KGM Contractors, Inc. v. Heavy Haulers, Inc. et al
ORDER: (1) Defendant Heavy Haulers, Inc.'s motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to transfer [Dkt. No. 24 ] is GRANTED IN PART, with respect to the alternative motion to transfer, and DENIED IN PART, with respect to the motion to dismiss. ( 2) Defendant Cardinal Transport, Inc.'s motion to transfer [Dkt. No. 29 ] is GRANTED. (3) This action, Civil No. 16-3638, is TRANSFERRED to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida. The Clerk of Court is directed to effect the transfer. (Written Opinion) Signed by Judge Joan N. Ericksen on June 5, 2017. (CBC)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA
KGM CONTRACTORS, INC., a Minnesota
Case No. 16-CV-3638 (JNE/LIB)
HEAVY HAULERS, INC., a Georgia
corporation, and CARDINAL
TRANSPORT, INC., a Delaware
corporation also known as Illinois Cardinal
Plaintiff KGM Contractors, Inc. (“KGM”) brought claims against Defendants Heavy
Haulers, Inc. and Cardinal Transport, Inc. for damage sustained to an asphalt plant during
disassembly in Florida and transport to Minnesota. Heavy Haulers moved to dismiss for lack of
personal jurisdiction and moved, in the alternative, to transfer this action to the Northern District
of Florida, where the asphalt plant was originally located and disassembled. Cardinal Transport
separately moved to transfer to the same District. For the following reasons, the Court denies
Heavy Haulers’s motion to dismiss, but grants its alternative motion, and Cardinal Transport’s
motion, to transfer to the Northern District of Florida.
KGM purchased an asphalt plant located in Hawthorne, Florida from Anderson Columbia
Company, Inc. (See Compl. ¶ 6, Dkt. No. 1.) KGM then contracted with Heavy Haulers to
disassemble the plant into parts and transport the parts to KGM’s location in Hibbing,
Minnesota. (See id. ¶ 9.) In turn, Heavy Haulers subcontracted some of the transportation to
Cardinal Transport. (See id. ¶ 13.) Cardinal Transport ended up delivering its parts late. (See id.)
After delivery, “KGM discovered that the [asphalt plant] was significantly damaged and
altered.” (Id. ¶ 14.) Electrical wires were cut and destroyed, parts were broken and missing, and
structural aspects of the plant were damaged, among other things. (See id.) KGM spent over
$250,000 repairing these conditions. (See id. ¶ 16.) It also sustained lost profits and liquidated
damages due to inability to use the plant. (See id. ¶ 17.)
A. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction
Heavy Haulers moves to dismiss this action for lack of personal jurisdiction. (See Dkt.
No. 24.) The question of jurisdiction usually takes precedence over other considerations. See
Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 577 (1999). However, a federal court has
discretion “to choose among threshold grounds for denying audience to a case on the merits.”
Sinochem Int’l Co. v. Malaysia Int’l Shipping Corp., 549 U.S. 422, 431 (2007) (quoting Ruhrgas,
526 U.S. at 585). The decision to dismiss or transfer a case based on venue considerations is one
such threshold ground, as it is merely “a determination that the merits should be adjudicated
elsewhere” and does not entail ruling on the merits. Id. at 432. Thus, a federal court may address
venue first, “bypassing questions of subject-matter and personal jurisdiction, when
considerations of convenience, fairness, and judicial economy so warrant.” Id. at 432; see also In
re LimitNone, LLC, 551 F.3d 572, 575-78 (7th Cir. 2008) (holding that a district court did not
impermissibly act by transferring a case before addressing subject-matter jurisdiction).
In this case, there are persuasive arguments for and against finding that Heavy Haulers
has sufficient minimum contacts with Minnesota such that maintenance of the lawsuit would not
offend “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Int’l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326
U.S. 310, 316 (1945). Due to this, in view of the Court’s ability to bypass the issue by evaluating
venue, and because the relevant factors overwhelmingly favor transferring this action, the Court
declines to rule on the issue of personal jurisdiction over Heavy Haulers in Minnesota.
B. Transfer under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)
“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 or
to any district or division to which all parties have consented.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Heavy
Haulers and Cardinal Transport request that the Court transfer this action to the Northern District
of Florida. (See Dkt. Nos. 24, 29.) This action could have been brought in that District because it
is where “a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to [KGM’s claims] occurred,”
namely because disassembly and part of the transportation occurred there. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1391(b)(2). Also, with respect to KGM’s claim under 49 U.S.C. § 14706 against Cardinal
Transport, the Northern District of Florida is proper because it is a state in which Cardinal
Transport, the delivering carrier, operates. 1 See § 14706(d)(1); Winona Foods, Inc. v. Timothy J.
Kennedy, Inc., No. 07-CV-1003 (WCG), 2008 WL 2570600, at *4 (E.D. Wis. June 26, 2008).
Because the Northern District of Florida is a district in which this action could have been
brought, the Court next considers factors relevant to transfer. 2
Courts must consider three categories of factors when ruling on a motion to transfer: “(1)
the convenience of the parties, (2) the convenience of the witnesses, and (3) the interests of
justice.” Terra Int’l, Inc. v. Miss. Chem. Corp., 119 F.3d 688, 691 (8th Cir. 1997). The Court
may consider any case-specific factors in conducting its “flexible and individualized [transfer]
According to Cardinal Transport’s website, it operates in Florida. See Coverage Map,
Cardinal Transport, http://www.cardinaltransport.com/coveragemap2.htm (last visited May
In this contract action, the Parties have not argued or provided any evidence that they are
bound by a valid forum-selection clause, which would alter the § 1404(a) analysis. See Atl.
Marine Constr. Co. v. U.S. Dist. Court for the W. Dist. of Tex., 134 S. Ct. 568, 581-82 (2013).
analysis.” Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988). “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.” Terra
Int’l, 119 F.3d at 695. “The party seeking transfer must show that the balance of factors
‘strongly’ favors the movant.” Toomey v. Dahl, 63 F. Supp. 3d 982, 993 (D. Minn. 2014)
(quoting Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 508 (1947)). Ultimately, the Court has
discretion to decide whether the balance of relevant factors favors transfer. See Stewart, 487 U.S.
at 29 (citing Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 622 (1964)).
1. Convenience of the Parties
When evaluating the convenience of the parties, courts may consider the parties’
locations, the expenses and disruption that the parties will likely suffer if litigation is held in
either forum, and the location where the complained-of conduct occurred. See In re Apple, Inc.,
602 F.3d 909, 913-14 (8th Cir. 2010); Terra Int’l, 119 F.3d at 696; The Charter Oak Fire Ins.
Co. v. The Burlington N. Santa Fe Ry. Co., No. 16-CV-140 (JNE/HB), 2016 WL 3004628, at *23 (D. Minn. May 24, 2016); Brockman v. Sun Valley Resorts, Inc., 923 F. Supp. 1176, 1180 (D.
Minn. 1996). Transfer is not appropriate if it will merely shift inconvenience from one party to
another. Terra Int’l, 119 F.3d at 696-97.
a. The Parties’ Locations
In opposing transfer to the Northern District of Florida, KGM points out that none of the
Parties are residents of Florida. 3 (See Plaintiff’s Memorandum in Opposition to the Motion to
Transfer (“Pl. Transfer Br.”) 7, Dkt. No. 40.) This appears to be the case: KGM is a Minnesota
Residency for the purposes of venue is different from residency for the purposes of, for
example, diversity jurisdiction. Compare 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c), with 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c).
However, parties’ primary locations are more relevant to their convenience.
corporation, with a principal place of business in Minnesota; Heavy Haulers is a Georgia
corporation, with a principal place of business in Georgia; and Cardinal Transport is a Delaware
corporation, with a principal place of business in Illinois. (Compl. ¶¶ 3-5.) Despite this, Heavy
Haulers argues that Florida is more convenient on balance because the company is located closer
to the Northern District of Florida. (See Heavy Haulers’s Memorandum in Support of Its Motion
to Dismiss (“HH Dismiss Br.”) 16-17, Dkt. No. 25.) Cardinal Transport’s drivers, who
transported the plant parts and are independent contractors, are also closer to the Northern
District of Florida; they are located in Florida and South Georgia. (Cardinal Transport’s
Memorandum in Support of Its Motion to Transfer (“CT Transfer Br.”) 4, Dkt. No. 30; see also
Declaration of Jeffrey Clark (“Clark Decl.”) ¶ 5, Dkt. No. 31.) These drivers are the only
identified persons affiliated with Cardinal Transport who participated in the events underlying
the Parties’ dispute. (See, e.g., Compl. ¶¶ 13, 16-17; Clark Decl. ¶ 5.) The practical location for
Cardinal Transport, acting through independent contractors, is between Florida and South
Georgia. Because, in the context of this case, more Parties are located closer to Florida, the
Parties’ locations favor transfer.
b. Expenses and Disruption Resulting from Litigation in Either Forum
The expenses and disruption that the parties “would likely incur . . . for airfare, meals,
and lodging, and losses in productivity from time spent away from work” if litigating in one
forum or another is relevant to the convenience of the parties. Oien v. Thompson, 824 F. Supp.
2d 898, 903 (D. Minn. 2010) (quoting In re Apple, 602 F.3d at 913); see also Toomey, 63 F.
Supp. 3d at 993 (considering hardship to the parties). As explained above, the Parties are located
closer to the Northern District of Florida. Due to the great distance between Minnesota and
Florida, it is very likely that the Parties’ collective expenses will be greater if they litigate this
case in Minnesota, rather than in Florida. Thus, transfer would not merely shift inconvenience
from one party to another, as KGM contends. (See Plaintiff’s Memorandum in Opposition to the
Motion to Dismiss (“Pl. Dismiss. Br.”) 18, Dkt. No. 41; Pl. Transfer Br. 7.) KGM will face some
inconvenience if the case is transferred, but that inconvenience is outweighed by the
inconvenience both Defendants would likely suffer if this action is litigated in Minnesota.
More importantly, Heavy Haulers argues that, due to its small size and limited resources,
litigation and a trial in Minnesota would seriously jeopardize its business operations. (See HH
Dismiss Br. 16-17; see also Affidavit of Tony Clark (“Clark Aff.”) ¶ 7, Dkt. No. 26 (“Trying the
case in [Minnesota] . . . would cripple Heavy Haulers’[s] ability to perform work during the
trial.”) Where a defendant’s “business would be substantially disrupted by having litigation
proceed in an inconvenient forum,” and the likely disruption would disproportionately burden
the defendant, transfer is favored. Sec. & Exch. Comm’n v. Page Airways, Inc., 464 F. Supp. 461,
464 (D.D.C. 1978); see Feralloy Corp. v. Spig Indus., Inc., No. 09-CV-3028 (RMG), 2010 WL
3432283, at *2 (D.S.C. Aug. 30, 2010); In re Hanger Orthopedic Grp., Inc. Sec. Litig., 418 F.
Supp. 2d 164, 169 (E.D.N.Y. 2006).
Heavy Haulers has only eight employees, and it argues that five of those employees are
essential witnesses. (See HH Dismiss Br. 16-17; Clark Aff. ¶ 7.) Thus, trial in Minnesota could
effectively shutter the company’s operations and cause long-term business and financial
consequences. On the other hand, trial in the Northern District of Florida—much closer to where
Heavy Haulers operates—would likely have a less disruptive effect on Heavy Haulers’s
business. (See HH Dismiss Br. 16-17.) A similar argument can also be made for Cardinal
Transport’s independent contractors; trial in Minnesota would likely disrupt their ability to drive
trucks and earn income more than trial in Florida would. The record does not reveal KGM’s size,
but its website indicates that it is larger than Heavy Haulers. 4 KGM also only identified three
likely employee witnesses and did not argue that transfer would disrupt its business operations.
(See Dkt. Nos. 27-1 at 7-8, 42-1 at 5.) By comparison, then, it appears less likely that KGM will
suffer substantial business disruption if this action is litigated in Florida.
Because Florida appears on balance less expensive for the Parties, and litigation in
Minnesota will very likely force Heavy Haulers (and, potentially, Cardinal Transport’s
independent contractors) to shoulder a substantial and disproportionate disruption to business
activities, as compared to KGM, these factors strongly favor transfer.
c. The Location Where the Complained-of Conduct Occurred
Courts consider the location where the complained-of conduct occurred when evaluating
the convenience of the parties. See, e.g., In re Apple, 602 F.3d at 914. In part, this is because the
location where the cause of action arose is likely to have more sources of evidence, implicate
local law, and bear on local interests. See Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 509 (1947).
“[I]t is generally appropriate to transfer an action to the district that is the locus of operative
facts.” Cosmetic Warriors Ltd. v. Abrahamson, 723 F. Supp. 2d 1102, 1108 (D. Minn. 2010).
KGM alleges that the damage to the asphalt plant occurred during disassembly, transport,
or both. (See Compl. ¶ 16.) However, at oral argument, KGM conceded that it is clear that some
of the damage, such as the cut wires that appear to have accounted for most of the repair costs,
(see Dkt. No. 27-1 at 8), occurred during disassembly. It is comparatively unclear whether the
structural and other damage resulted from disassembly or transport, or led to repairs. And
KGM’s website states that the company “manages up to 200 employees with projects ranging
from $5,000 to over $30 million.” About KGM, KGM Contractors, http://kgmcontractors.com/
about.php (last visited May 30, 2017).
although KGM’s claims also encompass the late transportation and consequential damages it
suffered in Minnesota, those aspects are ancillary to the focus of the action: the plant damage.
Based on the information presented by the Parties, the primary complained-of conduct in
this action is the improper plant disassembly, which occurred in Florida. 5 Therefore, the location
of the key complained-of conduct in this case and the locus of operative facts favor transfer.
2. Convenience of the Witnesses
The convenience of the witnesses is an important factor because “it determines the
relative ease of access to sources of proof,” and courts prefer “live testimony as opposed to
depositions.” Oien v. Thompson, 824 F. Supp. 2d 898, 904 (D. Minn. 2010) (quoting Graff v.
Qwest Commc’ns Corp., 33 F. Supp. 2d 1117, 1121 (D. Minn. 1999)). When evaluating this
factor, courts consider the number, location, and importance of essential party and non-party
witnesses. See id. Emphasis is placed on non-party witnesses, “whose appearances may have to
be compelled, on the assumption that witnesses within party control, like employees, will appear
voluntarily wherever the forum.” The Charter Oak Fire Ins. Co. v. The Burlington N. & Santa Fe
Ry. Co., No. 16-CV-140 (JNE/HB), 2016 WL 3004628, at *3 (D. Minn. May 24, 2016). Parties
must “clearly specify the essential witnesses to be called and must make a general statement of
what their testimony will cover.” Toomey v. Dahl, 63 F. Supp. 3d 982, 993 (D. Minn. 2014)
(quoting Nelson v. Master Lease Corp., 759 F. Supp. 1397, 1402 (D. Minn. 1991)). Courts also
consider the location of evidence when evaluating the convenience to the witnesses. See Piper
Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 257-58 (1981); In re Apple, Inc., 602 F.3d 909, 914 (8th
Cir. 2010); Terra Int’l, Inc. v. Miss. Chem. Corp., 119 F.3d 688, 696 (8th Cir. 1997).
Heavy Haulers’s counter-claim against KGM arises from costs incurred during transport, but
it is unclear where exactly the costs were incurred on the journey to Minnesota. (See
Defendant Heavy Hauler, Inc.’s Answer (“HH Answer”) at 7-9, Dkt. No. 10.)
a. Party and Non-party Witnesses
The most essential witnesses in this case are “those who will testify as to the condition of
the asphalt plant before and after its disassembly and transport to Minnesota, the parties
responsible for the plant’s damages, the repairs needed to remedy its condition, and the damages
caused by the delivery delay.” (Pl. Dismiss Br. 21.) The parties have identified several witnesses,
most of whom are likely to be essential. Three KGM employees with essential knowledge are
located in Minnesota. (See Dkt. Nos. 26-1 at 26, 27-1 at 7-8, 42-1 at 5.) Heavy Haulers has five
employees with essential knowledge, who are located in Georgia. (See Dkt. Nos. 26-1 at 24-25,
27-1 at 9.) Cardinal Transport identified four independent contractors who transported plant parts
to Minnesota. (See Clark Decl. ¶ 5; Dkt. No. 42-1 at 11-12.) Two are located in Florida, and two
are located in Georgia and over 100 miles from the nearest courthouse in the Northern District of
Florida. (See Clark Decl. ¶ 5.) The Parties also identified two Anderson Columbia witnesses,
who are located in Florida and have essential knowledge, particularly about the plant’s
disassembly, (see Dkt. Nos. 26-1 at 27, 27-1 at 6-7); two individuals who brokered the sale of the
plant and are located in Florida and an unknown state, 6 (see Dkt. Nos. 26-1 at 26, 27-1 at 8); one
individual who performed work on the plant prior to disassembly and is located in Florida, (see
Dkt. No. 26-1 at 26); at least two specific individuals 7 who repaired the plant after delivery and
It is unclear where one of these brokers, Mike Egan, is located, as his address is “unknown.”
(Dkt. No. 26-1 at 26.) However, his phone number has a “570” area code, connecting him to
Pennsylvania. See Area Code Query, NANPA, https://www.nationalnanpa.com/enas/npa
_query.do (enter “570” and click the “Continue” hyperlink) (last visited May 30, 2017).
The Court only considers specifically-identified witnesses when evaluating the convenience
of the witnesses. See, e.g., Bae Sys. Land & Armaments L.P. v. Ibis Tek, LLC, 124 F. Supp. 3d
878, 886 (D. Minn. 2015); Oien, 824 F. Supp. 2d at 904.
are located in Minnesota, (see Dkt. No. 27-1 at 8); and one consultant who has knowledge of the
plant’s post-delivery condition and is located in an unknown state, 8 (see id. at 9).
KGM argues that some witnesses are outside the Northern District of Florida’s power to
compel witnesses to appear at trial, (see Pl. Transfer Br. 9.), which extends to Florida’s state
boundaries and within 100 miles of any court location, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(c)(1). KGM and
Heavy Haulers may compel their employee-witnesses to attend trial in Florida. Cardinal
Transport argues that its drivers are independent contractors, not employees, and therefore it
cannot compel them to appear for trial. (See CT Transfer Br. 3; Cardinal Transport’s Reply
Memorandum (“CT Transfer Reply Br.”) 2, Dkt. No. 44.) Because it is unlikely that Cardinal
Transport will be able to compel all of the independent contractors to attend trial, the Court treats
them as non-party witnesses. 9 Two of these independent contractors are outside the Northern
District of Florida’s subpoena power, but that forum is much closer than Minnesota, so their
attendance in Florida is more likely. Like the other two independent contractors, the Anderson
Columbia witnesses are subject to the Northern District of Florida’s subpoena power, in addition
to two more non-party witnesses. However, four non-party witnesses are not. Minnesota is more
convenient for two of them, as they are located within the state. But neither Minnesota, nor
Florida, is appreciably more convenient for the other two from unknown states (suspected to be
Pennsylvania and Michigan); both of these witnesses will likely have to travel considerable
distance no matter what the forum.
It is unclear where this individual, Paul R. Vaulman, is located, but his employer’s website
lists him as the contact for the Detroit, Michigan office. See Contact Us, Madsen, Kneppers &
Associates, https://www.mkainc.com/contactus.html (last visited May 30, 2017).
Courts tend to treat independent contractors as non-party witnesses. See, e.g., Howze v. United
States, No. 14-CV-10275 (JBG), 2015 WL 9315542, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 23, 2015); Messina
v. N. Cent. Distrib., Inc., No. 14-CV-3101 (PAM/SER), 2015 WL 12780470, at *2 (D. Minn.
Jan. 28, 2015); Zeta-Jones v. Spice House, 372 F. Supp. 2d. 568, 576 (C.D. Cal. 2005); Sky
Techs. Partners, LLC v. Midwest Research Inst., 125 F. Supp. 2d 286, 293 (S.D. Ohio 2000).
Though neither forum is more convenient for all witnesses, the Northern District of
Florida is more convenient for most of them. The forum is much closer to more essential party
witnesses, in addition to Cardinal Transport’s independent contractors. The forum is also more
convenient for most of the essential non-party witnesses and just as convenient for others. There
are likely to be fewer subpoena challenges in the transferee forum because more non-party
witnesses are subject to the forum’s power to compel attendance at trial. For these reasons, the
convenience of the witnesses favors transfer.
b. Location of Evidence
As KGM notes, most of the documentary evidence in this case is located in Minnesota
already, but the documents are not extensive enough to be relevant to the venue analysis. (See Pl.
Transfer Br. 7-8.) The location of property that is the subject of a suit may also be relevant;
litigating an action in the same venue as the property may make inspection by witnesses and the
jury, if a viewing is suitable, more convenient. See Brockman v. Sun Valley Resorts, Inc., 923 F.
Supp. 1176, 1180-81 (D. Minn. 1996). But courts rarely permit viewing, see id. at 1181, and
KGM does not argue that the location of the plant will make a material difference in this matter.
Therefore, this factor is neutral.
3. The Interests of Justice
In evaluating the interests of justice, courts consider factors such as judicial economy, the
comparative costs of litigating in either forum and the parties’ relative ability to bear those costs,
each party’s ability to enforce a judgment, obstacles to a fair trial, the parties’ contacts with each
forum, conflict of law issues, the advantages of having a local court determine questions of local
law, and the plaintiff’s choice of forum. See In re Apple, Inc., 602 F.3d 909, 915 (8th Cir. 2010);
Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 498-99 (9th Cir. 2000); Terra Int’l, Inc. v. Miss.
Chem. Corp., 119 F.3d 688, 696 (8th Cir. 1997); Cosmetic Warriors Ltd. v. Abrahamson, 723 F.
Supp. 2d 1102, 1109 (D. Minn. 2010).
a. Judicial Economy
Heavy Haulers argues that it desires to bring a claim against Anderson Columbia for
contribution or a related theory. (See Heavy Haulers’s Reply Memorandum (“HH Dismiss Reply
Br.”) 4-5, Dkt. No. 45.) However, Heavy Haulers asserts it cannot join Anderson Columbia
because the company is not subject to the Court’s personal jurisdiction, due to lack of minimum
contacts with Minnesota. (See HH Dismiss Br. 16; HH Dismiss Reply Br. 4-5.) If this action is
transferred to the Northern District of Florida, Heavy Haulers says it will be able to join
Anderson Columbia in this action. (See HH Dismiss Br. 16; HH Dismiss Reply Br. 5.) KGM
acknowledges that it is disputed whether Anderson Columbia is at fault, but argues that
discovery is “midstream,” so judicial economy disfavors transfer. (Pl. Dismiss Br. 23; Pl.
Transfer Br. 15.)
Anderson Columbia may have assisted Heavy Haulers during the disassembly, and that
assistance may serve as the basis for a claim against Anderson Columbia by one or more of the
Parties. (See Clark Aff. ¶ 5.) It is questionable whether Anderson Columbia has sufficient
minimum contacts with Minnesota to enable the Court to exercise personal jurisdiction over the
company; there is no indication that Anderson Columbia had any contacts with Minnesota other
than the sale of the plant to KGM. (See Dkt. No. 27-1 at 17.) Lack of minimum contacts would
be a factor weighing in favor of transfer if Anderson Columbia had been joined in this action.
See Strickland v. Cty. Council of Beaufort Cty., --- F. Supp. 3d ---, No. 16-CV-1150 (JNE/LIB),
2017 WL 72398, at *6 (D. Minn. Jan. 6, 2017). Even though Anderson Columbia is not yet
joined, though, transfer will likely promote judicial economy by enabling joint resolution of any
claims against Anderson Columbia and the other claims in this action. See Cosmetic Warriors,
723 F. Supp. 2d at 1110 (“Litigation of related claims in the same tribunal is strongly favored
because it facilitates efficient, economical and expeditious pre-trial proceedings and discovery
and avoids duplic[ative] litigation and inconsistent results.” (citation omitted)). With respect to
discovery, although transfer may disrupt timelines and scope, transfer will also likely promote
overall judicial economy by facilitating the trying of all factual and legal issues together in one
action. See id. Therefore, the Court finds that the strong possibility that Anderson Columbia is
not subject to personal jurisdiction in Minnesota, the high likelihood that Anderson Columbia
will be joined after transfer, and the reasonable expectation that disruption to discovery will be
offset by greater judicial efficiency in resolving this dispute, together demonstrate that the
judicial economy factor favors transfer. See Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 259
(1981) (“[I]nability to implead potential third-party defendants clearly supported holding the trial
in [a different forum].”); Austin v. Nestle USA, Inc., 677 F. Supp. 2d 1134, 1140-41 (D. Minn.
2009); Prentice-Hall Corp. Sys., Inc. v. Ins. Co. of N. Am., 81 F.R.D. 477, 481 (S.D.N.Y. 1979).
b. Ability to Bear the Costs of Litigating
The comparative costs to the parties of litigating in either forum and the parties’ ability to
bear those costs are relevant to the interests of justice. See Terra Int’l, 119 F.3d at 696; Nelson v.
Master Lease Corp., 759 F. Supp. 1397, 1403 (D. Minn. 1991). The Parties did not provide
information about their relative financial strength or ability to bear the costs of litigation.
However, as previously discussed, Heavy Haulers argues that litigating in Minnesota could
severely disrupt its business operations. See supra Part II.B.1.b. Applying the previous analysis,
the Court finds that Florida will be a less costly forum overall, and KGM is more likely to be
able to bear the costs of litigating in a far-away forum than Heavy Haulers. Cardinal Transport
will have to defend itself in a distant state regardless of forum, but Florida will be more
convenient for its independent contractors. Thus, the comparative costs to the Parties and the
Parties’ ability to bear those costs favor transfer.
c. Ability to Enforce a Judgment
Cardinal Transport argues that a judgment against Heavy Haulers would not be
collectible in Minnesota because Heavy Haulers has no assets in the state. (See CT Transfer Br.
5.) KGM responds that there is no evidence that Defendants will be unable to pay a judgment in
its favor. (See Pl. Transfer Br. 16.) Litigating this action in Florida will present the same
collection issues as in Minnesota because Defendants—with the exception of Anderson
Columbia, if joined—are not located in Florida. Therefore, this factor is neutral.
d. Obstacles to a Fair Trial
Cardinal Transport argues that Defendants will be prejudiced if Anderson Columbia is
not joined in this action because it wishes to contend at trial that Anderson Columbia is at least
partially at fault for any damage to the asphalt plant. (See CT Transfer Br. 5.) Because of this,
Cardinal Transport believes that the jury will want to ascribe a percentage of fault to Anderson
Columbia, but that percentage will not be binding on Anderson Columbia as a non-party. (See
id.) KGM argues that this is not a reason to transfer venue. (See Pl. Transfer Br. 16.)
The Court has previously explained that “a jury is less likely to accept the argument that
third parties were responsible for [the plaintiff’s] injuries, at least in part, if those third parties are
not before the jury.” Austin, 677 F. Supp. 2d at 1141. It is plausible that Anderson Columbia’s
absence as a party may present such an obstacle to a fair trial in this case. In addition, the
absence of Anderson Columbia (and other) witnesses, who cannot be forced to attend trial in
Minnesota, may also present an obstacle to receiving a fair trial, especially where, as here, those
witnesses are likely to be essential. See Klatte v. Buckman, Buckman & Reid, Inc., 995 F. Supp.
2d 951, 957 (D. Minn. 2014). Particularly in this action, the ability to call more witnesses to
testify about disassembly—the primary complained-of conduct—is likely to assist fact finders in
determining the truth. Therefore, there are likely to be fewer obstacles to a fair trial in Florida.
This favors transfer.
e. Contacts with Each Forum
The Parties’ contacts with each forum are relevant to determining whether the interests of
justice favor transfer because personal jurisdiction is fundamentally a question of due process.
See Int’l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945); Jones, 211 F.3d at 498-99;
Cosmetic Warriors, 723 F. Supp. 2d at 1109; see also Mizokami Bros. of Ariz. v. Mobay Chem.
Corp., 660 F.2d 712, 716 (8th Cir. 1981) (stating that the contacts of the parties may be
considered in the transfer analysis).
As previously stated, there are persuasive arguments for and against finding personal
jurisdiction over Heavy Haulers in Minnesota. See supra Part II.A. But it is undisputed that
Heavy Haulers would be subject to personal jurisdiction in Florida. Moreover, a Florida court
would have personal jurisdiction over Anderson Columbia. Therefore, the Parties’ contacts with
Minnesota, as compared to Florida, favor transfer.
f. Conflict of Law Issues
KGM argues that conflict of law considerations disfavor transfer because this action
involves Minnesota and federal law. (See Pl. Transfer Br. 16.) The Parties did not otherwise
discuss any conflict of law issues. The limited briefing on this factor does not support a finding
that conflict of law issues favor or disfavor transfer. See The Charter Oak Fire Ins. Co. v. The
Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co., No. 16-CV-140 (JNE/HB), 2016 WL 3004628, at *6 (D.
Minn. May 24, 2016). Thus, the Court treats the conflict of law factor as neutral.
g. Advantages of Litigating Before a Local Court
KGM argues that because its claims involve Minnesota law, the Court’s familiarity with
that law is a factor that disfavors transfer. (See Pl. Dismiss Br. 24; Pl. Transfer Br. 16.)
Defendants do not discuss this factor.
A transferee forum must apply the law of the transferor court. Ferens v. John Deere Co.,
494 U.S. 516, 523 (1990). In some cases, there are advantages to having local courts decide
questions of local law. See, e.g., In re Apple, 602 F.3d at 915; Huggins v. Stryker Corp., 932 F.
Supp. 2d 972, 983 (D. Minn. 2013). But “where the legal questions involved are relatively
simple . . . the familiarity-with-applicable-law factor is afforded little weight.” Oien, 824 F.
Supp. 2d at 907 (quoting Advanced Logistics Consulting, Inc. v. C. Enyeart LLC, No. 09-CV-720
(RHK/JJG), 2009 WL 1684428, at *6 (D. Minn. June 16, 2009)); see also Clergy Fin., LLC v.
Clergy Fin. Servs., Inc., 598 F. Supp. 2d 989, 995 (D. Minn. 2009) (“[C]ourts can just as easily
apply the law of another state as easily as their own.” (citation omitted)).
Here, the claims involve what appear to be simple questions of contract and negligence
law, in addition to federal law, and the Parties have not identified any novel or complex legal
issues in play. Therefore, the Court finds that this factor only weighs slightly against transfer.
h. Plaintiff’s Choice of Forum
Defendants argue that KGM’s choice of forum is not entitled to deference because its
claims do not arise out of events that primarily took place in Minnesota. (See HH Dismiss Br. 16;
HH Dismiss Reply Br. 5; CT Transfer Br. 5; CT Transfer Reply Br. 1.) KGM responds that its
claims are centered in Minnesota. (See Pl. Dismiss Br. 22; Pl. Transfer Br. 8, 12-13.)
The typical deference afforded a plaintiff’s choice of forum is lessened when the chosen
forum has a weaker connection to the underlying dispute. See In re Apple, 602 F.3d at 913. As
already discussed, this action primarily concerns the alleged improper disassembly of an asphalt
plant, which occurred in Florida. See supra Part II.B.1.c. Thus, the deference accorded to KGM’s
choice of forum is lessened, but not entirely eliminated. See CBS Interactive Inc. v. Nat’l
Football League Players Ass’n, Inc., 259 F.R.D. 398, 408 (D. Minn. 2009) (“‘[L]ess’ deference
does not mean ‘no’ deference . . . .”). Although this factor disfavors transfer, it is not dispositive
in this case.
After reviewing case-specific factors relevant to the convenience of the parties, the
convenience of the witnesses, and the interests of justice, the Court finds that the factors
overwhelmingly favor transferring this action to the Northern District of Florida. There, the
Parties will have the greatest opportunity to try all claims arising from their dispute, marshal
evidence and witnesses with knowledge of disputed events and conditions, and have the entire
action heard in an efficient and fair manner. Litigating the case in Florida will also pose less of a
risk that one party, over another, will be disproportionately inconvenienced by disruption to
business operations. In summary, the Court finds that the balance of all relevant factors strongly
supports transferring this action.
[continued on next page]
Based on the files, records, and proceedings herein, and for the reasons stated above, IT
IS ORDERED THAT:
1. Defendant Heavy Haulers, Inc.’s motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to
transfer [Dkt. No. 24] is GRANTED IN PART, with respect to the alternative
motion to transfer, and DENIED IN PART, with respect to the motion to
2. Defendant Cardinal Transport, Inc.’s motion to transfer [Dkt. No. 29] is
3. This action, Civil No. 16-3638, is TRANSFERRED to the United States
District Court for the Northern District of Florida. The Clerk of Court is
directed to effect the transfer.
Dated: June 5, 2017.
s/Joan N. Ericksen
JOAN N. ERICKSEN
United States District Judge
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