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Andrews International, Inc. v. Indian Harbor Insurance Co.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

September 30, 2013

ANDREWS INTERNATIONAL, INC., ADVANCED TECH SECURITY, Plaintiffs,
v.
INDIAN HARBOR INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM ORDER

LEONARD P. STARK, District Judge.

This is an insurance coverage dispute. Plaintiffs, Andrews International, Inc. and Advanced Tech Security ("Plaintiffs"), allege claims including breach of contract, common law bad faith - breach of implied duty of good faith and fair dealing, and estoppel. (D.I. 1) Essentially, Plaintiffs fault Defendant, Indian Harbor Insurance Company ("Defendant") for denying Plaintiffs' claim on an insurance policy ("Policy")[1] based on a jury verdict that found Defendants' liable for discrimination-related violations against a former employee, Abas Idris (" Idris Action"). Following a trial, a California state court awarded Idris $65, 460 in compensatory damages, $261, 840 in punitive damages, and $687, 435 in attorney's fees. ( See D.I. 11 at 4-5) Defendant's refusal to pay Plaintiffs' claim on the Policy arising from the Idris Action led to the filing of the instant case.

After having considered the parties' arguments set out in their briefs ( see D.I. 11, 15, 16), and for the reasons stated below, the Court will GRANT Defendant's motion to transfer venue to the Central District of California (D.I. 10).

TRANSFER

Defendant seeks transfer pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 1404(a), which provides: "For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought."

As the Third Circuit has explained, Section 1404(a) "was intended to vest district courts with broad discretion to determine, on an individualized, case-by-case basis, whether convenience and fairness considerations weigh in favor of transfer." Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 883 (3d Cir. 1995); see also Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988). The Third Circuit has also emphasized that "the plaintiff's choice ofvenue should not be lightly disturbed." Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879. As a result, "a transfer is not to be liberally granted." Shutte v. Armco Steel Corp., 431 F.2d 22, 25 (3d Cir. 1970) (internal quotation marks omitted). Consequently, the burden rests squarely on the party seeking a transfer "to establish that a balancing of proper interests weighs in favor of the transfer." Id. ; see also Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879. That burden is a heavy one: "unless the balance of convenience of the parties is strongly in favor of defendant, the plaintiffs choice of forum should prevail." Shutte, 431 F.2d at 25 (internal quotation marks omitted) (emphasis in original); see also CNH Am. LLC v. Kinzenbaw, 2009 WL 3737653, at *2 (D. Del. Nov. 9, 2009).

There is no dispute that this case could have been filed in the Central District of California. Since two proper venues have been identified, the Court must balance the appropriate considerations and determine whether, under the particular facts of this case, the request to transfer venue should be granted.

In undertaking such an analysis, "there is no definitive formula or list of the factors to consider." Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879. Instead, courts must analyze "all relevant factors to determine whether on balance the litigation would more conveniently proceed and the interests of justice be better served by transfer to a different forum." Id.

Nevertheless, the Third Circuit has identified a set of private interest and public interest factors for courts to consider. See id. at 879-80. The private factors to consider include: (1) "the plaintiffs forum preference as manifested in the original choice;" (2) "the defendant's preference;" (3) "whether the claim arose elsewhere;" (4) "the convenience of the parties as indicated by their relative physical and financial condition;" (5) "the convenience of the witnesses - but only to the extent that the witnesses may actually be unavailable for trial in one of the fora;" and (6) "the location ofbooks and records (similarly limited to the extent that the files could not be produced in the alternative forum)." The public interest factors to consider include: (1) "the enforceablity of the judgment;" (2) "practical considerations that could make the trial easy, expeditious, or inexpensive;" (3) "the relative administrative difficulty in the two fora resulting from court congestion;" (4) "the local interest in deciding local controversies at home;" (5) "the public policies ofthe fora;" and (6) "the familiarity ofthe trial judge with the applicable state law in diversity cases." Id. (internal citations omitted).

Private Interest Factors

Plaintiffs' choice of forum

"It is black letter law that a plaintiffs choice of a proper forum is a paramount consideration in any determination of a transfer request, and that choice should not be lightly disturbed." Shutte, 431 F.2d at 25 (internal citations and quotations omitted). That is, "courts normally defer to a plaintiffs choice of forum." Jumara, 55 F.3d at 880. Indeed, "[t]he deference afforded plaintiffs choice of forum will apply as long as a plaintiffhas selected the forum for some legitimate reason." Cypress Semiconductor Corp. v. Integrated Circuit Sys., Inc., 2001 WL 1617186, at *2 (D. Del. Nov. 28, 2001) (internal citations omitted).

Plaintiffs have clearly manifested their preference for Delaware as a forum by filing suit here. However, the only reason Plaintiffs have given for filing here is that one of the two Plaintiffs, Andrews International, Inc., is a Delaware corporation. Co-plaintiff Advanced Tech Security is a California corporation (although it is also a subsidiary of Andrews International, Inc.). Defendant is a North Dakota corporation, and while it is authorized to conduct business in Delaware, there is no evidence that it engaged in any business in Delaware in connection with Plaintiffs or in relation to the issues involved in this litigation.

At bottom, the only connection this suit has to Delaware is that it is arguably part of the "home turf' of one, but not both, ofthe Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs' choice of Delaware is entitled to deference, but given the circumstances, the weight given ...


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