Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association v. Southwest Airlines Company

Filing 30

ORDER - IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendant's Motion to Transfer, (Doc. 13 ), is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of the Court shall TRANSFER this case to the Northern District of Texas. (See document for further details). Signed by Judge G Murray Snow on 4/18/17.(SLQ) [Transferred from Arizona on 4/18/2017.]

Download PDF
1 WO 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA 8 9 Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, Plaintiff, 10 11 ORDER v. 12 No. CV-16-04435-PHX-GMS Southwest Airlines Company, 13 Defendant. 14 15 Pending before the Court is Defendant Southwest Airlines Company’s 16 (“Southwest”) Motion to Transfer, (Doc. 13). For the following reasons, the Court grants 17 the Defendant’s motion and transfers this action to the Northern District of Texas. 18 BACKGROUND 19 This action arises from Southwest’s alleged violations of the Railway Labor Act 20 (“RLA”) in current negotiations to amend its collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) 21 with the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (“AMFA”). (Doc. 18 at 4.) The prior 22 CBA expired in August of 2016, and the current negotiations began soon after. (Id.) 23 Amendments to a CBA are governed by Section 2 of the RLA. See 45 U.S.C. § 152. 24 The RLA imposes a duty to bargain in good faith. See 45 U.S.C. § 152. It also requires 25 carriers to confer and negotiate with the employees’ chosen representatives, and not to 26 interfere with the employees’ choice of representatives. See id. AMFA’s Amended 27 Complaint alleges that Southwest is violating these requirements. (Doc. 18.) 28 1 The overwhelming majority of the negotiations and mediations at issue in this 2 case, forty-four sessions out of fifty, occurred in Dallas, Texas. (Doc. 13 at 2.) Only one 3 of these sessions occurred in Arizona. (Id.) Southwest employs approximately 2,400 4 employees that are represented by AMFA, and 291 of these work and reside in Phoenix. 5 (Doc. 13 at 4; Doc. 22 at 10.) By contrast, 743 of these employees work and reside in 6 Dallas. (Doc. 13 at 4.) The primary mediator in this case resides in Texas, and Southwest 7 is headquartered in Dallas. (Doc. 13 at 8, 12.) AMFA is headquartered in Colorado. 8 (Doc. 13 at 8.) There are approximately ten AMFA representatives that are highly 9 involved in these negotiations and one of them—Michael Young—resides in Mesa, 10 Arizona. (Doc. 22 at 5; Doc. 13 at 8; Doc. 27 at 1.) 11 from various parts of the country. (Doc. 13 at 8.) Southwest’s negotiation team resides 12 in Dallas. (Doc. 13 at 4.) The others travel to negotiations 13 In light of the Defendant’s ties to Texas, the Defendant filed the current motion to 14 transfer soon after the AMFA filed its complaint. The matter is now fully briefed and 15 properly before this Court. (Docs. 13, 22, & 27.) 16 17 DISCUSSION I. Legal Standard  18 “For the convenience of the parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a 19 district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might 20 have been brought.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). “[S]ection 1404(a) requires two findings—that 21 the district court is one where the action might have been brought and that the 22 convenience of parties and witnesses in the interest of justice favor transfer.” Hatch v. 23 Reliance Ins. Co., 758 F.2d 409, 414 (9th Cir.1985). “Under § 1404(a), the district court 24 has discretion to adjudicate motions for transfer according to an individualized, case-by- 25 case consideration of convenience and fairness.” Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211 26 F.3d 495, 498 (9th Cir.2000) (internal quotations omitted). The party making the transfer 27 motion has the burden of showing that transfer is proper. See id. at 499 (holding that 28 district court “did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to transfer” because the -2- 1 defendant had “failed to meet its burden of showing that Pennsylvania was the more 2 appropriate forum for the action”). 3 In making this determination, the district court may consider a variety of factors, 4 including: the convenience of the parties, the relative financial burdens, the convenience 5 of witnesses, the availability of compulsory process to compel unwilling witness 6 attendance, the availability of witnesses and their live testimony at trial, the ease of 7 access to sources of proof, the differences in the costs of litigation in the two forums, 8 contacts with the chosen forum, jurisdiction over the parties, the state most familiar with 9 the governing law, the relevant public policy of the forum state, the existence of any 10 forum selection clause, and the relative docket congestion of the courts. See 28 U.S.C. 11 § 1404(a); Jones, 211 F.3d at 498–99; Sparling v. Hoffman Constr. Co., 864 F.2d 635, 12 639 (9th Cir.1988); Decker Coal Co. v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 805 F.2d 834, 843 13 (9th Cir.1986); Costco Wholesale Corp. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 472 F.Supp.2d 1183, 14 1196 (S.D.Cal.2007). 15 II. Analysis 16 A plaintiff’s choice of forum is generally given great deference.1 Decker Coal Co. 17 v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 805 F.2d 834, 843 (9th Cir. 1986). Therefore, a defendant 18 seeking transfer “must make a strong showing of inconvenience to warrant upsetting the 19 plaintiff's choice of forum.” Id. The parties agree that this case could have been brought 20 in the Northern District of Texas. (Doc. 13 at 6–7; Doc. 22 at 3.) Thus, the only dispute 21 is whether the weight of the factors indicates that the Plaintiff’s choice of forum should 22 be set aside due to the inconvenience caused to the Defendant by litigating this case in the 23 District of Arizona. 24 appropriate. For the following reasons, the Court finds that transfer is 25 26 27 28 1 Both parties in this case accuse the other of forum shopping. (Doc. 13 at 15; Doc. 22 at 14.) This determination is unnecessary because even giving the AMFA’s choice of forum deference; the weight of the Jones factors leads this Court to believe that transfer is appropriate in this case. Jones, 211 F.3d at 498. -3- 1 A. 2 Southwest is headquartered in Dallas, Texas. (Doc. 13 at 8.) Southwest’s labor 3 relations department, including those currently working on the pending negotiations with 4 the AMFA, work out of the Dallas office as well. (Id.) Furthermore, the primary 5 mediator for the negotiations and mediations at issue resides in Texas. It is apparent that 6 it would be far more convenient for Southwest if this action went forward in Texas rather 7 than Arizona. The Convenience of the Parties 8 AMFA is headquartered out of Denver, and has representatives located throughout 9 the country. (Doc. 22 at 7.) Therefore, regardless of whether this case takes place in 10 Texas or Arizona, neither venue is likely to be convenient for the AMFA. However, the 11 overwhelming majority of the negotiations and mediations at issue in this case took place 12 in Dallas, which indicates that northern Texas is not an unduly burdensome forum for the 13 AMFA. Plaintiffs are entitled to deference for their choice in forum, but this factor 14 weighs in favor of transfer. 15 B. 16 This factor also weighs in favor of transfer. The overwhelming majority of the 17 individuals involved in this case work and reside in Texas, with the exception being Mr. 18 Michael Young. In response, the AMFA asserts that because Southwest is a commercial 19 airline, it could easily fly witnesses from Texas to Arizona to testify at a trial. While this 20 is true, and Southwest can likely mitigate the costs of such travel in a manner that most 21 parties could not, imposing air travel on several witnesses is inconvenient for the 22 witnesses.2 Convenience of Witnesses 23 24 25 26 27 28 2 AMFA also asserts that Southwest failed to meet its obligation to demonstrate that an Arizona forum would be inconvenient to its witnesses because it did not specifically identify who the relevant witnesses are. (Doc. 22 at 9.) Given that Southwest is headquartered in Dallas, its labor relations team resides in Dallas, the primary mediator for the CBA resides in Texas, and the overwhelming number of negotiations occurred in Texas, Southwest presented sufficient information to support its representation to the Court that its witness list will predominantly reflect witnesses that reside in Texas rather than Arizona. -4- 1 AMFA does not attempt to argue that either Texas or Arizona would be more 2 convenient for its witnesses, as it will have to “bear the expense of flying witnesses no 3 matter what venue is chosen.” (Doc. 22 at 8.) This is not an instance where moving the 4 venue due to the inconvenience of one party will merely shift the inconvenience to 5 another: rather, this is an instance where one party will be inconvenienced no matter 6 what, while the other could benefit significantly from a transfer to a more convenient 7 location. This factor weighs in favor of transfer. 8 C. 9 Where another forum has a significant connection to the facts alleged in the 10 complaint, and the chosen forum does not, transfer is appropriate. See Ventress v. Japan 11 Airlines, 486 F.3d 1111, 1118–19 (9th Cir. 2007) (upholding a district court’s decision to 12 transfer a case from California where the court “found no significant connection between 13 California and the facts alleged in the complaint”). Such is the case here. Texas has 14 specific contacts with this lawsuit because it is where 88% of the total bargaining 15 sessions and 78% of the total mediations at issue in this dispute took place. (Doc. 13 at 16 12.) Contacts with the District of Arizona 17 Arizona, on the other hand, does not have such connections. The AMFA asserts 18 the instant lawsuit has connection to the District of Arizona because Southwest employs 19 291 individuals here, amounting to 12 percent of its AMFA-represented workforce. 20 (Doc. 22at 11–12.) However, that Southwest employs AMFA-represented individuals in 21 Arizona does not indicate that Arizona has specific contacts to this lawsuit, as Southwest 22 employs such individuals all over the country. (Doc. 13 at 4.) Likewise, the AMFA’s 23 assertion that the CBA has implications beyond Texas and Arizona fails to establish a 24 specific connection to Arizona. Therefore, this factor weighs in favor of transfer. 25 D. 26 Each of these factors weighs in favor of granting the motion to transfer. The paper 27 records and computer servers at issue in this dispute are located in Dallas, as are the 28 several of the witnesses. (Doc. 13 at 10.) Thus, the location of the evidence makes the The Location of Evidence and the Relative Financial Burdens -5- 1 Northern District of Texas the “center of discovery” in this suit. See Bratton v. Schering- 2 Plough Corp., No. CV07-0653-PHX-JAT, 2007 WL 2023482, at *5 (D. Ariz. July 12, 3 2007) (transferring a case from the District of Arizona to the “center of discovery” in a 4 nationwide lawsuit). The presence of the evidence and the witnesses in Texas also 5 indicates that it would be less expensive to litigate this action in Texas rather than 6 Arizona. See Italian Colors Rest. v. Am. Express Co., No. C 03-3719 SI, 2003 WL 7 22682482, at *5 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 10, 2003) (“Generally, litigation costs are reduced when 8 venue is located near most of the witnesses expected to testify or give depositions.”). 9 Thus, the location of the evidence and the relative costs between the two venues tips in 10 favor of transfer. 11 E. 12 The other factors that this Court may consider are either neutral or inapplicable to 13 the case at hand. Both the District of Arizona and the Northern District of Texas have 14 jurisdiction over the AMFA’s Railway Labor Act claims, and both districts are familiar 15 with the governing federal law. Both courts have comparable caseloads at this time, and 16 as Southwest concedes, “this case would be resolved in a timely manner in either 17 district.” (Doc. 13 at 13.) Therefore, the relative expertise and congestion of the District 18 of Arizona and the Northern District of Texas have a fairly neutral impact on this 19 analysis. Likewise, there is no forum selection clause at issue in this case, and thus that 20 factor is inapplicable here. Other Factors 21 CONCLUSION 22 Upon weighing the relevant factors, transfer is appropriate in this case. 23 IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendant’s Motion to Transfer, (Doc. 24 13), is GRANTED. 25 /// 26 /// 27 /// 28 /// -6- 1 2 3 IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of the Court shall TRANSFER this case to the Northern District of Texas. Dated this 18th day of April, 2017. 4 5 6 7 Honorable G. Murray Snow United States District Judge 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 -7-

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?