CABALLERO v. HEALTHTECH RESOURCES, INC
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER indicating that, for reasons more fully stated within, it is hereby ordered that, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), the instant case be transferred, forthwith, to the United States District Court for the District of Arizona's Phoenix, Arizona, courthouse for further proceedings; that the clerk shall mark this case closed. Signed by Judge Nora Barry Fischer on 7/7/17. (jg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
JESSICA CABALLERO, individually and )
on behalf of all persons similarly situated, )
HEALTHCARE RESOURCES, INC.,
District Judge Nora Barry Fischer
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Upon consideration of the Second Motion to Dismiss (Docket No. 26) filed by Healthcare
Resources, Inc., (“Defendant”), the Response (Docket No. 30) by Jessica Caballero (“Plaintiff”),
and Defendant’s Reply (Docket No. 31) thereto, as well as the discretion afforded the Court
under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), the Court shall transfer the instant matter to the United States District
Court for the District of Arizona.
Presently before the Court is the Second Motion to Dismiss filed May 11, 2017. (Docket
No. 26). Defendant seeks dismissal of all claims alleged at Counts I and II of Plaintiff’s
(Docket No. 22).
The Amended Complaint alleges that Defendant
violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201, et seq. (“FLSA”), and Pennsylvania
Minimum Wage Act, 43 Pa. Stat. §§ 333.101, et seq. (“PMWA”), due to the failure to properly
compensate Plaintiff for work in excess of forty (40) hours per week.
In addition to arguing that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim under either the FLSA or
PMWA, Defendant contends that the choice of law provision in Plaintiff’s employment
agreement dictates that any dispute arising from the parties’ employment relationship shall be
“governed by Arizona law.” (Docket No. 26-1 at 4). In response, Plaintiff asserts that she has
pled sufficient factual matter to state valid claims under the FLSA and PMWA, and that the
choice of law provision in the employment agreement should not be given effect. Both parties
neglect to address a corresponding forum selection clause contained in the employment
agreement to any significant degree, although Plaintiff notes explicitly her lack of opposition to
transfer sua sponte to the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. (Docket No.
30 at 7, n. 2). In the Court’s estimation, and in light of Plaintiff’s consent, this clause warrants
transfer of the instant case sua sponte to another venue.
With respect to a transfer, as the United States Supreme Court recently explained, “[t]he
presence of a valid forum-selection clause requires district courts to adjust their usual § 1404(a)
analysis...” Zanghi v. FreightCar Am., Inc., 38 F. Supp. 3d 631, 641 (W.D. Pa. 2014) (quoting
Atl. Marine Const. Co., Inc. v. U.S. Dist. Court for W. Dist. of Texas, ––– U.S. ––––, 134 S.Ct.
568, 581, 187 L.Ed.2d 487 (2013)). Forum selection clauses are “‘prima facie valid and should
be enforced.’” Silvis v. Ambit Energy, L.P., 90 F.Supp.3d 393, 397 (E.D. Pa. 2015) (quoting
Foster v. Chesapeake Ins. Co., Ltd., 933 F.2d 1207, 1219 (3d Cir. 1991); M/S Bremen v. Zapata
Off-Shore Co., 407 U.S. 1, 10 (1972)). Such clauses “‘should be given controlling weight in all
but the most exceptional case.’” MoneyGram Payment Sys., Inc. v. Consorcio Oriental, S.A., 65
F.App’x 844, 847 – 88 (3d Cir. 2003) (citation omitted).
Accordingly, if a party wishes to avoid enforcement, it must make a strong showing that:
(1) the clause was the result of fraud or overreaching; (2) enforcement of the clause would
violate strong public policy of the forum; or (3) the forum selected is unreasonable. QVC, Inc. v.
Your Vitamins, Inc., 753 F.Supp.2d 428, 432 (D. Del. 2010) (citing Coastal Steel Corp. v.
Tilghman Wheelabrator Ltd., 709 F.2d 190, 202 (3d Cir. 1983)). A forum is unreasonable for a
party when “‘resolution in the selected forum will be so manifestly and gravely inconvenient to it
that it will be effectively deprived of a meaningful day in court.’” MoneyGram, 65 F.App’x at
848 (quoting Bremen, 407 U.S. at 19). “Only under extraordinary circumstances” should a
district court not enforce a valid forum selection clause. Zanghi, 38 F.Supp.3d at 641.
Here, the forum selection clause states that “[a]ny dispute between you and HealthTECH
shall be resolved by a court of competent jurisdiction in Maricopa County, Arizona.” (Docket
No. 26-1 at 4). Neither party attacks the validity or applicability of this provision, or contends
that it was not freely entered into. Indeed, Plaintiff’s initials appear immediately below the
quoted provision in the employment agreement1 (id.), and as previously noted, Plaintiff consents
to a transfer sua sponte in accordance with the clause. The inquiry does not end there, however.
Typically, a district court considering a motion under § 1404(a) would balance public and
private interests to determine whether a transfer would be in the interests of justice and
convenient for the parties and their witnesses. Atl. Marine, 134 S.Ct. at 581. See Jumara v.
State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879 – 80 (3d Cir. 1995) (enumerating public and private
interests). In the case of a valid forum selection clause, courts need only consider public interest
factors which militate against enforcement2.
Id. at 582.
Factors to consider include “the
administrative difficulties flowing from court congestion; the local interest in having localized
controversies decided at home; and the interest in having the trial of a diversity case in a forum
that is at home with the law.” Id. at 581 n. 6 (citation omitted). These factors are rarely
Given the nature of Plaintiff’s employment and her presumed level of education, it would appear that by
signing the contract, Plaintiff read and understood its contents. Martinez v. Skirmish, U.S.A., Inc., 2009 WL
1676144, at *6 (E.D. Pa. June 15, 2009).
Additionally, “plaintiff’s choice of forum merits no weight.” Atl. Marine, 134 S.Ct. at 581. When “a
plaintiff agrees by contract to bring suit only in a specified forum – presumably in exchange for other binding
promises by the defendant – the plaintiff has effectively exercised its ‘venue privilege’ before the dispute arises.”
Id. at 582. “Only that initial choice deserves deference.” Id.
sufficient, alone, and forum selection clauses generally control. Id. at 582. Presently, the Court
finds no strong countervailing public interest which would counsel against enforcement of the
uncontested forum selection clause.
The clause is, therefore, binding upon Plaintiff and
The Court observes that the forum selection provision does not specify a particular
forum, instead referencing “a court of competent jurisdiction in Maricopa County, Arizona.”
(Docket No. 26-1 at 4). Transfer of a case is generally not possible when the clause does not
include a federal court as a potential venue. Salovaara v. Jackson Nat’l Life Ins. Co., 246 F.3d
289, 298 (3d Cir. 2001). Yet, because the provision at issue expresses that “a court of competent
jurisdiction in Maricopa County, Arizona,” is acceptable, it would appear that transfer to the
United States District Court for the District of Arizona is appropriate; the Court takes judicial
notice3 that it is located in said County and exercises its jurisdiction within said county. See
Jumara, 55 F.3d at 881 (“[W]e hold that the phrase ‘a court of record in the county’ includes the
United States District Court.”). Cf. W.G. Nichols, Inc. v. CSK Auto, Inc., 2001 WL 1486516, at
*5 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 21, 2001) (“Plaintiff contends that the parties’ forum selection clause
encompasses the United States District Court for the District of Arizona whose jurisdiction
includes Maricopa County. The clause contains no reference to the federal courts. It does not
specify courts ‘in’ Maricopa County. It specifies courts ‘of’ Maricopa County. This suggests
literally the Maricopa County courts and not any court which sits ‘in’ the County or whose
jurisdiction includes the County.”).
See In re Synchronoss Securities Litig., 705 F.Supp.2d 367, 390 (D.N.J. 2010) (“[M]atters of which judicial
notice may be taken include facts capable of immediate and certain verification by resort to sources whose accuracy
is beyond dispute.”).
Plaintiff and Defendant formed a contract containing a forum selection clause, which
clause stated that all disputes between the parties relative to their employer-employee
relationship be resolved in “a court of competent jurisdiction in Maricopa County, Arizona.” In
light of Plaintiff’s consent to enforcement of the forum selection clause sua sponte, as well as the
general lack of any countervailing public interest, and having found this clause to be otherwise
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), the instant case be
transferred, forthwith, to the United States District Court for the District of Arizona’s Phoenix,
Arizona, courthouse for further proceedings.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the clerk shall mark this case CLOSED.
/s/ Nora Barry Fischer
Nora Barry Fischer
United States District Judge
Date: July 7, 2017
cc/ecf: All counsel of record.
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