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Matthews v. BNSF Railway Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division

December 21, 2016

BENJAMIN MATTHEWS, Plaintiff,
v.
BNSF RAILWAY COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          ROSEANN A. KETCHMARK, JUDGE

         On September 20, 2016, the Court ordered Plaintiff to show cause why this action should not be transferred to the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska or the Northern District of Texas. (Doc. 15.) Plaintiff submitted a response requesting that the case remain in the Western District of Missouri (doc. 16), and Defendant replied to Plaintiff's response requesting that the case be transferred to the District of Nebraska (doc. 17). The background of this case was recited in the Court's order on September 20, 2016, and therefore will not be restated here.

         Discussion

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), “a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought” based on convenience and interests of justice. In evaluating convenience, courts usually consider the following factors:

(1) the convenience of the parties, (2) the convenience of the witnesses--including the willingness of witnesses to appear, the ability to subpoena witnesses, and the adequacy of deposition testimony, (3) the accessibility to records and documents, (4) the location where the conduct complained of occurred, and (5) the applicability of each forum state's substantive law.

Terra Int'l v. Miss. Chem. Corp., 119 F.3d 688, 696 (8th Cir. 1997). In evaluating the interest of justice, courts typically consider:

(1) judicial economy, (2) the plaintiff's choice of forum, (3) the comparative costs to the parties of litigating in each forum, (4) each party's ability to enforce a judgment, (5) obstacles to a fair trial, (6) conflict of law issues, and (7) the advantages of having a local court determine questions of local law.

Id. The “primary, if not most important of these interests is the convenience of the witnesses.” Perficient, Inc. v. Priore, No. 4:16 CV 249 CDP, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28335, at *5 (E.D. Mo. Mar. 7, 2016). However, federal courts give “considerable deference to a plaintiff's choice of forum and thus the party seeking a transfer under section 1404(a) typically bears the burden of proving that a transfer is warranted.” Terra Int'l, 119 F.3d at 695. Moreover, the plaintiff's choice of forum generally will not be disturbed unless defendant shows that the balance of interests weighs strongly in favor of the proposed transfer. Nichols v. Morris, No. 5:14-cv-06102-NKL, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23213, at *18 (W.D. Mo. Feb. 26, 2015).

         The parties do not dispute that the action “might have been brought” in the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska. Therefore, the Court now focuses on the factors set forth in § 1404(a) as they relate to whether or not the case should be transferred to Nebraska.

         I. Convenience

         First, the Court considers the convenience of the parties. Plaintiff is an individual who resides in Missouri with no current connection to Nebraska, and Defendant is a nationwide company that currently engages in business in Missouri. As such, Plaintiff would be more heavily inconvenienced by litigating in Nebraska than Defendant would be inconvenienced by litigating in Missouri.

         Second, the Court turns to the convenience of the witnesses. The Court notes that no matter what the final determination is, one party's witnesses will be inconvenienced. Plaintiff identified three potential witnesses, not including him, who are all Missouri residents. Defendant identified eleven witnesses including, eight Nebraska residents, two Texas residents, and one Missouri resident. Plaintiff did not express concern regarding the willingness of his witnesses to appear in federal district court in Nebraska, nor did Defendant express concern regarding the willingness of its witnesses to appear in this Court in Missouri. Rather, both parties argued that it would be more inconvenient for their witnesses. Plaintiff argued that his witnesses would miss work and receive little compensation for their time whereas Defendant's witnesses are likely employees who would presumably be compensated for their time spent providing testimony. The Court notes that many of the witnesses identified by Defendant are Defendant's employees and notes that affidavits submitted with briefing show that some witnesses regularly travel for work. However, the Court cannot determine that all of Defendant's potential witnesses are current employees. After review of the evidence, the Court determines that this factor, while mostly neutral, weighs slightly in favor of transfer as Defendant has identified a number of key witnesses that reside outside this venue.

         Third, the Court affords little weight to the accessibility of records and documents factor considering the ease with which documents can now be electronically transferred and determines that this factor is neutral.

         Fourth, the conduct complained of occurred in Nebraska, and thus, this ...


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