United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
GREGORY A. PRESNELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court without a hearing on the Motion
to Strike Plaintiffs' Demand for Jury Trial (Doc. 70),
filed by the Defendant, Wyndham Worldwide Operations, Inc.
(henceforth, “Wyndham”), the response in
opposition (Doc. 79) filed by the Plaintiffs, Valerie Penate
(“Penate”) and Rhonda Hamilton
(“Hamilton”), and the reply (Doc. 89) filed by
and Hamilton are former Wyndham employees. On November 28,
2015, they filed the instant suit in the United States
District Court for the Central District of California. In
their Amended Complaint (Doc. 15), they asserted three
claims: violation of the whistleblower anti-retaliation
provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act (Count I); fraud (Count II);
and negligent hiring, retention and/or supervision (Count
III). On November 21, 2016, Wyndham filed a motion (Doc. 41)
to have the case transferred to the Middle District of
Florida pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a); the motion was
granted on February 8, 2017. (Doc. 56).
their initial Complaint (Doc. 1) and the Amended Complaint,
the Plaintiffs have demanded a jury trial. By way of the
instant motion, Wyndham seeks to have the Court strike the
Plaintiffs' jury trial demand, based on waivers of their
jury trial rights signed by both Plaintiffs at the time they
started working for Wyndham.
Plaintiffs make two arguments as to why the Court should not
strike their jury trial demands: First, they argue that
despite the transfer, California law governs the instant
case, and California law prohibits pre-trial waivers of jury
trial rights. Second, they argue that the Dodd-Frank Act bars
argument is meritorious.
the Plaintiffs appear to be correct that California law bars
jury trial waivers of the sort they signed before starting to
work for Wyndham. See, e.g., Grafton Partners L.P. v.
Superior Court of Alameda County, 116 P.3d 479 (Cal.
2005) (holding that right to jury trial may only be waived as
prescribed by California legislature and listing methods
allowed for such waivers). However, California law does not
necessarily govern their claims in this case. When, as here,
a case is transferred pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a),
the transferee court is obligated to apply the choice of
law rules of the transferor court, rather than the
substantive law of the state in which the transferor court is
located. See, e.g., Piper Aircraft Co.
v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 243 n.8 (1982).
this court is obligated to apply California choice of law
rules to the Plaintiffs' state law claims. California
applies the so-called “governmental interest”
analysis to resolve choice of law issues. McCann v.
Foster Wheeler LLC, 225 P.3d 516, 524 (Cal. 2010). Under
this analysis, a California court first determines whether
there is a “true conflict” between the laws of
the affected jurisdictions; if there is, the court then
analyzes the jurisdictions' respective interests to
determine which jurisdiction's interests would be more
severely impaired if its law were not applied in the case.
Kearney v. Salomon Smith Barney, Inc., 137 P.3d 914,
917 (Cal. 2006).
they simply assume that California law applies, the
Plaintiffs do not offer any choice of law analysis. However,
based on the Amended Complaint, California has no particular
interest in this case. In the Amended Complaint, the
Plaintiffs assert that at all relevant times, they were
residents of states other than California - Florida in
Penate's case, and Virginia in Hamilton's. (Doc. 15
at 2). The Defendant is asserted to be a resident of Delaware
and New Jersey. (Doc. 15 at 2). And the Plaintiffs do not
allege that any relevant events took place in California.
Because the state of California has no interest in this
dispute, a California court would apply Florida law to
Penate's state law claims, and Virginia law to
Hamilton's, rather than California law.
the Dodd-Frank whistleblower anti-retaliation claims asserted
in Count I, the Plaintiffs contend that “Section 922 of
the Dodd-Frank Act explicitly provides that an employee who
brings a cause of action for whistleblower retaliation has
the right to a jury trial.” (Doc. 77 at 10). They also
contend that the Dodd-Frank Act “provides that the
right to a jury trial cannot be waived in a pre-dispute
agreement, including but not limited to arbitration
agreements.” (Doc. 77 at 10). To support this second
point, the Plaintiffs rely on Wiggins v. ING U.S.,
Inc., No. 3:14-cv-1089 JCH, 2015 WL 3771646 (D. Conn.
June 17, 2015).
Court has reviewed Section 922 of the Dodd-Frank Act and
finds no guarantee of a right to a jury trial in it. And the
Wiggins case stands for the proposition that
whistleblowers cannot be compelled to submit their Dodd-Frank
Act anti-retaliation claims to arbitration. It does not say
anything about jury trial waivers, and the Plaintiffs make no
argument that the rationale adopted in Wiggins as to
arbitration requirements should be applied or extended to
jury trial waivers. See also Pruett v. BlueLinx
Holdings, No. 1:13-cv-2607, 2013 WL 6335887 (N.D.Ga.
Nov. 12, 2013) (holding that Dodd-Frank whistleblowers had no
7th Amendment right to a jury trial).
consideration of the foregoing, it is hereby ORDERED that the
Motion to Strike Plaintiffs' Demand for Jury Trial (Doc.
70) is GRANTED. And it is further
that Plaintiffs' jury ...