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Butler v. Chadeayne, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

September 21, 2017

SUSAN J. BUTLER and PATRICK J. BUTLER, Plaintiffs,
v.
CHADEAYNE, LLC, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RONNIE L. WHITE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants Chadeayne, LLC and Andrew R. Chadeayne's Joint Motion to Transfer Venue Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) (ECF No. 13). The motion is fully briefed and ready for disposition.

         I. Background

         In November 2015, Plaintiffs Susan and Patrick Butler ("Plaintiffs") entered into an attorney-client relationship with Defendants Andrew Chadeayne and Chadeayne, LLC (collectively "Chadeayne"). (Compl. ¶ 10, ECF No. 8) Andrew Chadeayne is a patent attorney licensed to practice law in the United States Patent and Trademark Office who resides and practices law in the State of Washington. (Id. at ¶¶ 2-3) Defendant Chadeayne, LLC is a legal services company with its principal place of business located in the State of Washington. (Id. at ¶ 2) Plaintiffs employed Chadeayne to handle and prosecute U.S. Patent Application 62258322. (Id. at ¶ 10) All communication was by phone and email between Plaintiffs in St. Louis, Missouri and Chadeayne in Washington. (Id. at ¶ 8)

         On May 3, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Petition for Damages - Legal Malpractice in the Circuit court of the City of St. Louis, Missouri. The Chadeayne Defendants removed the case to federal court on June 9, 2017. In addition to the Chadeayne Defendants, Plaintiffs named Pacific Patent Group, LLC and Holli Templeton as Defendants. (Compl. ¶¶ 4-5) Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their claims against Pacific Patent Group, LLC and Holli Templeton without prejudice on June 21, 2017. (ECF No. 16) Plaintiffs allege that Chadeayne failed to file all required documents pertaining to their patent application, causing Plaintiffs to lose the right to exclude others from practicing Plaintiffs' invention and the right to receive licensing fees and royalties, as well as the right to sell the patent. (Compl. ¶ 18) Specifically, Plaintiffs allege Legal Malpractice/Conscious Disregard (Count I) and Breach of Contract (Count II) against Defendants Chadeayne. (Compl. ¶¶ 14-24)

         II. Discussion

         On June 16, 2017, Chadeayne filed a Motion to Transfer Venue Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), asserting that the case should be transferred to the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. (ECF No. 13) Chadeayne argues that the interests of justice and the convenience of the witnesses warrant transfer as the parties and non-party witnesses reside in Washington. Plaintiffs assert that Defendants are unable to meet the requirements of the statute such that the motion to transfer should be denied. The undersigned finds that transfer to the Western District of Washington under § 1404(a) is appropriate.

         The statute governing change of venue provides, "[f]or 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." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Courts use § 1404(a) to transfer cases "solely to promote litigation convenience and efficiency." Eggleton v. Plasser & Theurer Export von Bahnbaumaschinen Gesellschaft, MBH, 495 F.3d 582, 589 n.3 (8th Cir. 2007). When determining whether to transfer a case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), courts must consider: "1) the convenience of the parties; 2) the convenience of the witnesses; and 3) the interests of justice." Dube v. Wyeth LLC, 943 F.Supp.2d 1004, 1007 (E.D. Mo. 2013) (citing Terra Int'l, Inc. v. Miss. Chem. Corp., 119 F.3d 688, 691 (8th Cir. 1997)). Whether to grant or deny a request to transfer a case under § 1404(a) is within the trial court's sound discretion. Hubbard v. White, 755 F.2d 692, 694 (8th Cir. 1985). "[C]ourts are not limited to just these enumerated factors, and they have recognized the importance of a case-by-case evaluation of the particular circumstances presented and of all relevant case-specific factors." Dube, 943 F.Supp.2d at 1007 (citing In re Apple, Inc., 602 F.3d 909, 912 (8th Cir. 2010)). However, courts give great deference to a plaintiffs choice of forum, and a party requesting transfer under § 1404(a) bears the burden of demonstrating that the transfer is justified. Anheuser-Busch, Inc. v. All Sports Arena Amusement, Inc., 244 F.Supp.2d 1015, 1022 (E.D. Mo. 2002) (citation omitted). "This 'general' practice of according deference, however, is based on an assumption that the plaintiffs choice will be a convenient one." In re Apple, 602 F.3d at 913 (citation omitted).

         Defendants argue that §1404 factors heavily favor transfer because the Western District of Washington is a more convenient venue for the parties, as only the named Plaintiffs have a connection to Missouri; the non-party witnesses are located in Washington and are beyond the Court's subpoena power; and the interests of justice favor transfer because the underlying events occurred in Washington, Washington law applies, and the cost of litigating in Missouri will be increased for Defendants. Plaintiff, on the other hand, contends that the factors this court must consider weigh against transfer in this case.

         Courts take into consideration several factors when weighing convenience and the interests of justice under § 1404(a). To evaluate the balance of convenience, district courts consider:

(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.

Burkemper v. Dedert Corp., No. 4:11CV1281 JCH, 2011 WL 5330645, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Nov. 7, 2011) (citing Terra Int'l, 119 F.3d at 696). In evaluating these factors, the convenience of witnesses is the most important. The convenience of the witnesses is the '"primary, if not most important'" of the convenience factors. Anheuser-Busch, Inc. v. City Merchandise, 176 F.Supp.2d 951, 959 (quoting May Dep 't Stores Co. v. Wilansky, 900 F.Supp. 1154, 1165 (E.D.Mo.1995)).

         Under the interest of justice category, the courts also consider:

(1) judicial economy, (2) the plaintiffs 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 ...

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