United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Galveston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. HANKS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Juan Gonzalez, filed this lawsuit on July 29, 2016, alleging
he was injured in September 2014 while at a Home Depot store
located at 6810 Gulf Freeway, Houston, Texas 77087. Gonzalez
asserts claims for premises liability, negligence, and gross
is a Texas resident. Defendant Home Depot U.S.A., Inc. is a
foreign corporation registered under the laws of Delaware,
with its principal place of business in Atlanta, Georgia.
Home Depot has filed a motion to transfer this case to the
United States District Court for the Southern District of
Texas, Houston Division. Dkt. 15. Home Depot alleges that
transfer of this case is warranted because Houston is a
clearly more convenient venue under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).
Gonzalez is opposed to the transfer.
support its motion, Home Depot contends that "[t]he
Galveston Division has no meaningful ties to this lawsuit,
" because the store at which Gonzalez alleges he was
injured is located in Harris County. Home Depot also alleges
that Gonzalez resides in Pasadena, Texas, also located in
Harris County. Home Depot points out that Gonzalez's
medical providers, and "the relevant witnesses and Home
Depot employees are each closer to the Houston Division than
they are to the Galveston Division." Home Depot has
provided the Court with a chart, listing each possible
witness or medical provider and estimating their distance
from the Houston and Galveston courthouses, respectively.
Home Depot correctly states that, based on mileage alone, the
listed medical providers, the Plaintiffs residence, and the
location of the Home Depot store at issue in this lawsuit are
all closer to the Houston courthouse than to this Galveston
courthouse. Home Depot also points out that a jury wishing to
view the store premises will have a shorter distance to
travel if it is seated in Houston rather than Galveston.
response, on the other hand, points out that Home Depot has
not made any showing that the witnesses it names in the
motion to transfer will actually, or even probably, be called
to trial. Nor has Home Depot established the likelihood of a
jury needing a field trip to the store when, according to
Gonzalez, only a single storage rack of undetermined size
caused his injuries.
party has supplemented its briefing during the time that the
motion to transfer has been on file. In October 2016, the
Court entered a docket control order setting this case for
trial in October 2017. Dkt. 14. The parties have assured the
Court that discovery has been underway, pursuant to that
order. Although the parties recently filed a motion to
continue the trial date in this case, that motion is based
upon their difficulty in scheduling Gonzalez's deposition
due to counsel's own scheduling conflicts. None of the
reasons asserted for the continuance relate to the location
or "convenience" of the courthouse in which the
case is filed.
FOR CONVEND2NCE TRANSFERS
U.S.C. § 1404(a) allows a district court to transfer a
civil action "for the convenience of parties and
witnesses, in the interest of justice ... to any other
district or division where it might have been brought."
The statute is intended to save "time, energy, and money
while at the same time protecting litigants, witnesses, and
the public against unnecessary inconvenience."
Republic Capital Dev. Grp., L.L.C. v. A.G. Dev. Grp.,
Inc., No. H-05-1714, 2005 WL 3465728, at *8 (S.D. Tex.
Dec. 19, 2005). Motions to transfer venue under 1404(a) are
committed to the sound discretion of the district court.
Jarvis Christian College v. Exxon Corp., 845 F.2d
523, 528 (5th Cir. 1988). The party seeking transfer has the
burden of showing good cause for the transfer. In re
Volkswagen of Am., Inc., 545 F.3d 304, 315 (5th Cir.
2008) (en banc). The burden on the movant is
"significant, " and for a transfer to be granted,
the transferee venue must be "clearly more convenient
than the venue chosen by the plaintiff." Id.
threshold question for a district court considering a motion
to transfer venue under 28 U.S.C. 1404(a) is whether the suit
could have been filed in movant's desired transfer venue.
In re Volkswagen AG, 371 F.3d 201, 203 (5th Cir.
2004); see also Wells v. Abe's Boat Rentals
Inc., No. CIV.A. H-13-1112, 2014 WL 29590, at *1 (S.D.
Tex. Jan. 3, 2014). Here, the alleged injury took place
within the Houston Division. Accordingly, the case could have
been filed there.
the Court must determine whether on balance the transfer
would serve "the convenience of parties and
witnesses" and "the interest of justice" under
28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) by weighing a number of private and
public interest factors. In re Volkswagen of
Am., Inc., 545 F.3d 304, 315 (5th Cir. 2008). The
private concerns include: (1) the relative ease of access to
sources of proof; (2) the availability of compulsory process
to secure the attendance of witnesses; (3) the cost of
attendance for willing witnesses; and (4) all other practical
problems that make trial of a case easy, expeditious, and
inexpensive. The public concerns include: (1) the
administrative difficulties flowing from court congestion;
(2) the local interest in having localized interests decided
at home; (3) the familiarity of the forum with the law that
will govern the case; and (4) the avoidance of unnecessary
problems of conflict of laws of the application of foreign
law. Id. No one single factor is given dispositive
weight. See Wells, 2014 WL 29590 at *1 (quoting
Action Indus., Inc. v. U.S. Fidelity & Guar.
Co., 258 F.3d 337, 340 (5th Cir. 2004)). The Court
analyzes these factors below.
Court first considers the private interest factors: relative
ease of access to sources of proof; the availability of
compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses; the
cost of attendance for willing witnesses; and all other
practical problems that make trial of a case easy,
expeditious and inexpensive. As Gonzalez points out, although
Home Depot's helpful chart shows relative distances from
his medical providers for each courthouse, Home Depot has not
shown the likelihood that any of these witnesses may actually
be called at trial, or the relevance of their testimony.
Compare, e.g., Grayson v. Wood Group PSN, Inc, No.
3:15-cv-0035, 2017 WL 914993 (S.D. Tex. March 8, 2017)
(listing the names, addresses, job descriptions, and
potential relevance at trial of several proposed witnesses,
and discussing whether each is within the subpoena power of
the various federal courts). Further, since this is a
personal injury case, the medical evidence is expected, in
large part, to come in the form of business records. See,
e.g., Barnes v. Romeo Papa, LLC, No. 3:12-CV-365, 2013
WL 3049236, at *2 (S.D. Tex. June 17, 2013) ("[B]ecause
this case is a personal injury action, it is unlikely to
require extensive paper discovery or additional difficulties
in accessing sources of proof"). The Court also notes
that, other than mere distances, there is no evidence about
the relative convenience of travel for the witnesses, the
cost of transportation, or the disruption of their lives if
the case were in Houston versus Galveston. Home Depot simply
alleges that, "[f]he closer drive to the Houston
Division is entirely more convenient." Given the
relatively close distances, and taking judicial notice of the
realities of traffic conditions and construction in the
greater Galveston/Houston metropolitan area, this is just not
enough. Similarly, Home Depot alleges that the "lumber
rack" at issue "cannot be reasonably transported,
" but there is no evidentiary support for this
allegation. The Court does not know the size or shape or
weight of the rack, and the Court will decline to guess.
the Court considers the public interest concerns, including
the administrative difficulties flowing from court
congestion, the local interest in having localized interests
decided at home, the familiarity of the forum with the law
that will govern the case, and the avoidance of unnecessary
problems of conflict of laws of the application of foreign
law. As to these factors, Home Depot argues only that a
Houston jury will have more connection to the store at issue
than will a Galveston jury. Again, given the facts at issue
and taking judicial notice of the geographical span of the
Houston and Galveston Divisions, this is not enough. A jury
from the Houston Division will not be drawn solely from
Harris County-instead, the Houston Division of the Southern
District of Texas summons jurors from a wide geographical
area, including Austin, Brazos, Colorado, Fayette, Fort Bend,
Grimes, Harris, Madison, Montgomery, San Jacinto, Walker,
Waller, and Wharton counties. Home Depot does not present any
evidence that transferring this case to Houston would result
in a jury with closer ties to the store at issue than a jury
summoned by this Court.
full consideration of the motion, the briefing in response,
and the record of this case as a whole, the Court finds that
Home Depot has failed to carry its burden of showing that
transfer of this case to Houston would be clearly more