Key et al v. Sprout Foods, Inc.
ORDER by Judge Vince Chhabria granting #33 Motion to Transfer Case; denying #34 Motion to Dismiss without prejudice. (vclc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 9/7/2021)
Case 2:21-cv-16605-SRC-JSA Document 52 Filed 09/07/21 Page 1 of 2 PageID: 394
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
ANDREA KEY, et al.,
Case No. 21-cv-02391-VC
SPROUT FOODS, INC.,
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO
TRANSFER; DENYING MOTION TO
DISMISS WITHOUT PREJUDICE
Re: Dkt. No. 33, 34
The Plaintiffs are residents of California who bought Sprout Foods baby food that was
allegedly tainted by toxic heavy metals. They seek to bring California state-law claims against
Sprout Foods on behalf of a California class. But Sprout Foods and many of the non-parties it
identifies as having information relating to this lawsuit are located in and around the State of
New Jersey. And a proposed nationwide class action is pending against Sprout Foods in the
District of New Jersey. So Sprout Foods has sought to transfer this case to that district, where it
could have been filed initially, “[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses” and “in the
interest of justice.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Because the Plaintiffs in this case filed their lawsuit
before the New Jersey plaintiffs, the first-to-file rule does not apply.
Although it is a close question, the section 1404(a) factors favor a transfer of venue. See
Vu v. Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical, Inc., 602 F. Supp. 2d 1151, 1156 (N.D. Cal. 2009). The
potential consolidation with the pending action in New Jersey would reduce litigation costs and
result in a more efficient discovery process. See, e.g., Esquer v. StockX, LLC, No. 19-cv-05933LHK, 2020 WL 3487821, at *8 (N.D. Cal. June 26, 2020). Convenience to the parties and nonparty witnesses is less important in a world where technology makes it easy to conduct discovery
Case 2:21-cv-16605-SRC-JSA Document 52 Filed 09/07/21 Page 2 of 2 PageID: 395
from anywhere, few cases go to trial, and technology makes remote trial testimony more
feasible. See Tate v. Brinderson Constructors, Inc., 2016 WL 7387430, at *1–2 (N.D. Cal. Dec.
21, 2016). But still, to the extent a trial is necessary, litigating in New Jersey is more convenient
for Sprout Foods and, more importantly, for the non-party witnesses Sprout Foods represents as
having relevant information about this case. Those efficiency gains outweigh the inconvenience
to the Plaintiffs and the likelihood that the case will take longer to litigate in New Jersey than it
would here. The Plaintiffs’ choice of forum is entitled to some weight because they seek to
represent a California class that was allegedly harmed within California. But the real locus of this
case is in New Jersey, where Sprout Foods’ manufacturing and marketing decisions were made.
Hawkins v. Gerber Products Company, 924 F. Supp. 2d 1208, 1215 (S.D. Cal. 2013). It is also
noteworthy that counsel for Sprout Foods has stated on the record that, if this case is transferred
to New Jersey and consolidated with the proposed nationwide class action, the company will not
object to class certification on the ground that multistate subclasses are unmanageable or
otherwise inappropriate. The other factors, such as local interest in the action and familiarity of
the forum with the applicable law, are neutral.
Accordingly, Sprout Foods’ motion to transfer to the U.S. District Court for the District
of New Jersey is granted. The motion to dismiss is denied without prejudice to refiling it in the
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: September 7, 2021
United States District Judge
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