Harris et al v. Fisher-Price Inc et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER re 66 MOTION to Change Venue to the US District Court for the Central District of CA: For the reasons discussed within, the court DENIES Defendants motion to transfer. Signed by Chief Judge Karon O Bowdre on 4/1/14. (SAC )
2014 Apr-01 AM 10:50
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT COURT
JASON DANE HARRIS, ET AL.,
FISHER-PRICE INC., ET AL.,
CIVIL ACTION NO.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This matter comes before the court on Defendants’ “Motion to Transfer Venue to the
United States District Court for the Central District of California.” (Doc. 66). Plaintiffs bring
this suit on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, claiming losses and damages
arising out of mold issues with the Fisher-Price Newborn Rock ‘n Play Sleeper. For the
following reasons, the court will DENY the motion to transfer venue.
On November 25, 2013, Defendants filed their motion to transfer venue, requesting that
the court transfer this case to the Central District of California, where a similar case, Butler v.
Mattel, Inc. and Fisher-Price, Inc., No. 2:13-cv-306-DSF-SS (C.D. Cal), is pending before the
Honorable Dale S. Fischer. (Doc. 66). The parties fully briefed the issue and on January 24,
2014, the court entered an Order deferring ruling on Defendants’ motion until the Central District
of California ruled on its pending motion for class certification in Butler. (Doc. 75). The court
directed Defendants’ counsel to notify the court as soon as the court in Butler entered a ruling on
the class certification issue.
On February 26, 2014, Defendants filed a notice of ruling in the Butler case, informing
the court that the court in Butler had denied the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification and
attaching a copy of the order. (R. 80). This court responded by issuing an Order indicating that
it was inclined to deny the motion to transfer given the decision in Butler, but allowing the
Defendants’ an opportunity to address the impact of the Butler decision on their motion. (R. 81).
On March 5, 2014, Defendants filed their response. (R. 82). In making this decision, the court
has considered the original briefs of the parties on the motion and Defendants’ brief on the
impact of the Butler decision.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Title 28 U.S.C. § 1404 provides that “[f]or 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 . . . [u]pon motion, . . . in the discretion of the
court . . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)-(b). Congress enacted § 1404 as a “‘federal housekeeping
measure,’ allowing easy change of venue within a unified federal system.” Piper Aircraft Co. v.
Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 254 (1981) (citing Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 622 (1964)). Its
purpose 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).
Courts apply a two-part test when evaluating a motion to transfer venue: (1) whether the
plaintiff could have filed the action in the venue to which the defendant seeks transfer; and (2)
whether the balance of convenience to the parties and the interest of justice favor transfer. See
C.M.B. Foods, Inc. v. Corral of Middle, 396 F. Supp. 2d 1283, 1286 (M.D. Ala. 2005) (quoting
Folkes v. Haley, 64 F. Supp. 2d 1152, 1155 (M.D. Ala. 1999)). Once the court determines that
the plaintiff could have filed the case in another district, a court’s decision to transfer depends on
the balance of convenience and justice. In making this determination, a judge has considerable
discretion based on a “case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness.” Stewart Org. v.
Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988) (citing Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 622 (1964).
Plaintiffs do not dispute the first factor—whether the Plaintiffs could have filed the action
in the Central District of California. The court will assume, without deciding, that Plaintiffs
could have filed this action there. The crux of the debate between the parties is whether the
balance of convenience to the parties and the interest of justice favor transfer.
Although “Defendants’ Response to Court’s February 27, 2014 Order” (doc. 82) asserts
that “the denial of class certification in Butler does not change the bases for, or the considerations
informing, the pending motion for transfer,” the court cannot agree. Not only are the arguments
in Defendants’ original motion closely tied to the (then existing) possibility of class certification
in Butler, but the court finds that without a certified class in the Central District of California, the
strongest basis for transferring this case is gone.
The court finds that balance of convenience to the parties and the interest of justice do not
favor transfer. The different variables that will affect each Plaintiff’s claim make it unlikely that
a transfer will conserve judicial resources and lessens the risk of any true inconsistency in the
decisions that result from this case and from Butler. The parties are located all over the United
States—four in Alabama, one in Kentucky, one in Oklahoma, two in California, two in Florida,
one in Idaho, two in Ohio, and two in Massachusetts—but overall the majority of them are closer
to the Northern District of Alabama than to Central District of California. Likewise, the relevant
witnesses, including the Plaintiffs’ physicians and caretakers, are likely located near each of the
Plaintiffs. Although Alabama may not be considerably more convenient than California for the
parties and witnesses, it is also not considerably less convenient, and the court gives considerable
weight to Plaintiffs’ choice of forum in this district. Overall, the court exercises the broad
discretion that Eleventh Circuit law has afforded it in considering a transfer request and DENIES
Defendant’s motion to transfer.
For the reasons discussed above, the court DENIES Defendants’ motion to transfer.
DONE and ORDERED this 1st day of April, 2014.
KARON OWEN BOWDRE
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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