Gilbert v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

Filing 17

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS 14 MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE ON GROUNDS OF FORUM NON CONVENIENS. Signed by Judge Claudia Wilken on 10/28/2011. (ndr, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 10/28/2011)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 8 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 9 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 11 ERIC GILBERT, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, 12 13 14 15 16 17 Plaintiff, v. WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A. and DOES 1-50, inclusive, No. C 11-2856 CW ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE ON GROUNDS OF FORUM NON CONVENIENS (Docket No. 14) Defendant. ________________________________/ 18 19 20 Plaintiff Eric Gilbert has filed the present lawsuit in the 21 Northern District of California, alleging a collective action 22 under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), as well as 23 class claims under Nevada Revised Statute sections 608.018 and 24 608.020-608.050. Defendant Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. moves to 25 transfer the action to the Las Vegas division of the District 26 27 28 Court of Nevada on forum non conveniens grounds. BACKGROUND 1 Plaintiff was employed as a Business Sales Officer (BSO) by 2 3 Wells Fargo from December 2007 through August 2010. 4 of Kathryn Deits at ¶ 3. 5 failed to pay to him and other similarly situated BSOs the legally 6 Declaration Plaintiff alleges that Wells Fargo required overtime premium. Plaintiff seeks to represent BSOs who 7 are currently employed, or were formerly employed, by Wells Fargo 8 9 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 from June 10, 2008 through the date judgment is rendered in the present lawsuit. Throughout his period of employment Plaintiff worked in Las 11 12 Vegas, Nevada. 13 Florida. 14 approximately 115 BSOs who work in seventeen different states. Id. Deits Dec. at ¶ 3. Currently he resides in At the present time Well Fargo employs 15 Id. at ¶ 4. As of September 15, 2011, no BSOs are employed in California. Id. 16 Neither Wells Fargo nor Plaintiff disclose how 17 18 many BSOs have been employed in California during the class period 19 and presently reside in the Northern District of California. 20 greatest number of BSOs have been employed in Texas, with twenty- 21 three BSOs employed there between July 2007 through the present. 22 Id. 23 The The next greatest number of BSOs, sixteen, has been employed in Arizona during the same time period. Id. Ten BSOs have either 24 worked or presently work in Nevada. Id. 25 26 In general, BSOs are organized regionally, with each BSO 27 reporting to a Business Banking Manager (BBM). 28 Within each region, BBMs report to one or two levels of Regional 2 Id. at ¶ 5. 1 Presidents. 2 BBM, who also worked in Las Vegas and continues to reside there. 3 Id. at ¶ 3. 4 located in Reno, Nevada. 5 Nevada is Kirk Clausen, who is based in Las Vegas. 6 Id. Plaintiff reported to Tom Lagomarsini, a former The current BBM for Nevada is Chad Osorno, who is Id. The current Regional President for Id. at ¶ 5. Clausen reports to a different Regional President, Gerrit Van 7 Huisstede, who is located in Phoenix, Arizona. Id. Van Huisstede 8 9 oversees several states, including Nevada and Arizona. Id. United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 Regional Presidents are based in the Northern District of 11 California, and only one is based in California. No 12 Id. Key operational and administrative personnel who are 13 responsible for Wells Fargo’s payroll practices and company 14 policies and procedures with regard to BSOs are located outside of 15 California. Id. at ¶ 6. A manager based in Arizona handles 16 training for all BSOs. Id. at ¶ 9. Likewise, the recruiter 17 18 responsible for speaking to potential BSOs in the Nevada region is 19 located in Arizona, as are individuals who maintain and manage 20 personnel files. 21 22 23 Id. at ¶¶ 7-8. LEGAL STANDARD Title 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) provides, “For the convenience of the parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district 24 court may transfer any civil action to any other district or 25 26 division where it might have been brought.” A district court has 27 broad discretion to adjudicate motions for transfer on a case-by- 28 case basis, considering factors of convenience and fairness. 3 See 1 Stewart Org. Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988); Sparling 2 v. Hoffman Constr. Co., 864 F.2d 635, 639 (9th Cir. 1988). 3 Factors the court may consider include (1) the plaintiff's choice 4 of forum; (2) convenience of the parties; (3) convenience of the 5 witnesses; (4) relative ease of access to the evidence; 6 (5) familiarity of each forum with the applicable law; 7 (6) feasibility of consolidation with other claims; (7) any local 8 9 interest in the controversy; and (8) the relative court congestion Saleh v. Titan Corp., 361 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 and time to trial in each forum. 11 F. Supp. 1152, 1156 (N.D. Cal. 2005) (citing Jones v. GNC 12 Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 498–99 (9th Cir. 2000), and 13 Decker Coal Co. v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 805 F.2d 834, 843 (9th 14 Cir. 1986)). 15 The movant bears the burden of justifying the transfer by a 16 strong showing of inconvenience. Decker Coal, 805 F.2d at 843. 17 18 The motion may be denied if the increased convenience to one party 19 is offset by the added inconvenience to the other party. 20 a general rule, the plaintiff's choice of forum is given 21 significant weight and will not be disturbed unless other factors 22 weigh substantially in favor of transfer. 23 § 1404(a). Id. As See 28 U.S.C. However, the plaintiff's selection of forum has 24 minimal value where the plaintiff is not a resident of the 25 26 judicial district in which the suit commenced. Armstrong v. Home 27 Depot U.S.A., Inc., 1996 WL 382895, *1 (N.D. Cal.) (citing Grubs 28 v. Consolidated Freightways, Inc., 189 F. Supp. 404, 409 (D. Mont. 4 1 1960) and Pacific Car & Foundry Co. v. Pence, 403 F.2d 949, 954 2 (9th Cir. 1968)). 3 class, its choice of forum is given less weight. 4 834 F.2d 730, 739 (9th Cir. 1987). In addition, when the plaintiff represents a 5 6 Lou v. Belzberg, DISCUSSION The parties do not dispute that the action could have been 7 filed in the Nevada district court. Rather, Plaintiff’s principle 8 9 argument is that transfer to Nevada is unwarranted because United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 (1) forums in Arizona and Texas are the most and more convenient, 11 respectively, compared to the district of Nevada and (2) those 12 fora lacked jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s lawsuit under 28 13 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(1). 14 requirements of jurisdiction under § 1391(b)(1),1 Plaintiff’s In addition to misunderstanding the 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 1 Section 1391(b) states in full: A civil action wherein jurisdiction is not founded solely on diversity of citizenship may, except as otherwise provided by law, be brought only in (1) a judicial district where any defendant resides, if all defendants reside in the same State, (2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the subject of the action is situated, or (3) a judicial district in which any defendant may be found, if there is no district in which the action may otherwise be brought. Plaintiff appears to overlook § 1391 (c), providing that for purposes of venue “a defendant that is a corporation is deemed to reside in any judicial district in which it is subject to personal jurisdiction at the time the action is commenced,” 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c), and, furthermore, that a corporation may be subject to personal jurisdiction outside of the district in which its headquarters are based. Thus, it appears that the suit could have been brought in Arizona or Texas. 5 1 arguments as to the relative convenience of fora in Arizona and 2 Texas compared to Nevada and the Northern District of California 3 are irrelevant. 4 on the relative convenience of Plaintiff’s chosen forum compared 5 to the forum Defendant seeks. 6 The determination of a motion to transfer turns Setting aside Plaintiff’s principle argument, the Jones 7 factors weigh in favor of transferring the present action to the 8 9 District of Nevada. First, as noted above, Plaintiff’s choice of United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 forum is entitled to minimal deference because Plaintiff has 11 alleged class claims, as well as a collective action under the 12 FLSA, and Plaintiff is not a resident of this district. 13 this factor does not favor hearing the present lawsuit in this 14 district. Thus, 15 Second, the convenience of the parties favors pursuing this 16 case in Nevada. Although Plaintiff resides in Florida, and it may 17 18 be marginally easier to fly to this district than to Nevada, no 19 BSOs are currently employed in California. 20 established or even alleged that a significant number BSOs were 21 employed in California during the class period and currently 22 reside in this district. 23 Nor has Plaintiff In contrast, twenty-six BSOs have been employed in Nevada and Arizona, in closer proximity to the 24 District of Nevada than to the Northern District of California. 25 26 The third Jones factor, convenience of the witnesses, also 27 supports transferring the case to the District of Nevada, Las 28 Vegas division. Defendant has attested to a chain-of-command that 6 1 is largely Nevada-based. 2 in Arizona, which is closer to Las Vegas than to this district. 3 Although Plaintiff asserts that Wells Fargo’s headquarters are 4 located in this district, he fails to identify any particular 5 witnesses who are based at Wells Fargo’s San Francisco 6 In addition, key personnel are located headquarters who will be required to testify. 7 The fourth factor, the ease of access to evidence, apart from 8 9 witness testimony, does not favor either district because it United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 appears that the records are based in Arizona and modern 11 technology eases access through the electronic transfer of 12 documentary evidence. 13 14 The fifth and seventh factors support transferring the action to Nevada because the district court in Las Vegas is more likely 15 to be familiar with the law applicable to Plaintiff’s claims under 16 Nevada statutory law and that state has a greater interest in 17 18 enforcement of its own laws than does California. 19 not plead any claims under California law. 20 Plaintiff has The sixth factor, the feasibility of consolidation with other 21 claims, is irrelevant to this lawsuit and is not argued by either 22 party. 23 As to the final factor, the parties make no arguments 24 regarding the relative congestion of the courts in either 25 26 27 district. Nevertheless Defendant correctly asserts that the interests of judicial economy may be served by hearing the case in 28 7 1 Nevada, where the judiciary has greater expertise over its own 2 state law. 3 In sum, six of the seven Jones factors that apply to the 4 present case favor transferring this action to the District of 5 Nevada, Las Vegas division. 6 CONCLUSION 7 Defendant’s motion to transfer is granted. Docket No. 14. 8 9 The Clerk shall transfer the file to the District of Nevada, Las United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 Vegas division. 11 13, 2011 is VACATED. 12 The case management conference set for December IT IS SO ORDERED. 13 14 15 Dated: 10/28/2011 CLAUDIA WILKEN United States District Judge 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 8

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