United States District Court, S.D. Florida
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO TRANSFER
VENUE RE: DKT. NO., 83
HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
pending before the Court is Defendant Dometic
Corporation's motion to transfer venue to the Southern
District of Florida. Dkt. No. 83 (“Mot.”).
Defendant filed the motion on October 20, 2017. Id.
On November 3, 2017, Plaintiffs Catherine Papasan, Nelson
Goehle, Andrew Young, Christopher Johnston, Jimmy Byers, and
Richard and Leah Vollberg (collectively,
“Plaintiffs”) filed a response. Dkt. No. 86
(“Opp.”). Defendant replied on November 13, 2017.
Dkt. No. 91 (“Reply”).
January 4, 2018, the parties argued the motion. Dkt. No. 106.
At oral argument, the parties addressed whether
Defendant's transfer motion could be mooted by
Plaintiffs' then-pending request for centralization and
transfer under 28 U.S.C. § 1407. See Dkt. No.
107 (“Hr'g Transcript”) at 4:8-7:8.
Plaintiffs brought that motion on October 30, 2017 before the
United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (the
“MDL Panel”). See Dkt. No. 1 (the
“MDL Brief”), IN RE: Dometic Gas Absorption
Refrigerator Prod. Liab. Litig., MDL No. 2811 (J.P.M.L.
Oct. 13, 2017) (the “MDL Action”). The question
before the MDL Panel was whether this action should be
consolidated with two cases residing in the Southern District
of Florida and one action ongoing in the Central District of
California. See Dkt. No. 109, Schedule A (listing
the litigation as consisting of Varner, et al. v. Dometic
Corporation, C.A. No. 1:16-22482, Zucconi, et al. v.
Dometic Corporation, C.A. No. 1:17-23197, and
Zimmer, et al. v. Dometic Corporation, C.A. No.
January 30, 2018, the MDL Panel issued an order denying
Plaintiffs' motion. Dkt. No. 109. Following the MDL
Panel's decision, the Court again heard argument on
Defendant's motion. After carefully considering the
parties' arguments, the Court GRANTS
the convenience of the 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 purpose
of this statute 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)
(internal quotation marks omitted). The moving party bears
the burden of showing that the transferee district is a
“more appropriate forum.” See Jones v. GNC
Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 499 (9th Cir. 2000).
The district court has broad discretion in deciding whether
or not to transfer. See Ventress v. Japan Airlines,
486 F.3d 1111, 1118 (9th Cir. 2007).
Court's transfer inquiry proceeds in two steps. First,
the Court determines “whether the transferee district
was one in which the action might have been brought by the
plaintiff.” Hoffman v. Blaski, 363 U.S. 335,
343-44 (1960) (internal quotation marks omitted). If so, the
Court conducts “an individualized” case-specific
analysis of convenience and fairness. Stewart Org., Inc.
v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29, (1988) (internal
quotation marks omitted). In this district, courts typically
consider the following factors: (1) plaintiffs' choice of
forum, (2) convenience of the parties, (3) convenience of the
witnesses, (4) ease of access to the evidence, (5)
familiarity of each forum with the applicable law, (6)
feasibility of consolidation with other claims, (7) any local
interest in the controversy, and (8) the relative court
congestion and time to trial in each forum. See,
e.g., Ironworks Patents LLC v. Samsung Elecs.
Co., No. 17-cv-01958-HSG, 2017 WL 3007066, at *2 (N.D.
Cal. July 14, 2017); Perez v. Performance Food Grp.,
Inc., No. 15-cv-02390-HSG, 2017 WL 66874, at *2 (N.D.
Cal. Jan. 6, 2017); Brown v. Abercrombie & Fitch
Co., No. 4:13-cv-05205 YGR, 2014 WL 715082, at *2 (N.D.
Cal. Feb. 14, 2014). “This list is non-exclusive, and
courts may consider other factors, or only those factors
which are pertinent to the case at hand.” Martin v.
Glob. Tel*Link Corp., No. 15-cv-00449-YGR, 2015 WL
2124379, at *2 (N.D. Cal. May 6, 2015).
do not dispute that this action could have brought in the
Southern District of Florida. See Mot. at 15-17;
Reply at 15 n.10. The Court therefore turns directly to the
second step of its transfer analysis. Plaintiffs assert that
the majority of the factors above disfavor transfer.
Plaintiffs, for instance, argue that transfer is inconvenient
because key witnesses and counsel for the parties are not
based in Florida. See Opp. at 12-14. In addition,
Plaintiffs contend that there is little benefit to litigating
this action alongside Varner/Zucconi
because those cases involve different facts and evidence.
See Opp. at 15. According to Plaintiffs, transfer
would also be prejudicial due to the relatively advanced
state of this litigation.
Court disagrees. To begin, Plaintiffs made numerous
representations in their MDL Brief that contradict these
claims. Broadly, Plaintiffs asserted that: (1) the cases
before the MDL Panel (i.e., Varner/Zucconi,
Zimmer, and this litigation) share a “common core
of operative factual allegations” that
“predominate over individual questions of fact”
specific to any one action; (2) there were
“efficiencies to be gained through coordinated
discovery and motion practice” that would
“minimize duplication of effort and burden on all
parties”; and (3) centralization would “minimize
the risk of inconsistent rulings, ” and accordingly, a
propensity for “forum and judge shopping.” MDL
Brief at 2, 6-8, 11. Plaintiffs stated that, “[a]bsent
transfer, the federal court system will be forced to
administer-and Defendant will be compelled to defend-these
related actions across multiple venues, all proceeding on
potentially different pretrial schedules and subject to
different judicial decision-making and local procedural
requirements.” Id. at 8-9. Though Plaintiffs
argued that there would be advantages to transferring the
consolidated litigation to this Court, Plaintiffs did so
independently of setting forth centralization's broad
benefits. See Id. at 12-15.
light of Plaintiffs' statements, the balance of the
transfer factors tips in Defendant's favor. With respect
to Plaintiffs' choice of forum, that selection is given
less weight where, as here, Plaintiffs seek to represent a
class. Lou v. Belzberg, 834 F.2d 730, 739 (9th Cir.
1987) (“[W]hen an individual brings a derivative suit
or represents a class, the named plaintiff's choice of
forum is given less weight.”). In addition,
“where the plaintiff resides outside of the chosen
forum, his choice of forum is entitled to less weight.”
Ambriz v. Matheson Tri-Gas, No. C 14-1041 CW, 2014
WL 2753886, at *2 (N.D. Cal. June 9, 2014). At the time that
Defendant filed its motion, six of the seven named Plaintiffs
lived outside of California, and two named Plaintiffs lived
in Florida. See Mot. at 9. Of the sixteen Plaintiffs
named in the second amended complaint, thirteen reside
outside of California. See SAC ¶¶ 17, 26,
37, 49, 56, 65, 76, 88, 99, 110, 121, 132. Four of the named
Plaintiffs now reside in Florida. See Id. The
substantial number of nonresident named Plaintiffs cuts
against Plaintiffs' claim that it is more convenient for
the parties to litigate here.
respect to expediency, Plaintiffs' MDL Brief detailed the
ways that centralization in one district, with coordinated
discovery, would “minimize duplication of effort and
burden on all parties.” MDL Brief at 8. At this stage,
any inconvenience associated with Florida travel is
outweighed by transfer's efficiency gains. Not only has
Varner/Zucconi long-resided in the Southern
District of Florida, but now Zimmer will be
litigated there as well. See Dkt. No. 121, Ex.
Considering that Defendant is named in all three cases, and
that those cases share a common factual core, there will
almost certainly be overlapping witnesses. See MDL
Brief at 7-8 (describing the shared factual inquiry as
“whether Defendant designed, manufactured, marketed and
sold defective gas absorption refrigerators”); Mot. at
13. And even if one action presents unique facts, Plaintiffs
acknowledge that the cases' commonalities predominate
over their differences. See MDL Brief at 2, 6-7.
Given this overlap, it is feasible that this case will be
consolidated with Varner/Zucconi and Zimmer
upon transfer. See Mot. at 11-12. Thus, this factor
too weighs in favor of transfer.
Court cannot say based on the litigation's stage that it
has greater knowledge, as compared to the Southern District
of Florida, of the legal issues underlying these actions.
This case remains at the pleading stage, and the Court has
ruled on one of two motions to dismiss. See Mot. at
11. Plaintiffs do not dispute that Judge Scola in the
Southern District of Florida has rendered three substantive
decisions in Varner/Zucconi-one on a motion
to dismiss, another on a motion for summary judgment, and the
third on a motion for reconsideration. See id.; Opp.
at 14- 16. As a result, both courts have become familiar with
the disparate state doctrines governing Plaintiffs'
claims. And again, Plaintiffs acknowledge that this action
shares a common factual core with Varner/Zucconi and
Zimmer. In considering the relative degree of
judicial congestion, Plaintiffs admit that this
district's median time for civil cases is greater than
that of the Southern District of Florida. See Opp.
at 16. Plaintiffs fail to cite any authority for their
proposition that, in evaluating this factor, the Court should
assess the length of time that this particular case has been
the interests of justice, Plaintiffs argue that transfer to
the Southern District of Florida would create unfairness,
disruption, and delay. See Opp. at 17-18. But
Plaintiffs in their MDL Brief acknowledge that
“transfer to a single district court is appropriate for
the just and efficient resolution of these cases.” MDL
Brief at 12. Defendant subsequently agreed. Mot. at 14. Even
aside from expediency, Plaintiffs admit that transfer will
reduce the risk of inconsistent rulings. MDL Brief at 11.
Judicial inconsistency, in turn, “encourages forum and
judge shopping (including, for example, manipulation of
non-congruent discovery limits, approaches to electronically
stored information, and protective order
issues.).”Id. The prospect of such
unfairness supports transferring this action to the Southern
District of Florida. See, e.g., Jolly v. Purdue Pharma
L.P., No. 05-CV-1452H, 2005 WL 2439197, at *2 (S.D. Cal.
Sept. 28, 2005) (“Litigation of related claims in the
same tribunal is strongly favored because it facilitates
efficient, economical and expeditious pre-trial proceedings
and discovery and avoid duplicitous litigation and