United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Indianapolis Division
JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
November 3, 2016, the Court ordered the parties to show cause
why this matter should not be transferred to the United
States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). [Filing No.
15.] The parties have responded to Court's Order;
Plaintiff opposes the proposed transfer [Filing No.
17] while Defendants support it [Filing No.
18]. Having considered the parties' submissions and
all relevant factors, the Court now concludes that interests
of justice and convenience clearly weigh in favor of
transferring this case to the Middle District of
matter involves allegations that Defendants, Tennessee
residents, stole trade secrets while working for Plaintiff in
Nashville, Tennessee, and then misappropriated the
information while working for their subsequent Nashville
employer. [See Filing No. 3-1 at 5-16.]
Plaintiff is an Indiana corporation, with locations in
Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio,
Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. [Filing No. 31-1 at 6.]
Plaintiff markets and distributes fertilizer products to
“buyers in the turf and ornamental market.”
[Filing No. 3-1 at 6.]
2012 to 2016, Defendants worked in the sales department of
Plaintiff's Nashville, Tennessee office. [Filing No.
3-1 at 6-7.] In August 2016, Defendants resigned and
left for a company that competed with Plaintiff in the
Tennessee fertilizer market. [Filing No. 3-1 at 7.]
On August 26, 2016, Plaintiff filed suit in Indiana state
court, alleging violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse
Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1030, and various state law causes of
action. [Filing No. 3-1 at 10-16.] The thrust of
Plaintiff's claims is that Defendants took customer
lists, pricing information, and other proprietary information
with them to Plaintiff's competitor, causing Plaintiff to
lose business. [See id.] Plaintiff seeks damages and
injunctive relief. [Filing No. 3-1 at 5-16.]
October 13, 2016, Defendants removed the case to this Court.
[Filing No. 3.] On November 3, 2016, the Court
issued its Order to Show Cause on the issue of transfer.
[Filing No. 15.] The parties responded to the
Court's Order [Filing No. 17; Filing No.
18], and the issue of transfer is now ripe for
change of venue statute, codified at 28 U.S.C. §
1404(a), permits the Court “to transfer an action filed
in a proper, though not necessarily convenient, venue to a
more convenient district.” Research Automation,
Inc. v. Schrader-Bridgeport Int'l, Inc., 626 F.3d
973, 977 (7th Cir. 2010). Section 1404(a) 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 or to any district or division to which all
parties have consented.” 28 U.S.C. §
1404(a). Section 1404(a) places the decision to
transfer a case within the Court's sound discretion,
based upon 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)); In re Joint E. & S. Districts Asbestos
Litig., 22 F.3d 755, 762 (7th Cir. 1994)
(“[Section 1404(a)] was clearly intended to vest in the
transferor court more discretion than it had been permitted
to exercise under the common law doctrine [of forum non
conveniens] . . . .”). This flexible inquiry
“affords district courts the opportunity to look beyond
a narrow or rigid set of considerations in their
determinations.” Research Automation, 626 F.3d
the parties agree that this action could have been brought in
the Middle District of Tennessee. [Filing No. 17 at
2; Filing No. 18.] Thus, the disputed elements
are (1) whether the convenience of the parties and witnesses
would be enhanced by transfer and (2) whether the interests
of justice would be better served by transfer. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1404(a); Research Automation, 626 F.3d at
977-79. The convenience evaluation encompasses availability
of witnesses and the parties' access to each potential
forum. See Research Automation, 626 F.3d at
978. The interests of justice element includes
factors such as docket congestion; familiarity with relevant
law; the situs of material events; and the community's
stake in resolving the controversy. Id.“The
interest of justice may be determinative, warranting transfer
or its denial even where the convenience of the parties and
witnesses points toward the opposite result.”
which brought suit in this District, opposes transfer.
Plaintiff argues that its choice of forum should be given
deference, that the convenience factors are otherwise
neutral, and that the interest of justice weighs against
transfer. Defendants support transfer, and argue that
Plaintiff's choice of forum warrants less deference under
the circumstances; that the convenience factors weigh
strongly in favor of transfer; and that the interest of
justice likewise requires transfer. The Court addresses each
of these issues in turn.
Plaintiff's Choice of Forum
argues that its choice of forum is entitled to substantial
deference in the transfer analysis. Plaintiff maintains that
its choice to litigate in this District was motivated by its
“strong connection to this dispute, ” and that
this legitimate decision should be respected. [Filing No.
17 at 3.] Defendant, in response, admits that
Plaintiff's choice of forum is relevant. However,
Defendant argues that where, as here, the chosen forum has
little connection to the controversy, that choice is merely
one factor in the larger analysis.
general proposition, a plaintiff's choice of forum is
usually entitled to deference. In re Presto Indus.,
Inc.,347 F.3d 662, 663-64 (7th Cir. 2003). The amount
of deference a particular choice of forum warrants, however,
depends on the forum's connection to relevant events.
See, e.g., Dunlap v. Switchboard Apparatus,
Inc., 2012 WL 1712554 (S.D. Ind. 2012) (citing In re
Presto, 347 F.3d at 663-64;Chicago, R.I.
& Pac. R.R. Co. v. Igoe,220 F.3d 299, 304 (7th Cir.
1955)) (“[W]hen a plaintiff's choice of forum has
little connection to relevant events, its choice is entitled
to little deference.”); Valbruna Stainless, Inc. v.
ADT Sec. Servs., Inc., 2010 WL 2772324, at *2 (N.D. Ind.
2010) (“Where the chosen forum is not the situs of
material events, however, or if another forum has a stronger
relationship to the dispute, plaintiff's selection is