in the consolidated Anderson action currently pending in that forum, and of necessity will travel to Virginia to prosecute the negligence claims against the defendants. Indeed, it is possible that plaintiff herself will be called upon to testify before the Virginia court as a witness on behalf of Ms. Smith or Mr. Veal in the Anderson action.
This Court is mindful of the plaintiff's age and poor health, and her lack of funds to pursue this litigation outside this forum. However, these factors do not outweigh the costs and inconvenience necessarily associated with requiring the non-party witnesses identified by defendants to appear before this Court. See Musetti v. Amtrak, Inc., Civ. Action No. 87-2160, slip op., at 19-20 (E.D.N.Y. 1988). Because the Court believes that the presentation of witness testimony and other relevant evidence located in Virginia will help resolve plaintiff's claims most "fairly, expeditiously and inexpensively," based on the relative convenience of the witnesses, the Eastern District of Virginia "is the optimal forum" in which to try this action. Id.
Locus of Operative Facts
Here the "locus of operative facts" clearly lies within the Eastern District of Virginia. Although the plaintiff is a resident of and her trip originated in the State of New York, the events forming the basis of the action all transpired within the Eastern District of Virginia. Moreover, federal and state authorities conducted an investigation and apprehended Loomis and Borman in Virginia, and the two subsequently were charged and convicted of causing the derailment in Virginia.
Finally, as discussed in detail below, a consolidated action asserted against these defendants on behalf of other Colonial passengers currently is pending in the proposed transferee forum. "In sum, the center of gravity of the transaction in issue in this case" lies within the Eastern District of Virginia. Nieves v. American Airlines, 700 F. Supp. 769, 772 (S.D.N.Y. 1988).
Related Litigation Pending in Transferee Forum
One of the factors most strongly supporting transfer of this case is the fact that a consolidated action involving fifty-one separate personal injury claims arising out of the August 12, 1992 derailment currently is pending and scheduled for trial in the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. In Anderson v. National Railroad Passenger Corp., 2:92 Civ. 1040 (E.D. Va. 1992), fifty-one passengers aboard the Colonial at the time of the derailment are suing defendants Amtrak and CSX, asserting claims nearly, if not totally, identical to those asserted here. Like the allegations levelled by plaintiff Coultman, the plaintiffs in Anderson maintain that defendants Amtrak and CSX were negligent in failing to prevent what they view as foreseeable criminal vandalism. Defendants disclaim liability here and in Anderson on the basis of Loomis and Borman's intervening criminal acts.
Related litigation pending in the proposed transferee forum is a factor that weighs heavily in favor of transfer. National Union Fire Ins. v. Turtur, 743 F. Supp. 260, 263 (S.D.N.Y. 1990). The courts of this Circuit favor resolution of related claims in the same forum to promote "'more efficient conduct of pretrial discovery,'" to save "witnesses time and money in both trial and pretrial proceedings,'" and to avoid "'duplicative litigation and inconsistent results.'" Id. (quoting Nieves, 700 F. Supp. at 773). See also Wyndham Assoc. v. Bintliff, 398 F.2d 614, 619 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 393 U.S. 977, 89 S. Ct. 444, 21 L. Ed. 2d 438 (1968). Where two related actions "hinge upon the same factual nuclei," transfer is warranted. Durham Prod., Inc. v. Sterling Film Portfolio, Ltd., 537 F. Supp. 1241, 1244 (S.D.N.Y. 1982). See also Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co. v. Palmer Corp., 798 F. Supp. 161, 165 (S.D.N.Y. 1992) (and cases cited therein).
Transfer is particularly appropriate where, as here, "there is a pending lawsuit in the transferee district involving the same facts, transactions, or occurrences." Nieves, 700 F. Supp. at 773. The present litigation and the Anderson action undeniably involve the same issues and facts. Indeed, that the Eastern District of Virginia already has consolidated separate actions commenced by fifty-one different passengers aboard the Colonial at the time of the August 12, 1992 derailment -- including actions instituted by two of plaintiff's proposed witnesses -- confirms the similarity between issues and facts in this case,
which simply asserts one more passenger's personal injury claim arising out of the same incident. Transfer likely will result in consolidation of this action with Anderson, which ultimately will expedite resolution of plaintiff's claims and conserve judicial resources in both districts.
Plaintiff's Choice of Forum
The plaintiff's choice of forum offers little support for maintaining the present action in this District. The courts of this Circuit are loathe to disturb a plaintiff's choice of forum absent a showing that "the balance of convenience and justice weighs heavily in favor of transfer." Somerville v. Major Exploration, Inc., 576 F. Supp. 902, 908 (S.D.N.Y. 1983); Frasca, 787 F. Supp. at 332 (courts generally accord the plaintiff's initial choice of forum "great weight"). However, "where, as here, the operative facts upon which the litigation is brought bear little material connection to the chosen forum," the venue selected by plaintiff is of less importance. Nieves, 700 F. Supp. at 772. Accord Frasca, 787 F. Supp. at 332.
As discussed above, the material events precipitating the present action occurred in the Eastern District of Virginia. Indeed, if the defendants were at all negligent in causing or contributing to the derailment of the Colonial, any such negligence must have occurred, if at all, within the Eastern District of Virginia. Under these circumstances, the plaintiff's choice of forum offers virtually no support for maintaining the action in a forum that bears little, if any, relation to the transaction at issue.
Practical Considerations and the Interests of Justice
Section 1404(a) expressly directs the transferor court to consider the interests of justice when exercising the discretion to transfer venue. The "interest of justice" factor encompasses both the interest of the particular litigants and the broader public interest served by transfer. Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 508, 67 S. Ct. 839, 843, 91 L. Ed. 1055 (1947). The parties' private interests include the choice of forum and convenience factors discussed above, as well as "all other practical problems that make trial of a case easy, expeditious, and inexpensive." Id. Considerations of the public interest raise questions regarding "administrative difficulties that follow from court congestion, a local interest in having localized controversies decided at home, and the appropriateness of having the trial of a diversity case in a forum that is at home with the state law that must govern the action." Id. at 508-09, 67 S. Ct. 843.
Viewing the totality of the private and public interests involved here, the Court holds that the balance tips decidedly in favor of transferring this action to the Eastern District of Virginia. The proposed forum is familiar with and has an interest in the events underlying this litigation, and is better suited to apply Virginia substantive law, which governs this action no matter where it is tried.
Moreover, the pendency of the Anderson action in the Eastern District of Virginia and the presence of key witnesses and other evidence in that district argue strongly in favor of transferring the case to that court.
In sum, although the Court is sympathetic to plaintiff's poor health and financial hardship, the Court concludes that the balance of convenience and interests of justice weigh heavily in favor of transferring the action to the Eastern District of Virginia. Neither plaintiff's financial condition, nor the fact that she and her treating physicians are present within this forum, outweighs the pervasive connections between this litigation and the Eastern District of Virginia. In considering carefully all of the surrounding circumstances, this Court believes the interests of justice and the convenience of the parties will be served more effectively and efficiently by granting the requested transfer.
For the reasons set forth above, the defendants' motion to transfer the present action to the District Court for the eastern District of Virginia hereby is GRANTED.
Dated: Brooklyn, New York
March 30, 1994
John R. Bartels
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE