DARDEN v. TRANS UNION, LLC et al
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE GENE E.K. PRATTER ON 3/29/12. 3/30/12 ENTERED AND E-MAILED.(fdc)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
TRANS UNION, LLC, et al.,
MARCH 29, 2012
On October 7, 2011, Ms. Larhonda Darden filed suit against various consumer reporting
agencies, alleging violations of the FCRA and FDCPA. Now before the Court is Defendant
Allied Collections Service’s motion to transfer this case to the Eastern or Northern District of
Texas. Oral argument on the motion was held on March 9, 2012, and the matter is ripe for
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
In her Complaint, Ms. Darden, a resident of Longview, Texas, alleges that Defendants
have been reporting “derogatory and inaccurate” statements about her credit history to third
parties, including reporting on an account with Defendant Allied that was the result of identity
theft. Ms. Darden disputed the inaccurate information with the Defendants for nearly a year, to
no avail. She alleges that Equifax, Experian, Trans Union and CSC1 did not even contact her
regarding her complaints, verify the veracity of her complaints with any third parties, forward
information regarding the disputes to the parties that furnished the disputed information, request
any relevant documents from those parties, or perform any handwriting analysis. Likewise,
After filing the Complaint, the Plaintiff settled with Defendants Equifax and CSC.
according to the Complaint, Defendant Allied also failed to reasonably investigate the disputes
and continued to supply inaccurate information. As a result, Ms. Darden claims that she has
suffered lost credit opportunities, harm to her credit reputation, and emotional distress.
Ms. Darden brings one count against Defendants Experian and Trans Union, charging
them with violation of the FCRA, and two counts against Defendant Allied, charging it with
violations of the FCRA and FDCPA. She requests actual damages, statutory damages, punitive
damages, costs, and attorney’s fees.
Defendant Allied’s motion originally urged the Court to dismiss the claims against it for
lack of personal jurisdiction, or, in the alternative, to transfer the matter to the Eastern or
Northern District of Texas. Allied later withdrew its arguments relating to personal jurisdiction
and now only argues that a Texas-based federal forum would be more convenient than this
In the parties’ briefs and exhibits, and at oral argument, the following additional
information was represented to the Court without challenge. Plaintiff’s residence in Longview,
Texas is located in the Eastern District of Texas. Defendant Allied is a resident of the Northern
District of Texas. Defendant Experian’s main processing center is in Allen, Texas, which is in
the Eastern District of Texas. Although Trans Union has a large operation in Crum Lynne,
Pennsylvania, which is in this district, Ms. Darden’s complaints were investigated by employees
or contractors in Fullerton, California; Chicago, Illinois, and India; letters regarding the
Both Ms. Darden and Allied argue that the other Defendants’ silence in not
joining or opposing the motion weighs in their respective, albeit opposing, favor. At oral
argument, counsel for Experian and Trans Union represented to the Court that their clients would
consent to transfer.
investigation results were processed at and sent from Trans Union’s Pennsylvania location. Ms.
Darden’s counsel emphasized that Trans Union employees in Pennsylvania likely supervised the
processing of claims in India; however, in its initial disclosures, Trans Union has only identified
witnesses in California and Illinois. To the extent discovery is needed with regard to settling
defendants Equifax and CSC, Equifax is located in Georgia and CSC in Houston, Texas.3
The debt on which Allied attempted to collect and allegedly reported to the other
consumer reporting agencies arose from a failure to pay rent on an apartment in Irving, Texas.
Ms. Darden claims that she never lived in Irving, Texas and that the apartment rented in her
name was a case of identity theft. She made a police report in Texas concerning the theft.4
Requests for transfer under § 1404(a) may be granted when venue is proper in both the
original and the requested venue. Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 878 (3d Cir.
1995); Schiller-Pfeiffer, Inc. v. Country Home Prods., Civ. No. 04-1444, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
24180, at *28 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 1, 2004). Under § 1404(a), district courts have broad discretion “to
adjudicate motions for transfer according to an ‘individualized, case-by-case consideration of
convenience and fairness.’” Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988) (quoting
Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 622 (1964)). While there is no definitive set of factors that
Houston is in the Southern District of Texas.
Allied argues that another identity theft investigation involving an apartment in
Irving may also be relevant to the case because Ms. Darden’s name is mentioned in some of the
police investigation documents. Ms. Darden vigorously contends that this separate case of
identity theft is completely irrelevant and that the conclusions drawn by Allied from it (such as
that Ms. Darden may have lived in Irving, Texas at some point in time) are demonstrably false.
Be that as it may, it does appear to the Court that this additional, disputed issue will entail
discovery in or about the Irving, Texas vicinity.
must be considered prior to transfer, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has outlined a
number of both private and public interests that the district court may consider when adjudicating
a motion to transfer.5
The Court acknowledges the familiar maxim that in considering a transfer request,
“[plaintiff’s] choice of forum is entitled to great weight and is not to be disturbed unless the
balance of convenience strongly favors the defendants’ forum.” Blanning v. Tisch, 378 F. Supp.
1058, 1060 (E.D. Pa. 1974) (citing Shutte v. Armco Steel Corp., 431 F.2d 22 (3d Cir. 1970)).
See also Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879. “It should be noted, however, that the plaintiff’s choice of
forum is entitled to less weight where the plaintiff chooses a forum which is neither his home nor
the situs of the occurrence upon which the suit is based.” Harris v. Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp.,
979 F. Supp. 1052, 1053 (E.D. Pa. 1997).
Pursuant to § 1404(a), a court may transfer a case: (1) to a district where the case could
have been brought; and (2) where the convenience of parties and witnesses, and the interest of
justice weigh in favor of the transfer. Wallace v. Mercantile Cnty. Bank, Civ. No. 06-3974, 2006
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82565, at *9 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 9, 2006) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)). No one
disputes that this case could have been brought in either the Northern or Eastern District of
Jumara notes various “private interests,” such as (a) the plaintiff’s forum
preference as manifested in the original choice, (b) the defendant’s preference, (c) whether the
claim arose elsewhere, (d) the relative convenience of the parties as indicated by their relative
physical and financial condition, (e) and the location of the witnesses, books and records (but
only to the extent that the witnesses, books or records may actually be unavailable for trial in one
of the fora). Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879-80 (citations omitted). The considerations also include
“public interests,” such as (a) the enforceability of the judgment, (b) practical considerations that
could make the trial easy, expeditious or inexpensive, (c) the relative administrative difficulty in
the two fora resulting from court congestion, (d) and the local interest in deciding local
controversies at home. Id. (citations omitted).
Texas. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). The Court discusses the additional factors of convenience,
interests of justice and the like below.
The first issue to resolve is the amount of deference the Court will give to Ms. Darden’s
choice of forum. Allied contends that in this case Ms. Darden’s forum choice is not entitled to
deference because she does not live in this district and convenience to her counsel does not carry
any weight. It argues that none of the operative facts took place in this district – that all of the
collection activities relating to the case took place in Texas, and that none of the investigations
took place in this district. See, e.g., Bogollagama v. Equifax Info. Servs., Civil Action No. 091201, 2009 WL 4257910, at *2-3 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 30, 2009); Coppola v. Ferrellgas, Inc., 250
F.R.D. 195, 198 (E.D. Pa. 2008). Ms. Darden counters that events relating to this case did take
place in this district, pointing to Trans Union’s Crum Lynne, Pennsylvania operations. As noted
above, however, the information presented in the parties’ briefs and at oral argument
demonstrates that Trans Union’s activities in this district with respect to this particular case were
relatively insignificant. Thus, given that Ms. Darden does not reside in Pennsylvania and
virtually none of the events giving rise to this litigation took place in this district, Ms. Darden’s
choice of forum is entitled to less weight.
Private Interest Factors
The private interest factors most relevant to this case include the location of and access to
witnesses. Allied claims that its records and employees all reside in Texas, and that sending
employees to Pennsylvania for depositions or trial would be costly and inconvenient. Allied also
points to two police investigations of identity theft which it claims are central to the outcome of
this case, both of which occurred entirely in Texas; any witnesses to those events, in particular to
the Plaintiff’s claim of identity theft at the heart of this matter, will almost certainly be in Texas.
As third parties to the case, compulsory process would not be available to compel their
attendance at trial in this district, while such process would likely be available to compel the
Texas residents’ attendance in either of the two Texas districts.6
Plaintiff argues that because the activities relating to this case (credit investigations,
collection activities, etc.) took place in a wide variety of places,7 the balance does not tip in favor
of Texas–according to Ms. Darden, there is no venue that is significantly more convenient than
any other. She argues that document discovery would be no more convenient in Texas, as
discovery in modern litigation often involves electronically exchanged documents (and that using
traditional mail involves the same burdens and benefits regardless of the forum). Likewise, Ms.
Darden argues that Allied’s employees would not necessarily have to travel for depositions, as
they could be taken in Texas or by phone.
While it is true that no single jurisdiction will cover all of the events and witnesses
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, the subject of a subpoena must live within
the district, within 100 miles of the place of trial, or, if that person resides in the same state as the
judicial district in which the case has been brought, within reach of the district under the forum
state’s laws governing service of process. In Texas, subpoenas reach 150 miles from the county
in which they originate. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 176.3.
Ms. Darden argues that the Defendants collectively have operations in
Pennsylvania, Texas, Illinois, California, and Georgia, and that they sold the “false information”
about Ms. Darden to creditors and resellers in Texas, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Georgia,
Illinois, Connecticut, and Maryland.
related to this case and that one choice of forum over another has much less bearing on the
convenience of document discovery in the Digital Age, either Texas district undoubtedly
encompasses substantially more events and, consequently, witnesses than any other district,
particularly this one. See, e.g., Copley v. Wyeth, Inc., Civ. No. 09-722, 2009 WL 2160640, at *56 (E.D. Pa. July 17, 2009) (granting motion to transfer in part because of non-party witnesses
who lived in or near the district of the proposed alternate forum). Even Ms. Darden lives in the
Eastern District of Texas. Thus, the private interest factors relating to this case weigh in favor of
Public Interest Factors
While at least some of the public interest factors appear to be neutral, Texas appears to
have the strongest local interest in this case, as Ms. Darden and Allied are located there, Experian
has substantial operations there, and it appears that the underlying events concerning Ms.
Darden’s identity theft took place entirely in Texas. See Bogollagama, 2009 WL 4257910, at *5.
It is true that the law that applies to the case is federal law, so the applicable law does not weigh
in favor of one forum over the other, but certainly, as discussed in the private interest factors,
practical considerations such as the location of witnesses, including Ms. Darden herself,
employees of Allied, and possibly employees of Experian and third parties, would make a trial in
Texas easier and likely less expensive than one in Philadelphia.
Because Ms. Darden’s choice of forum is entitled to less weight, given her state of
residence and the virtual lack of any substantive activities relating to this case in this district, and
because the private and public interests in this case weigh in favor of a Texas forum, the Court
will grant Allied’s motion8 and transfer this case to the Eastern District of Texas.9 An
appropriate Order follows.
BY THE COURT:
S/Gene E.K. Pratter
GENE E.K. PRATTER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Ms. Darden attaches to her opposition several orders issued by courts in this
district which deny motions to transfer in FCRA cases brought by plaintiffs who reside in other
districts. These orders are mostly so barebones that the Court cannot tell whether those cases
bear any resemblance to the instant case. The orders that include any details regarding the facts
are readily distinguishable, in that, unlike here, in those cases only the plaintiffs were located in
the proposed alternate forum. See, e.g., Rivera v. Equifax Info. Servs., LLC, Civ. No. 03-CV4112, 2004 WL 1472795 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 1, 2004) (denying motion to transfer when the only party
residing in the proposed transferee forum was plaintiff and movants failed to show that the
transferee forum would be more convenient).
Of the two requested Texas fora, the Court designates the one in which the
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?