DLB ASSOCIATES CONSULTING ENGINEERS, P.C. v. REYNOLDS, INC.
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Mary L. Cooper on 5/16/2014. (gxh)
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
DLB ASSOCIATES CONSULTING
CIVIL ACTION NO. 12-7524 (MLC)
THE COURT ordered the parties to show cause why, inter alia, the action should
not be transferred to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
(See dkt. entry no. 48, Order to Show Cause.) The parties have filed their responses as to
the issue of such a transfer. (See dkt. entry no. 49, Pl. Br. at 1-4; dkt. entry no. 50, Def.
Br. at 2.) The Court assumes the parties are familiar with the issues concerning venue set
forth in the Order to Show Cause and will not repeat them here. The Court intends to
transfer the action to the Northern District of Georgia, pursuant to the broad discretion
afforded under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), for several reasons. See Jumara v. State Farm Ins.
Co., 55 F.3d 873, 875, 877 n.3, 883 (3d Cir. 1995).
THE UNDERLYING personal-injury action was brought by Gary Lassiter in a
Georgia state court to recover damages for personal injuries suffered in a constructionsite accident (“Accident”) in Douglas County, Georgia (“Lassiter Georgia State Action”).
The parties argue that Lassiter has voluntarily dismissed the claims asserted in the
Lassiter Georgia State Action, and thus there will be no further related litigation in
Georgia state court. (See Pl. Br. at 4; Def. Br. at 1.) However, the plaintiff admits that
other parties may still be “potential[ly] involve[d] . . . in settlement discussions” and “may
have independent claims for indemnification”. (Pl. Br. at 4.) Thus, a real possibility of
further litigation in Georgia state court remains. See, e.g., Hedquist v. Merrill Lynch,
Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc., 272 Ga. 209, 211-12 (2000) (stating “voluntary dismissal
with prejudice constitutes a final disposition of the underlying action only as far as the
parties involved in the voluntary dismissal are concerned”, and “effect of a voluntary
dismissal does not extend to any party not named therein”). Furthermore, those lingering
potential claims may cause a party to move to vacate the voluntary dismissal and to
reinstate the Lassiter Georgia State Action.
THE ACCIDENT occurred in Georgia. The plaintiff asserts that “both parties
have conceded by way of their [previously-filed] dual motions for summary judgment
[that] nothing is left but for the Court to render a determination on [defendant’s] duty to
indemnify [plaintiff] and the breach of contract caused by [defendant’s] failure to meet
that duty.” (Pl. Br. at 1; see Def. Br. at 1 (stating same).) However, that assertion
incorrectly assumes that the Court would be certain to grant summary judgment to one of
the parties at this stage and not deny summary judgment to both parties due to lingering
issues of fact. As the plaintiff concedes, the parties “take opposing positions on the
decision compelled by the evidence before the Court”. (Pl. Br. at 1.) Furthermore,
whether the defendant acted in a negligent manner, and whether such negligence caused
the Accident, remains at issue. (See dkt. entry no. 26, 6-28-13 Def. Br. at 16-19
(asserting defendant was not negligent); dkt. entry no. 30-1, 6-28-13 Pl. Br. at 1, 16-18
(asserting defendant was indeed negligent).) It may be necessary to gather further
evidence, and thus it remains relevant that Georgia encompasses the site of the Accident,
Lassiter’s domicile, and the domiciles and workplaces of non-party witnesses.
IN ADDITION to the aforementioned reasons, and as already set forth in the
Order to Show Cause, a transfer of venue to Georgia is proper because:
(1) the defendant’s principal place of business is in Georgia;
(2) the action before this Court — as conceded by the parties — is controlled by
Georgia law, and thus a district court in Georgia can easily apply controlling Georgia law
(see Pl. Br. at 2-3; Def. Br. at 2);
(3) the conduct underlying the allegations occurred in Georgia;
(4) a district court in Georgia will have more of an interest in, and be more familiar
with, the Accident site; and
(5) citizens of Georgia will have an interest in the outcome.
THE NEW JERSEY CITIZENSHIP of the plaintiff does not outweigh the
aforementioned factors, and thus does not make a New Jersey venue more proper. See In
re Christian, 403 Fed.Appx. 651, 652 (3d Cir. 2010) (denying petition for writ of
mandamus to compel Pennsylvania district court to vacate order transferring case to
Virginia district court, as, inter alia, (1) not all of the defendants resided in Pennsylvania,
and (2) substantial part of events at issue arose in Virginia); Hoffer v. InfoSpace.com,
Inc., 102 F.Supp.2d 556, 573 (D.N.J. 2000) (stating “[t]he choice of forum by a plaintiff
is simply a preference; it is not a right”) ; see Nat’l Prop. Investors VIII v. Shell Oil Co.,
917 F.Supp. 324, 327 (D.N.J. 1995) (stating plaintiff’s venue choice is not dispositive,
and is entitled to less deference “when the central facts of a lawsuit occur outside of the
chosen forum”). Furthermore, the convenience of counsel is not a consideration as to the
issue of proper venue. See Solomon v. Cont’l Am. Life Ins. Co., 472 F.2d 1043, 1047
(3d Cir. 1973).
THE COURT, having permitted the parties to address the issue of venue, is now
authorized to transfer the action even though no party moved for such relief. See Johnson
v. U.S. Bancorp, No. 10-1072, 2012 WL 1133689, at *4 (D. Del. Mar. 30, 2012); Bank
Express Int'l v. Kang, 265 F.Supp.2d 497, 507 n.12 (E.D. Pa. 2003). As the parties have
stated no particular preference as to the appropriate district court, the Court intends to
transfer the action to the Northern District of Georgia. (See Order to Show Cause at 7.)
For good cause appearing, the Court will issue an appropriate order.
s/ Mary L. Cooper
MARY L. COOPER
United States District Judge
Dated: May 16, 2014
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?