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Total Safety v. Knox

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

December 23, 2019

TOTAL SAFETY et al, Plaintiffs,
v.
ALICIA KNOX, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE

          Hon. Charles Eskridge United States District Judge

         Before the Court is a motion filed by Defendant Alicia Knox to transfer venue to the Corpus Christi Division. Dkt 10. Upon consideration, the Court grants the motion.

         1. Background

         Plaintiffs Total Safety U.S. Inc and Total Safety On-Site Services Inc (together, Total Safety) provide integrated industrial safety services to the petrochemical refining, pipeline, and industrial sectors. Both Total Safety entities are Delaware corporations with principal places of business in Houston. Dkt 1 at 1-2. Total Safety also does business in Corpus Christi with an office of approximately thirty full-time employees. Dkt 31 at 34.

         Knox is a resident of Corpus Christi. Dkt 1 at 2. In May 2019, Total Safety acquired Airgas On-Site Services Inc, a national safety service provider. Knox worked for Airgas in Corpus Christi at the time of the acquisition, but she resigned shortly after. She continues to live in Corpus Christi and now works there for Select Safety Service Inc, allegedly a direct competitor of Total Safety. Dkt 1 at 6.

         Total Safety alleges that Knox misappropriated confidential business information and trade secrets. Total Safety further alleges that Knox contacted her customers “in Corpus Christi, Texas, ” on behalf of Select Safety in violation of her nonsolicitation agreement. Dkt 1-4 at 1 (Total Safety demand letter prior to filing suit); see also Dkt 1 at 16.

         In July 2019, Total Safety filed suit against Knox in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas. Total Safety asserts violations of the Trade Secrets Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, misappropriation of trade secrets under Texas law, and breach of contract. See Dkt 1.

         When filing suit, Total Safety also sought preliminary and permanent injunctive relief. Dkt 1 at 16-17. Rather than proceed to hearing, Total Safety and Knox agreed to a preliminary injunction to avoid unnecessary costs and fees. Dkt 12-1 at 1. On July 30th, the Court entered the agreed preliminary injunction. Dkt 13. Knox later brought a motion to dissolve the preliminary injunction, which this Court denied. See Dkts 26, 35.

         Knox filed the instant motion to transfer this case to the Corpus Christi Division under 28 USC § 1404(a). On December 5th, the Court heard argument on the motion. Dkt 31 (transcript).

         2. Legal standard

         District courts may transfer an action for the “convenience of parties and witnesses” and “in the interest of justice” to any other district “where it might have been brought.” 28 USC § 1404(a). Allowing the potential for transfer under § 1404 serves to prevent a potentially unfair imposition of burden on defendants when plaintiffs exercise their privilege under § 1391 to select venue in the first instance. See In re Volkswagen of America, Inc, 545 F.3d 304, 313 (5th Cir 2008) (Volkswagen II).

         When considering a motion to transfer, the initial question is whether the action “might have been brought” in the alternative venue. Id. at 312. If it could have been, the district court then determines whether transfer serves the convenience of parties and witnesses and is in the interests of justice. In re Volkswagen AG, 371 F.3d 201, 203 (5th Cir 2004) (Volkswagen I). This balance considers a range of private and public factors, with none having dispositive weight. Volkswagen II, 545 F.3d at 315, citing Gulf Oil Corp v Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501 (1947); see also Volkswagen I, 371 F.3d at 203.

         The items of private-interest consideration are:

o The relative ease of access to sources ...

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