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Vine v. PLS Financial Services, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, El Paso Division

June 25, 2018

LUCINDA VINE and KRISTY POND, on behalf themselves and for all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
PLS FINANCIAL SERVICES, INC., and PLS LOAN STORE OF TEXAS, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER TRANSFERRING TO THE SHERMAN DIVISION OF THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS

          PHILIP R. MARTINEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On this day, the Court considered Plaintiffs Kristy Pond and Lucinda Vine's [hereinafter "Plaintiffs"] "Response to the Court's Order to Show Cause" (ECF No. 100), filed on May 25, 2018, and Defendants PLS Financial Services, Inc. and PLS Loan Store of Texas, Inc.'s [hereinafter "Defendants"] "Response to Court's Show Cause Order" (ECF No. 101), filed on May 25, 2018, in the above-captioned cause. After due consideration, the Court is of the opinion that this cause should be transferred to the Sherman Division of the Eastern District of Texas pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), for the reasons that follow.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This case concerns Plaintiffs' allegations that Defendants engaged in unlawful practices in attempting to collect on payday loans that Plaintiffs had received. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants submitted false affidavits to the Collin County District Attorney ("DA") claiming that Plaintiffs had committed theft by check against Defendants when, in fact, they had not. The DA then sent letters to Plaintiffs threatening arrest and imprisonment if Defendants did not make restitution payments to the DA. As a result of receiving these letters. Plaintiffs allegedly paid additional fines and fees that they did not agree to pay when taking out their loans.

         Accordingly, Plaintiffs filed suit on behalf of themselves and other similarly situated individuals in El Paso County Court at Law Number Seven on December 17, 2015. Not. Removal Ex. A, Jan. 26, 2016, ECF No. 1. On January 26, 2016, Defendants removed this case to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Id. In their Notice of Removal, Defendants indicated that although venue was proper in this Court due to the location of the State proceeding, Defendants intended to seek a transfer to another district "in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the alleged claims asserted occurred." Id. They never moved for such a transfer. In Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint, they claim that venue is proper in the El Paso Division of the Western District of Texas because a "substantial part of the events or omissions giving to rise [sic] to the claims asserted herein occurred in El Paso County, Texas." Am. Compl., Mar. 11, 2016, ECF No. 17.

         Since Plaintiffs filed their Amended Complaint in March 2016, there has been extensive litigation in this matter, including two orders on dispositive motions and an interlocutory appeal. However, the case has not yet proceeded to formal discovery, and Plaintiffs' "Motion for Class Certification" (ECF No. 71), filed September 12, 2017, is still pending. While the Motion for Class Certification was under consideration, the Court inquired at a May 15, 2018, status conference as to why this case is being litigated in El Paso. Plaintiffs' counsel Daniel Dutko indicated that while he initially believed potential class members were located in El Paso, he no longer so believes. Further, Mr. Dutko confirmed that the named Plaintiffs do not live in El Paso and that little or no effort has been made to find out whether the conduct at issue in this case has any relationship to El Paso.

         Based on these revelations, the Court ordered the parties to show cause as to why this case should not be transferred to the Eastern District of Texas. Specifically, it ordered the parties to explain why El Paso was a preferable or more convenient venue for this case than the Sherman Division of the Eastern District of Texas, where Collin County is located and where the alleged misconduct occurred. Unsurprisingly, Defendants did not object to the proposed transfer, and Plaintiffs stressed that a transfer would cause prejudice and would not promote judicial economy. However, Plaintiffs further stated that if the Court were to rule on its motion for class certification, they would drop any objections to a transfer. After due consideration, the Court will decline to rule on the motion for class certification and transfer the case.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         "For 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. . . ." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). District courts have "broad discretion in deciding whether to order a transfer" pursuant to § 1404(a). Balawajder v, Scott, 160 F.3d 1066, 1067 (5th Cir. 1998) (quoting Caldwell v. Palmetto State Sau. Bank, 811 F, 2d 916, 919 (5th Cir. 1987)). District courts may transfer cases upon motion or sua sponte. Nelson v. Lewis No. CIV.A. 1:07-CV-135, 2007 WL 869571, at *1 (E.D. Tex. Mar. 21, 2007) (citing Mills v. Beech Aircraft Corp., Inc., 886 F.2d 758, 761 (5th Cir. 1989)); accord Caldwell 811 F.2d at 919 ("Under the transfer statute, a district court may transfer a case upon a motion or sua sponte.").

         "The threshold question in applying the provisions of § 1404(a) is whether the suit could have been brought in the proposed transferee district." In re Volkswagen AG (Volkswagen I), 371 F.3d 201, 203 (5th Cir. 2004). If the answer to that question is yes, then a court must consider a variety of public and private interest factors to determine whether the proposed new forum is "clearly more convenient." Id., The private interest factors are: "(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." In re Volkswagen of Am., Inc., 545 F.3d 304, 315 (5th Cir. 2008) (quoting Volkswagen I, 371 F.3d at 203). The public interest factors that courts consider are:

(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 in] the application of foreign law.

Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Volkswagen /, 371 F.3d at 203). These factors, although appropriate in most cases, "are not necessarily exhaustive or exclusive." Id., Moreover, none of the factors "can be said to be of dispositive weight." Id. (quoting Action Indus., Inc. v. U.S. Fid. & Guar. Corp., 358 F.3d 337, 340 (5th Cir. 2004)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Whether Plaintiffs Could Have Brought Suit in the ...


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