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Mallory v. Lease Supervisors, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

March 23, 2018

DON MALLORY and TY FARRELL, Individually and on Behalf of All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
LEASE SUPERVISORS, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SIDNEY A. FITZWATER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In this collective action seeking unpaid overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., defendant moves to transfer the case to the Western District of Texas, Midland-Odessa Division, under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) for the convenience of the parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice. For the reasons that follow, the court denies the motion.

         I

         Defendant Lease Supervisors, LLC (“Lease Supervisors”) is a Texas limited liability company that maintains its corporate office in Odessa, Texas. In June 2016 plaintiff Don Mallory (“Mallory”), a resident of Mabank, Texas, filed a proposed class action against Lease Supervisors in the Western District of Texas Midland-Odessa Division, asserting claims under ERISA[1] for breaches of fiduciary duty. In March 2017 plaintiff Ty Farrell (“Farrell”), a resident of Malakoff, Texas, filed a similar ERISA lawsuit against Lease Supervisors in the Western District of Texas, Midland-Odessa Division. The Western District of Texas denied Mallory's motion for class certification and ultimately dismissed both cases.[2]

         In November 2017, while Farrell's proposed ERISA class action was still pending in the Western District of Texas, Mallory and Farrell filed the instant lawsuit in this court, alleging FLSA unpaid overtime claims on behalf of themselves and Lease Supervisors' current and former plant operators/managers who were paid a salary. Lease Supervisors now moves under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) to transfer this case, contending that it conducts its operations and maintains its corporate records in Odessa, Texas; that Bobby Allison (“Allison”), its former manager, resides there; and that the interests of justice and convenience of the parties and witnesses requires that the case be transferred to the Western District of Texas, Midland-Odessa Division. Plaintiffs oppose the motion.

         II

         Section 1404(a) provides that, “[f]or the convenience of 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.” “The decision to transfer is made to prevent waste of time, energy, and money and to protect litigants, witnesses, and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense.” Bank One, N.A. v. Euro-Alamo Invs., Inc., 211 F.Supp.2d 808, 811 (N.D. Tex. 2002) (Fitzwater, J.) (citing Stabler v. N.Y. Times Co., 569 F.Supp. 1131, 1137 (S.D. Tex. 1983)). “The court cannot transfer a case where the result is merely to shift the inconvenience of the venue from one party to the other.” Sivertson v. Clinton, 2011 WL 4100958, at *3 (N.D. Tex. Sept. 14, 2011) (Fitzwater, C.J.) (citing Fowler v. Broussard, 2001 WL 184237, at *6 (N.D. Tex. Jan. 22, 2001) (Fitzwater, J.)). Moreover,

[t]he plaintiff's choice of venue is . . . entitled to deference, and therefore the party seeking transfer has the burden to show good cause for the transfer. 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.”

AT & T Intellectual Prop. I, L.P. v. Airbiquity Inc., 2009 WL 774350, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Mar. 24, 2009) (Lynn, J.) (footnotes omitted) (quoting In re Volkswagen of Am., Inc., 545 F.3d 304, 315 (5th Cir. 2008) (en banc) (“Volkswagen II”)).

         The court must decide as a preliminary question “whether the judicial district to which transfer is sought would have been a district in which the claim could have been filed.” In re Volkswagen AG, 371 F.3d 201, 203 (5th Cir. 2004) (per curiam) (“Volkswagen I”); see also Volkswagen II, 545 F.3d at 312 (“The preliminary question under § 1404(a) is whether a civil action ‘might have been brought' in the destination venue.”). Once the court resolves this issue, it must in deciding whether to transfer the case evaluate “a number of private and public interest factors, none of which are given dispositive weight.” Volkswagen I, 371 F.3d at 203 (citing Action Indus., Inc. v. U.S. Fid. & Guar. Co., 358 F.3d 337, 340 (5th Cir. 2004)).

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 [or] the application of foreign law.

Id. (citations omitted). “Although [these] factors are appropriate for most transfer cases, they are not necessarily exhaustive or exclusive.” Volkswagen II, 545 F.3d at 315. Defendant must establish “good cause” for transferring the case, meaning that, “in order to support its claim for a transfer, [it] must satisfy the statutory requirements and clearly demonstrate that a transfer is ‘[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice.'” Id. (final brackets in original) (quoting § 1404(a)).

         III

         The parties do not dispute, and the court holds, that plaintiffs could have brought this lawsuit in the Western District of Texas. For venue purposes, Lease Supervisors “resides” in Odessa, [3] which is located in Ector County, Texas, within the Midland-Odessa Division of the Western District of Texas. See 28 U.S.C. § 124(d)(7).

         IV

         Before addressing the public and private interest factors, the court determines the weight to be accorded plaintiffs' choice of forum. “A plaintiff's choice is normally entitled to deference, but when [it] files suit outside [its] home forum, the weight accorded to the choice is diminished.” Sivertson, 2011 WL 4100958, at *4 (citations omitted). Plaintiffs' choice of the Northern District of Texas is entitled to some weight. Although Mallory and Farrell both reside in Henderson County, which is in the Eastern District of Texas, the complaint alleges that the work they performed for Lease Supervisors occurred in Navarro County, which is in the Northern District of Texas. ...


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