Hathcock v. BNSF Railway Company
AMENDED ORDER granting 9 Motion to Transfer Case. The Clerk of Court is directed to transfer this case immediately to the Western District of Missouri, Southern Division. Signed by Judge Kristine G. Baker on 4/24/2014. (jak)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
Case No. 3:13-cv-00230 KGB
BNSF RAILWAY COMPANY
The Court amends its earlier Order of April 24, 2014, denying BNSF’s motion to
transfer, by directing the Clerk of Court to transfer this case immediately to the Western District
of Missouri, Southern Division.
Before the Court is defendant BNSF Railway’s (“BNSF’s”) motion to transfer venue
(Dkt. No. 9) to which plaintiff Jason Hathcock responded in opposition (Dkt. No. 11). This case
is currently set for trial in the Jonesboro Division of the Eastern District of Arkansas, and
defendant moves to transfer the trial to the Southern Division of the Western District of
Missouri. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), this Court may, “[f]or the convenience of the parties and
witnesses, in the interest of justice . . . transfer any civil action to any other district or division
where it might have been brought . . . .”
“Section 1404(a) reflects an increased desire to have federal civil suits tried in the federal
system at the place called for in the particular case by considerations of convenience and
justice.” Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964). The purpose of transfer under §
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.” Id. (quotations omitted). “Section
1404(a) provides for transfer to a more convenient forum, not a forum likely to prove equally
convenient or inconvenient.” Id. at 645–46. “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. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29
In determining whether venue is proper, the Court does not ask “which district among
two or more potential forums is the best venue,” but rather the Court asks “whether the district
the plaintiff chose had a substantial connection to the claim, whether or not other forums had
greater contacts.” Pecoraro v. Sky Ranch for Boys, Inc., 340 F.3d 558, 563 (8th Cir. 2003)
(quotations omitted). Stated differently, the Court focuses on the events or omissions in this
district, not on the events or omissions in some other district.
“In general, federal courts give considerable deference to a plaintiff’s choice of forum
and thus the party seeking a transfer under section 1404(a) typically bears the burden of proving
that a transfer is warranted.” Id. at 695. However, a plaintiff’s choice of forum is due less
deference when the plaintiff does not reside there or when the transaction or underlying facts did
not occur there. See, e.g., Nelson v. Soo Line R. Co., 58 F. Supp. 2d 1023, 1026 (D. Minn.
1999); Abbott v. Schneider Nat’l Carriers, Inc., 2008 WL 4279590 at *3 (E.D. Mo. Sept. 12,
Concerning the convenience of the parties, it is not clear to the Court why Mr. Hathcock
chose to file this case in the Eastern District of Arkansas, except that he has hired counsel in this
state licensed to practice here. Mr. Hathcock does not live in Arkansas, and none of the alleged
events occurred in Arkansas. Mr. Hathcock’s attorneys may petition courts outside of Arkansas
for admission pro hac vice to practice in those courts. BNSF argues that the Western District of
Missouri is a more convenient forum because it expects many of its witnesses will be employees
and its employee contracts require it to reimburse its employees for lost wages, transportation
expenses, and food and lodging for the purpose of attending and testifying at trial. BNSF argues
that because it has a passenger service line that runs to Springfield, Missouri, and no passenger
rail service to transport these potential fact witnesses to Jonesboro, Arkansas, the Southern
Division for the Western District of Missouri is more convenient for BNSF.
convenience, the Court considers the location of each courthouse and the travel expenses that
would be incurred for party “airfare, meals and lodging, and losses in productivity from time
spent away from work.” Oien v. Thompson, 824 F. Supp. 2d 898, 903 (D. Minn. 2010). The
Court finds that the convenience of the parties favors BNSF and its transfer request.
Concerning the convenience of the witnesses, BNSF has made the point that only two of
its ten potential fact witnesses are located closer to Springfield, Missouri, than to Jonesboro,
Arkansas. Mr. Hathcock responds that BNSF’s assertions of the relevance of the witnesses are
conclusory, vague, and do not state the importance of any of the witnesses or whether they are
necessary. “The party seeking the transfer must clearly specify the key witnesses to be called
and must make a general statement of what their testimony will cover. If a party has merely
made a general allegation that witnesses will be necessary, without identifying them and
indicating what their testimony will be, the application for transfer will be denied.” Peacock v.
Pace Int’l Union Pension Fund Plan, 2007 WL 4403689, *10 (M.D. Tenn. Aug. 23, 2007)
(quoting Bacik v. Peek, 888 F.Supp. 1405, 1415 (N.D. Ohio 1993)). The Court finds that BNSF
has met this burden and that the convenience of the witnesses favors BNSF and its transfer
Turning to the interests of justice, “the administration of justice is served more efficiently
when the action is litigated in the forum that more clearly encompasses the locus of operative
facts.” Thornton Drilling Co. v. Stephens Production Co., 2006 WL 2583659, *4 (E.D. Ark.
Sept. 6, 2006) (quoting 15 Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Edward H. Cooper, Federal
Practice and Procedure, § 3854, p. 289 (Supp. 2006)). As in Thornton Drilling Co., in the
present action “[t]here are no allegations or contentions that any matters relevant to the
resolution of the present dispute occurred in the Eastern District of Arkansas. Rather, it appears
that the Eastern District of Arkansas’ only connection to the underlying dispute is that [plaintiff]
has elected to bring suit here.” Thornton Drilling Co., 2006 WL 2583659 at *4. BNSF notes
that, with the exception of the allegation about BNSF doing business in Arkansas, the complaint
makes no mention of any connection between this action and this venue. Conversely, the
operative facts underlying Mr. Hathcock’s claims occurred in or near West Plains, Missouri, in
the Southern Division of the Western District of Missouri. This Court agrees with BNSF and
finds that the interests of justice factor weighs in favor of BNSF and its transfer request.
Considered together, the Court finds BNSF has met its burden of proving the
convenience of the parties, the convenience of the witnesses, and the interests of justice support
having this case heard in the Western District of Missouri, Southern Division over the Eastern
District of Arkansas, Jonesboro Division. Accordingly, BNSF’s motion to transfer venue is
granted (Dkt. No. 9). The Clerk of Court is ordered to transfer this case immediately to the
Western District of Missouri, Southern Division.
SO ORDERED this 24th day of April, 2014.
KRISTINE G. BAKER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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