City of Pontiac General Employees' Retirement System v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. et al
MEMORANDUM OF THE COURT. Signed by Chief Judge Todd J. Campbell on 7/25/12. (rd) [Transferred from tnmd on 7/26/2012.]
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
CITY OF PONTIAC GENERAL
WAL-MART STORES, INC., et al.
) NO. 3-12-0457
) JUDGE CAMPBELL
Pending before the Court is Defendant Wal-Mart’s Motion to Transfer Venue to the Western
District of Arkansas (Docket No. 27). For the reasons stated herein, Defendant’s Motion is
GRANTED, and the Clerk is directed to transfer this action to the U.S. District Court for the
Western District of Arkansas.
Plaintiff , retirement administrator for the city of Pontiac, Michigan, filed this action against
Defendant Wal-mart and others, alleging securities violations related to alleged materially false and
misleading statements regarding Defendant’s rules and practices with respect to ethics and claiming
that Defendant was involved in an alleged corruption scheme in Mexico.
Plaintiff is headquartered and operates in Michigan. Defendant is headquartered in
Arkansas. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant has numerous operations located in Tennessee, although
Plaintiff does not dispute that those same connections exist in all fifty states. None of the
Defendants, individual or corporate, resides in Tennessee. The Plaintiff alleges no connection to
Tennessee other than some of its counsel reside here.
MOTION TO TRANSFER
Defendant seeks transfer of this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), which provides: “For
the convenience of 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.”1 Ordinarily, the
burden of proving that transfer is warranted is on the moving party and the burden is a substantial
one. Smith v. Kyphon, Inc., 578 F.Supp.2d 954, 958 (M.D. Tenn. 2008). As the permissible
language of the transfer statute suggests, district courts have broad discretion to determine when
party convenience or the interest of justice make a transfer appropriate. Reese v. CNH America LLC,
574 F.3d 315, 320 (6th Cir. 2009).
In reviewing a motion to transfer, the court is to balance all relevant factors, including the
private interests2 of the parties and public-interest concerns,3 such as systemic integrity and fairness,
which comes under the rubric of ‘interests of justice.’” Moses v. Business Card Express, Inc., 929
F.2d 1131, 1137 (6th Cir. 1991); Reese, 574 F.3d at 320.
Convenience of non-party witnesses, as opposed to parties or employee witnesses, is one of
the most important factors in the transfer analysis. Smith, 578 F.Supp.2d at 963. Transfer of venue
is inappropriate where it would serve only to transfer the inconvenience from one party to the other.
Diebold, Inc. v. Firstcard Financial Services, Inc., 104 F.Supp.2d 758, 764 (N.D. Ohio 2000).
The parties do not dispute that the Western District of Arkansas is a district in which
this action might have been brought.
Convenience of the parties and witnesses, relative ease of access to sources of proof,
availability of process to compel attendance of unwilling witnesses, cost of obtaining willing
witnesses, and practical problems indicating where the case can be tried more expeditiously and
inexpensively. Smith, 578 F.Supp.2d at 962.
Enforceability of the judgment, practical considerations affecting trial management,
docket congestion, local interest in deciding local controversies at home, public policies of the fora,
familiarity of the trial judge with the applicable state law. Smith, 578 F. Supp.2d at 962.
While a plaintiff’s choice of forum is generally entitled to a substantial weight, when a given
action has a limited connection with the forum and is not the plaintiff’s residence, the plaintiff’s
choice is to be afforded less weight than would otherwise be the case. Lisenbee v. Fedex Corp., 579
F.Supp.2d 993, 1007 (M.D. Tenn. 2008). The plaintiff’s interest decreases even further where the
central facts of the lawsuit occurred outside the chosen forum. Id. Moreover, in class actions less
weight is given to Plaintiff’s choice of forum. In re Nematron Corp. Securities Litigation, 30
F.Supp.2d 397, 405 (S.D. N.Y. 1998).
Here, Plaintiff has showed a very limited connection to this forum, one that is present in
many other fora in the U.S. Even if Defendant’s alleged misrepresentations were directed to
Tennessee, as well as all other states, that fact does not make Tennessee a forum which has a
significant contact with the operative facts. Misrepresentations and omissions are deemed to occur
in the district where they are transmitted or withheld, not where they are received. In re Nematron,
30 F.Supp.2d at 404.
Arkansas bears a much stronger connection to the events underlying this action than does
Tennessee, which has no greater connection than any other district in which any potential class
member resides. The Court finds that it is not in the public interest to empanel a jury from this
community to hear a case having no connection to this district. Neither party has presented proof
that witnesses would be unwilling to travel to either Arkansas or Tennessee, despite Plaintiff’s
arguments about the airports. None of the witnesses Plaintiff identifies lives in either Arkansas or
Of all the potential host districts, the Court believes the Western District of Arkansas is the
logical situs for resolution of this dispute. Plaintiff argues basically that Wal-mart is big (“a true
Goliath”) and that Plaintiff simply wants to level the playing field. Plaintiff did not file this action
in Michigan where Plaintiff is located, however. Plaintiff filed this action in Tennessee, where
neither Plaintiff, Defendant, nor the alleged misconduct has any substantial connection. Plaintiff’s
arguments concerning access to witnesses, documents and evidence do not weigh in favor of
It is well established that the interest of justice alone may dictate transferring an action to
another federal district court. Hooker v. Burson, 960 F.Supp. 1283, 1291 (M.D. Tenn. 1996). In this
case, related shareholder derivative actions are pending in the Western District of Arkansas.
Transferring this action to Arkansas will also help to avoid potential conflicting findings concerning
the facts underlying these allegations. The interests of justice are best served by transferring this
action to Arkansas.
For these reasons, Defendant’s Motion to Transfer is GRANTED. The Court, in its
discretion, finds that the interests of justice and the convenience of the parties and witnesses require
that this action be tried in the Western District of Arkansas.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
TODD J. CAMPBELL
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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