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Roth v. Adtran, Inc.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

November 18, 2013

Jason Roth, an Arizona resident, Plaintiff,
Adtran, Inc., an Alabama corporation, Defendant.


DAVID G. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

Defendant has filed a motion to transfer venue. Doc. 10. The motion has been fully briefed. Docs.11, 12, 13. No party has requested oral argument. For reasons stated below, the Court will deny the motion.

I. Background.

Between 2004 and 2011, Plaintiff Jason Roth was a technical writer for employer Defendant Adtran, Inc., a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Hunstville, Alabama. Doc. 1 at 2; Doc. 11 at 2. Plaintiff lived and worked in Arizona during the relevant time period, and was the only Technical Writer employed by Defendant who lived and worked outside of Huntsville. Doc. 11 at 2. In or around June 2009, Plaintiff asserts he was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a condition that he contends substantially limits his ability to work. Doc. 1 at 2. Plaintiff alleges he requested accommodations for his condition from Defendant in 2009, but that his requests were ignored. Id. at 5.

In the summer of 2010, Plaintiff initiated charges against Defendant with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on the basis of failure to accommodate under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Id. Plaintiff subsequently filed a second EEOC complaint on January 3, 2011, and a third on April 8, 2011, after his position with Defendant in Phoenix was eliminated and his employment terminated. Id. at 8-9. On October 12, 2012 the EEOC issued a Letter of Determination with respect to all three complaints, and on June 20, 2013, the EEOC issued Plaintiff a Notice of Right to Sue with respect to each of Plaintiff's charges. Id. at 9. Plaintiff filed his complaint against Defendant on August 22, 2013. Doc. 1. The complaint asserts claims for discrimination under the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12112, and retaliation in violation of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12203. Doc. 1 at 10-12.

II. Analysis.

Defendant asks the Court to transfer this case to the Northern District of Alabama, Northeast Division. 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) authorizes such a transfer if the action could have been brought in the Northern District of Alabama and "transfer is warranted by the convenience of parties and witnesses and promotes the interests of justice." Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964), superseded by statute on other grounds. "[T]he purpose of [section 1404(a)] is to prevent the waste of time, energy and money and to protect litigants and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense." Id. (citation omitted).

The parties do not dispute that this action could have been brought in the Northern District of Alabama. The Court must determine whether Defendant has made "a strong showing of inconvenience to warrant upsetting [Plaintiff's] choice of forum." Decker Coal Co. v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 805 F.2d 834, 843 (9th Cir. 1986). This determination requires the weighing of several factors: (1) Plaintiffs' choice of forum, (2) the convenience of the parties and witnesses, (3) the ease of access to sources of proof, (4) the presence of a forum selection clause, (5) the state that is most familiar with the governing law, (6) the location where the relevant agreements were negotiated and executed, (7) the respective parties' contacts with the forum, (8) the availability of compulsory process to compel attendance of unwilling non-party witnesses, (9) the relevant public policy of the forum state, and (10) the differences in the costs of litigation in the two forums. See 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a); Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 498-99 (9th Cir. 2000); Sparling v. Hoffman Constr. Co., 864 F.2d 635, 639 (9th Cir. 1988); Decker Coal, 805 F.2d at 843.

A. Plaintiff's choice of forum.

Plaintiff elected to file his claim in the District of Arizona. There is ordinarily "a strong presumption in favor of the plaintiff's choice of forum, " such that great weight and substantial deference is generally afforded to a plaintiff's choice. Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 265 (1981); see also Sinochem Intern. Co., Ltd. v. Malaysia Intern. Shipping Corp., 549 U.S. 422, 423 (2007); Lou v. Belzberg, 834 F.2d 730, 739 (9th Cir. 1987); Decker Coal, 805 F.2d at 843. This factor weighs strongly against transfer.

B. Convenience of the parties and witnesses.

Convenience of parties and witnesses are critical factors for a court considering a motion to transfer, but a transfer which "merely shifts the inconvenience from one party to another" is not appropriate. Warfield v. Gardner, 346 F.Supp.2d 1033, 1044 (D. Ariz. 2004).

Plaintiff is an Arizona resident. Doc. 12 at 4. Defendant is incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in Alabama. Doc. 11 at 2. Between the two parties, transfer of venue from Arizona to Alabama would inconvenience Plaintiff, while increasing convenience only for Defendant. Further, Defendant had an office in Phoenix and continues to do business in Arizona, including hiring new employees for its Arizona office. Doc. 12 at 8, Ex. 5. Given this connection with Arizona, any inconvenience caused by litigating in this Court would be less than that suffered by Plaintiff if the case were transferred to the Northern District of Alabama.

Defendant's key witnesses all reside in Alabama. Doc. 11 at 5. Plaintiff claims, however, that at least four of his witnesses are in Arizona. Doc. 12 at 4. The inconvenience to witnesses, therefore, appears to be equal in both venues. Given that Plaintiff would be disadvantaged more than Defendant by litigating outside of his forum of choice, and that both sides have ...

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