.S. 335, 343-44 (1960); Costco Wholesale Corp. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 472 F.Supp.2d 1183, 1189-90 (S.D. Cal. 2007). “Section 1404(a) is intended to place discretion in the district court to adjudicate motions for transfer according to an ‘individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness.'” Stewart Org, Inc., 487 U.S. at 29 (quoting Van Dusen, 376 U.S. at 622).

         In evaluating whether transfer will promote convenience and fairness, “the court should consider private and public interest factors.” Decker Coal Co. v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 805 F.2d 834, 843 (9th Cir. 1986). Private interest factors include: (i) the location where the relevant agreements were negotiated and executed, (ii) the plaintiff's choice of venue, (iii) the venue's familiarity with the governing law, (iv) the contacts relating to the plaintiff's cause of action in the chosen venue, (v) the differences in the costs of litigation in the two venues, (vi) the availability of compulsory process to compel attendance of unwilling non-party witnesses, and (vii) the ease of access to sources of proof. See Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 498-99 (9th Cir. 2000); see also Decker Coal Co., 805 F.2d at 843. Public factors include the relative degree of court congestion and the local interest in having localized controversies decided at home. See Piper Aircraft v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 255 (1981); Decker Coal Co., 805 F.2d at 843; see also Leetsch v. Freedman, 260 F.3d 1100, 1105 (9th Cir. 2001).

         “No single factor is dispositive and a district court has broad discretion to adjudicate motions for transfer on a case-by-case basis.” Burgess v. HP, Inc., No. 16-CV-04784-LHK, 2017 WL 467845, at *5 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 3, 2017) (citing Stewart Org., 487 U.S. at 29 and Sparling v. Hoffman Constr. Co., 864 F.2d 635, 639 (9th Cir. 1988)). Ultimately, the party moving for a transfer of venue has the burden of establishing that transfer is appropriate. Decker Coal Co., 805 F.2d at 843; Commodity Futures Trading Comm'n v. Savage, 611 F.2d 270, 279 (9th Cir. 1980); Johnson v. Walmart Stores, No. CIV. 2:10-997 WBS EFB, 2010 WL 2902386, at *2 (E.D. Cal. July 22, 2010).


         Here, defendant Knight moves to transfer this action to the District of Arizona on the basis that plaintiff could have brought the action in Arizona, and that transfer will promote convenience and fairness. (Doc. No. 8-1 at 12.) In his opposition to the pending motion, plaintiff disputes only the convenience and fairness of the transfer sought by defendant. (Doc. No. 9 at 10.) The court will therefore focus its analysis on this issue. See, e.g., Williams v. WinCo Foods, LLC, No. 2:12-cv-02690-KJM-EFB, 2013 WL 211246, at *3 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 10, 2013).

         A. ...

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