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Roumeliotis v. J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

April 26, 2018

Stergios Roumeliotis, Plaintiff,
v.
J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc., Defendant.

          Jacob Jagdfeld for Plaintiff.

          Jerome Feriancek for Defendant.

          ORDER

          FRANKLIN L. NOEL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         THIS MATTER came before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge on February 26, 2018, on Defendant's motion to transfer venue (ECF No. 43). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion (ECF No. 43) is DENIED.

         I. STATEMENT OF FACTS

         Plaintiff Stergios Roumeliotis alleges that on June 23, 2014, as he was riding a bicycle through the intersection of Fifteenth Avenue Southeast and Fifth Street Southeast, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a commercial tractor-trailer being operated by an employee of Defendant J. B. Hunt Transport, Inc., abruptly lurched in front of him and caused him to crash. ECF No. 1 at 3. Plaintiff claims that the crash was caused by the negligence, carelessness, and unlawful conduct of Defendant and its employee. Id.

         This matter was originally filed in Hennepin County District Court, in Minneapolis Minnesota, but was removed to the District of Minnesota, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332 and 1446. Id. at 1-2. Defendant is a Georgia corporation, with its principle place of business in Arkansas. Id. This case has been assigned to the Honorable Wilhemina M. Wright, chambered in St. Paul, Minnesota. See ECF No. 3.

         II. CONCLUSION OF LAW

         Defendant moves the Court, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), to transfer venue from Saint Paul, Minnesota, to Duluth, Minnesota. See ECF No. 43. According to Defendant, on November 26, 2017, Hernandez Solano was fatally struck by a Sport Utility Vehicle at the intersection of West Seventh Street and Grand Avenue in Saint Paul. ECF No. 45 at 1. Based on the amount of publicity surrounding the Solano accident, the amount of support the Solano family received from the community, and the vilification of the driver in the Solano matter, Defendant believes that venue in Saint Paul risks the likelihood of a biased jury pool, and unfair prejudice to the Defendant. Id. at 1-2. Plaintiff opposes Defendant's motion to transfer venue, and asserts that Plaintiff has failed to establish any basis for transferring the case from Saint Paul to Duluth. See ECF No. 49. This Court agrees.

         “For the convenience of the 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). In considering a motion to transfer under § 1404(a), the court must consider: “(1) the convenience of the parties, (2) the convenience of the witnesses, and (3) the interests of justice.” Terra Int'l., Inc. v. Miss. Chem. Corp., 119 F.3d 688, 691 (8th Cir. 1997). The court's determination, however, is not limited to these factors but “require[s] a case by case evaluation of the particular circumstances at hand and a consideration of all relevant factors.” Id. “[T]he party seeking a transfer under section 1404(a) typically bears the burden of proving that a transfer is warranted.” Id. at 695. The moving party must “show that the balancing of the . . . factors strongly favors transfer.” Brockman v. Sun Valley Resorts, Inc., 923 F.Supp. 1176, 1179 (D. Minn. 1996). Transfer “should not be freely granted.” In re Nine Mile Ltd., 692 F.2d 56, 61 (8th Cir. 1982). “Merely shifting the inconvenience from one side to the other . . . is not a permissible justification for a change of venue.” Terra Int'l Inc., 119 F.3d at 696-97.

         A. Convenience of the parties

         “In evaluating the convenience of the parties, courts may consider the location of the two courthouses and the travel expenses that the parties ‘would likely incur . . . for airfare, meals, and lodging, and losses in productivity from time spent away from work.'” Oien v. Thompson, 824 F.Supp.2d 898, 903 (D. Minn. 2010) (quoting In re Apple Inc., 602 F.3d 909, 913 (8th Cir. 2010)). “However, it is axiomatic that convenience to [the defendant's] counsel ‘is not a factor to be considered in deciding the propriety of transfer.” Nelson v. Soo Line R. Co., 58 F.Supp.2d 1023, 1027 (D. Minn. 1999) (quoting Hoppe v. G.D. Searle & Co., 683 F.Supp. 1271, 1276 (D. Minn. 1988)).

         In the present case, Plaintiff is a professor at the University of Minnesota, and is currently in California on a two-year contract with Google. ECF No. 49 at 2. Defendant is a corporation headquartered in Arkansas. See ECF No. 45 at 5. Defendant argues that any inconvenience to the parties based on venue being in Duluth as opposed to Saint Paul is minimal. Id. Plaintiff disagrees, noting that travel to Duluth for out of state parties and witnesses is more expensive as there are fewer flights traveling to Duluth than to the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport. See ECF No. 49 at 10. Because Defendant has not offered any reason that it would be more convenient for it to litigate in Duluth, and because Plaintiff has made a good showing that travel to Duluth would be more expensive, the Court finds that the first factor, the convenience of the parties, weighs in favor of not transferring.

         B. Convenience ...


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