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Target Corporation v. Seaman Corp.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

August 15, 2019

Target Corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
Seaman Corporation, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE

          WILHELMINA M. WRIGHT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant Seaman Corporation's motion to transfer this action to the Northern District of Ohio. (Dkt. 18.) For the reasons addressed below, Seaman's motion is denied.

         BACKGROUND

         This dispute arises from Plaintiff Target Corporation's dissatisfaction with roof membranes used in the construction of Target stores throughout the 2000s. Target initiated this lawsuit on December 3, 2018, alleging that the roof membranes supplied by Seaman failed to perform to the promised standards. In its amended complaint, Target asserts four causes of action: breach of express warranty, fraud, violation of Ohio's Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and violation of Minnesota's Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

         Also on December 3, 2018, Target filed a complaint against Seaman in the Northern District of Ohio (the Ohio litigation). In the Ohio litigation, Target alleges that Seaman's roof membranes, used in the construction of Target stores in 29 states, failed to perform as promised. The Ohio litigation does not implicate any Minnesota store locations. The complaint in the Ohio litigation includes the same causes of action as those in the District of Minnesota litigation, except that the Ohio litigation does not include a claim for violation of Minnesota's Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

         Seaman filed the pending motion to transfer venue from the District of Minnesota to the Northern District of Ohio. Target opposes this motion.

         ANALYSIS

         Seaman seeks to transfer this case to the Northern District of Ohio, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). In opposition to the motion, Target argues that Seaman has not met its burden of proof establishing that transfer is warranted.

         A district court may transfer a civil action to another district where the action may have been brought “[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The decision whether to transfer under Section 1404(a) involves a two-step inquiry for district courts. Valspar Corp. v. Kronos Worldwide, Inc., 50 F.Supp.3d 1152, 1155 (D. Minn. 2014). First, the court must determine “whether the action might have been brought in the proposed transferee district.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Neither party disputes that this action could have been brought in the Northern District of Ohio.

         Second, the court must determine whether transfer would be convenient for the parties, convenient for the witnesses, and in the interests of justice. Id. With respect to the interests-of-justice factor, district courts 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 local law.”[1] Bae Sys. Land & Armaments L.P. v. Ibis Tek, LLC, 124 F.Supp.3d 878, 888 (D. Minn. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         A defendant seeking transfer bears a “heavy burden” of proof to establish that transfer is warranted. Id. at 884. This burden requires the defendant to show “that the balance of factors strongly favors” the defendant and not merely “that the factors are evenly balanced or weigh only slightly in favor of transfer.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

         I. Convenience for the Parties

         Seaman argues that transfer to the Northern District of Ohio would be convenient for both parties in light of the pending Ohio litigation.

         There is a strong presumption in favor of a plaintiff's choice of forum, particularly when the plaintiff resides in the district in which it filed the complaint. Travel Tags, Inc. v. Performance Printing Corp., 636 F.Supp.2d 833, 836 (D. Minn. 2007). A defendant can overcome this presumption by showing that the transferee district is more convenient than the current forum. See Id. A defendant's motion to transfer should not be granted “if the effect is simply to shift the inconvenience to the party resisting the transfer.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). And “[w]hen each party prefers to litigate in its home forum and the moving party has not presented convincing evidence that its financial position makes it incapable of litigating in Minnesota, this factor is neutral.” My Pillow, Inc. v. LMP Worldwide, Inc., 331 F.Supp.3d 920, 927 (D. Minn. 2018) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Seaman asserts that the Northern District of Ohio is a more convenient venue than the District of Minnesota because Target already must spend a significant amount of time in the Northern District of Ohio for the pending Ohio litigation. Although the Northern District of Ohio may be a convenient location, Seaman does not establish that it is more convenient than the District of Minnesota. Minnesota is the location of both Target's headquarters and the damaged roofs at issue. Although Target likely will spend a significant amount of time in Ohio, Seaman, conversely, likely will spend time in Minnesota deposing witnesses, even if the action is transferred to the Northern District of Ohio.[2]

         Next, Seaman argues that Target cannot claim that Ohio is inconvenient because Target chose that forum for the resolution of its other claims against Seaman. But the fact that Target has already filed a complaint in the Northern District of Ohio does not bear on the relative convenience between Ohio and Minnesota. Transferring this case to the Northern District of Ohio simply would “shift the inconvenience to the party resisting the transfer.” Travel Tags, 636 F.Supp.2d at 836.

         Accordingly, this factor does not favor transfer.

         II. Convenience ...


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