Singh et al v. Roadrunner Intermodal Services, LLC et al

Northern District of California, cand-4:2015-cv-01701

AMENDED ORDER GRANTING {{18}} MOTION to Transfer Case. Signed by Judge Jeffrey S. White on 10/1/15.

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 JABIR SINGH, et al., 7 Case No. 15-cv-01701-JSW Plaintiffs, 8 v. AMENDED ORDER GRANTING 9 MOTION TO TRANSFER1 ROADRUNNER INTERMODAL 10 SERVICES, LLC, et al., Re: Docket No. 19 11 Defendants. 12 Northern District of California United States District Court 13 Now before the Court for consideration is the motion to transfer venue, filed by 14 Defendants Roadrunner Intermodal Services, LLC ("Roadrunner"), Central Cal Transportation, 15 LLC ("CCT"), and Morgan Southern, Inc. ("Morgan") (collectively "Defendants"). The Court has 16 considered the parties' papers, relevant legal authority, and the record in this case, and it finds the 17 motion is suitable for disposition without oral argument. See N.D. Civ. L.R. 7-1(b). The Court 18 VACATES the hearing scheduled for October 9, 2015, and it HEREBY GRANTS Defendants' 19 motion. 20 BACKGROUND 21 On March 9, 2015, Plaintiffs filed this wage and hour putative class action in the Superior 22 Court of the State of California for the City and County of San Francisco ("San Francisco Superior 23 Court"). Plaintiffs alleged that venue was proper in San Francisco Superior Court, because 24 Defendants own and operate business facilities in San Francisco 25 County, and other counties in the State of California, where Defendants … engage Plaintiffs and Class Members to work driving 26 trucks, control their wages, hours and working conditions, and suffer or permit them to work as truck drivers. … Plaintiffs and the Class 27 28 1 The Court issues this Amended Order to direct the Clerk to close the case forthwith. Members have suffered damages, and will continue to suffer 1 damages, in San Francisco County and other counties throughout California as a result of Defendants, and each of their wrongful 2 conduct[.] 3 (Notice of Removal, Ex. A (Complaint ("Compl.") ¶ 5.) 4 It is undisputed that each Plaintiff resides within the Eastern District of California. (Id. ¶¶ 5 8-15.) According to Plaintiffs, Defendants have violated various provisions of the California 6 Labor Code by failing to provide meal and rest breaks, failing to pay minimum wage, failing to 7 compensate them for business expenses incurred, failing to pay them wages due at discharge, and 8 failing to provide accurate wage statements. (Id. ¶¶ 42-84.) Plaintiffs, through counsel, attest that 9 they performed much of the work for which Defendants allegedly have not compensated them in 10 and around the Port of Oakland. (Declaration of Daniel M. Kopfman ("Kopfman Decl."), Exs. A, 11 B.) 12 Northern District of California On April 15, 2015, Defendants removed the action to this Court. It is undisputed that none United States District Court 13 of the Defendants are residents of this District. CCT is a drayage carrier, with a terminal in 14 Fresno, California. (Declaration of Jeff Cox ("Cox Decl."), ¶ 3.) Roadrunner is an affiliate of 15 CCT and also provides transportation related services. (Id, ¶ 4.) Roadrunner and CCT generally 16 haul containers from the Central Valley to the Port of Oakland. (Id., ¶ 5.) According to 17 Defendants, Plaintiffs signed their contracts with CCT or Roadrunner at CCT's Fresno terminal, 18 were dispatched from CCT's Fresno terminal, and payments were processed and approved in 19 Fresno. (Id., ¶¶ 6-9.) 20 The Court will address additional facts as necessary in its analysis. 21 ANALYSIS 22 A. Applicable Legal Standard. 23 Defendants move to transfer this action to the United States District Court for the Eastern 24 District of California, pursuant to, inter alia, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. section 1404 ("Section 25 1404").2 Pursuant to Section 1404(a), a district court may transfer a civil action to any district 26 27 2 Defendants also moved to transfer pursuant to 28 U.S.C. section 1406 ("Section 1406"). 28 Section 1406 permits a district court to dismiss or transfer where an action has been filed in the wrong district or division, i.e., where venue is improper. However, Defendants did not file a 2 1 where the case could have been filed originally for the convenience of the parties and witnesses 2 and in the interest of justice. A motion to transfer venue under section 1404(a) requires the court 3 to weigh multiple factors to determine whether transfer is appropriate in a particular case. For 4 example, the court may consider: (1) the plaintiff's choice of forum; (2) the convenience of 5 witnesses and the parties; (3) the familiarity of the forum with the applicable law; (4) the ease of 6 access to evidence; and (5) the relative court congestion and time of trial in each forum. Gulf Oil 7 Co. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 508 -09 (1947); Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 498- 8 99 (9th Cir. 2000). As the moving parties, Defendants bear the burden of showing that the 9 inconvenience of litigating in this forum favors transfer. See E. & J. Gallo Winery v. F. & 10 P.S.p.A., 899 F. Supp. 465, 466 (E.D. Cal. 1994). 11 B. The Court Grants the Motion to Transfer. 12 There is no dispute that Plaintiffs could have filed suit in the Eastern District. Northern District of California United States District Court 13 Accordingly, the Court weighs the relevant competing factors to determine which forum is 14 appropriate under the circumstances. 15 1. Plaintiffs' Choice of Forum. 16 A court should give a plaintiff's choice of forum great deference, unless the defendant can 17 show that other factors of convenience clearly outweigh the plaintiff's choice of forum. Decker 18 Coal Co., 805 F.2d at 843. There are factors that will diminish the deference given to a plaintiff's 19 choice of forum, including where, as here, a plaintiff files suit on behalf of a putative class. See, 20 e.g., Lou v. Belzberg, 834 F.2d 730, 739 (9th Cir. 1987). The deference accorded to a plaintiff's 21 chosen forum also should be balanced against both the extent of a defendant's contacts with the 22 chosen forum and a plaintiff's contacts, including those relating to a plaintiff's cause of action. 23 Pacific Car & Foundry Co. v. Pence, 403 F.2d 949, 954 (9th Cir. 1968). "If the operative facts 24 have not occurred within the forum of original selection and that forum has no particular interest 25 in the parties or the subject matter, [a] plaintiff's choice is only entitled to minimal consideration." 26 27 motion to dismiss for improper venue, and when they filed their answer, they did not object to 28 venue. Thus, they waived any objections to the propriety of venue within this District. See, e.g., Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h). 3 1 Id. 2 It is undisputed that the named Plaintiffs are not residents of this District. Although 3 Defendants argue that all putative class members reside in the Eastern District, they attest only 4 that "[a]ll independent vendors who contracted with CCT or RRIS in Fresno since 2013 have 5 resided in the Eastern District of California." (Second Declaration of Jeff Cox ("Second Cox 6 Decl."), ¶ 3.) Plaintiffs, however, define the class as "all current and former California-based, 7 truck drivers or persons in an equivalent position or performing equivalent job duties however 8 titled, who worked and/or are forking for Defendants … within four years prior to the filing of the 9 original Complaint[.]" (Compl. ¶ 30.) Thus, it is possible that some members of the putative class 10 reside within this District. 11 Defendants also argue that the events that give rise to the dispute occurred in the Eastern 12 District. It is undisputed that, as part of their job duties, Plaintiffs haul containers to the Port of Northern District of California United States District Court 13 Oakland, which is within this District. Defendants argue that although Plaintiffs may have 14 performed some work in this District, they contracted with Defendants in the Eastern District and 15 all payment decisions and payment processing occurred in the Eastern District. (See Cox Decl., ¶¶ 16 7-9.) Plaintiffs have shown that there is a connection to this District, although it is minimal. 17 In light of the fact that none of the named Plaintiffs resides here, given that this is a 18 putative class action, and in light of the fact less than substantial connection to this District, the 19 Court affords minimal deference to Plaintiffs' choice of forum. Lou, 834 F.2d at 739; Pacific Car 20 & Foundry, 403 F.2d at 954. 21 2. Convenience of the Witnesses and Parties. 22 In addition to considering Plaintiffs' choice of forum, the Court considers the relative 23 convenience to the parties and witnesses involved in the lawsuit of the competing forums when 24 deciding a motion to transfer. Gulf Oil, 330 U.S. at 508. The convenience of witnesses is often 25 the most important factor in resolving a motion to transfer. The trial court looks at who the 26 witnesses are, where they are located, and the relevance of their testimony. A.J. Industries, Inc. v. 27 United States District Court, 503 F.3d 384, 389 (9th Cir. 1974). 28 Defendants have not identified any particular witnesses and have not attested to the nature 4 1 of their testimony. Rather, they attest generally that "[t]he witnesses for CCT and RRIS who are 2 familiar with the services Plaintiffs performed work out of the Fresno terminal are all located in or 3 around Fresno County." (Cox Decl., ¶ 10.) Mr. Cox also attests that he resides in the Eastern 4 District. (Second Cox Decl., ¶ 4.) This type of general testimony normally would not be 5 sufficient to sustain a defendant's burden of persuasion on a motion to transfer. See E. & J. Gallo 6 Winery, 899 F. Supp. at 466. In addition, Mr. Cox does not specify whether these unidentified 7 witnesses are party or non-party witnesses. Although the Court should consider the convenience 8 of party witnesses, "the convenience of non-party witnesses is the more important factor." Saleh 9 v. Titan Corp., 361 F. Supp. 2d 1152, 1160 (S.D. Cal. 2005) (quoting Aquatic Amusement Assocs. 10 v. Walt Disney World Co., 734 F. Supp. 54, 57 (N.D. N.Y. 1990)) (internal quotation marks 11 omitted). 12 It is undisputed that each of the named Plaintiffs resides in the Eastern District. In Northern District of California United States District Court 13 addition, although Defendants have only put forth general evidence about likely witnesses, the 14 Plaintiffs have not refuted it; nor have they identified any potential non-party witnesses located in 15 this District. 16 Based on the current record, the Court concludes that the convenience of the witnesses and 17 parties weighs slightly in favor of transfer. 18 3. Familiarity of the Forum with the Applicable Law. 19 It is undisputed that this action will involve California law, and both this Court and the 20 Eastern District are familiar with that law. This factor is neutral. 21 4. Ease of Access to Evidence. 22 Access to sources of proof is another factor that favors transfer. Gulf Oil, 330 U.S. at 508. 23 Defendants attest that all of the relevant records are located either in Fresno or at the Defendants' 24 corporate offices in Wisconsin. (Cox Decl., ¶ 10.) "With technological advances in document 25 storage and retrieval, transporting documents generally does not create a burden." Van Slyke v. 26 Capital One Bank, 503 F. Supp. 2d 1353, 1362 (N.D. Cal. 2007). However, Defendants have 27 demonstrated that relevant documents are not located within this District. 28 Accordingly, the Court concludes that this factor weighs in favor of transfer. 5 1 5. Relative Co ongestion. 2 Anotheer factor courrts consider is the relativve court conggestion in eaach forum. P Plaintiffs ask k 3 thee Court to tak ke judicial notice n of an opinion o writtten from thee Eastern Disstrict, which stated that 4 t heaviest case loads inn the nation.." (Plaintifff's Request "[j]]udges in thee Eastern Diistrict carry the 5 forr Judicial No otice, Ex. A.)) The Court can take juddicial notice of the existeence of the oopinion. It 6 can nnot, howeveer, take judiccial notice th hat the statem ments therein are true. T The Court dooes, 7 how wever, have access to staatistical reco ords that shoow that the E Eastern Distrrict's overall caseload 8 and me to disposiition is slightly greater thhan the Nortthern Districct's caseloadd.3 The d median tim 9 Court cannot saay that the difference d is so great thatt this factor w would weighh against traansfer. 10 The Co ourt has conssidered all off the factors set forth aboove. When tthe Court weeighs those 11 facctors and when it consideers the intereests of justicce, the Court concludes tthat, on balannce, this 12 casse should be transferred to the Easterrn District. Northern District of California United States District Court 13 CONCLU USION 14 For the foregoing reeasons, the Court C GRAN NTS Defenddants' motionn to transfer venue, and 15 it HEREBY H TR RANSFERS this matter to the United States Disstrict Court ffor the Easterrn District of 16 California. Th he Clerk is diirected to clo ose this file fforthwith. 17 IT IS SO S ORDER RED. 18 Daated: Octobeer 1, 2015 19 20 ___________________________ JE EFFREY S. W WHITE 21 Unnited States D District Judgge 22 23 24 25 26 27 3 28 Seee ources/statisstics/fed-couurt-statistics/f /fcms-june-22015-districtt-courts (lastt vissited Sept. 29 9, 2015). 6