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SCHWARTZ v. MARRIOTT HOTEL SERVICES

February 23, 2002

RICHARD B. SCHWARTZ, PLAINTIFF,
V.
MARRIOTT HOTEL SERVICES, INC., D/B/A NEWARK AIRPORT MARRIOTT, HOST MARRIOTT L.L.P. AND MARRIOTT CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Spatt, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

This diversity case is a personal injury action to recover damages for injuries allegedly suffered by Richard B. Schwartz ("Schwartz" or the "plaintiff") when he slipped and fell on a freshly-shampooed rug in the Newark Airport Marriott, a hotel operated by defendant Marriott Hotel Services d/b/a Newark Airport Marriott ("Newark Airport Marriott" or a "defendant"). Presently before the Court is a motion by the defendants to transfer the case to the District Court for the District of New Jersey.

I. BACKGROUND

A. The Complaint

The complaint alleges that on April 28, 1999, Schwartz slipped and fell on a freshly shampooed carpet in the Newark Airport Marriott hotel. As a result of the fall, Schwartz sustained physical injuries, some of which were permanent. He claims to have required surgery on his right rotator cuff and to have missed days of work. He seeks $500,000 in damages.

The complaint also alleges that the Newark Airport Marriott was operated pursuant to an agreement between the hotel and another defendant, Host Marriott, L.P. ("Host Marriott" or a "defendant"). The plaintiff contends that the Newark Airport Marriott and Host Marriott "were franchisees and/or subsidiaries of" defendant Marriott Corporation ("Marriott Corporation"). According to the complaint, the Newark Airport Marriott is a Delaware corporation with a principal place of business in New Jersey; Host Marriott is a limited partnership with its principal place of business in Maryland; and Marriott Corporation is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Washington, D.C.

B. The Motion to Transfer

The defendants assert that transfer of this case to the District of New Jersey is proper because the Newark Airport Marriott is located in New Jersey; the plaintiff is the only witness in the Eastern District of New York; inspection of the hotel by counsel, the experts, and the jury would occur in New Jersey; Marriott's non-party material witnesses are located in New Jersey, which is beyond the subpoena power of this Court; the documents necessary to Marriott's defense are in New Jersey; the case involves an issue important to jurors in New Jersey, namely, whether the Newark Airport Marriott was negligent; the case involves the application of New Jersey law; and the only reason the case is pending in this district is because the plaintiff lives here.

Schwartz opposes transfer of the case. He points out that the distance between the courts is short and, thus, real inconvenience to the parties is not a factor. Schwartz states that each venue is inconvenient to one of the parties, because the Newark Airport Marriott is in New Jersey, and he lives in New York. He also asserts that the evidence is located in both venues, because the accident occurred in New Jersey, and he received medical treatment in New York. He claims that venue does not affect the ability of Marriott to compel the attendance of its witnesses because the witnesses likely live within 100 miles of the Court and, in any event, are under Marriott's control. On the other hand, states Schwartz, his nonparty witnesses are not under his control and live in Nassau County. Schwartz agrees that New Jersey law applies in this case but argues that the case does not involve complex issues of law. Schwartz further alleges that this case does not involve issues of social consequence that warrant transferring the case to New Jersey. He claims that his choice of forum should be accorded great weight.

II. DISCUSSION

A motion to change venue from one federal district court to another when venue is initially proper, is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), which provides, in relevant part:

[F]or the convenience of the 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 goal of Section 1404(a) "is to prevent waste of `time, energy and money' and `to protect litigants, witnesses and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense.'" Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616, 84 S.Ct. 805, 809, 11 L.Ed.2d 945 (1964) (quoting Continental Grain Co. v. Barge FBL-585, 364 U.S. 19, 26-27, 80 S.Ct. 1470, 4 L.Ed.2d 1540 (1960)). "[M]otions to transfer are within the broad discretion of the district court and are determined upon notions of convenience and fairness on a case-by-case basis." In re Cuyahoga Equip. Corp., 980 F.2d 110, 117 (2d Cir. 1992) (citing Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29, 108 S.Ct. 2239, 101 L.Ed.2d 22 (1988)).

The inquiry on a motion to transfer venue is twofold. First, the Court must determine whether the action "might have been brought" in the forum to which the movant seeks to have the case transferred. If so, the second issue for the court to resolve is whether the "convenience of the parties and witnesses" and the "interests of justice" warrant transferring the case. See 28 U.S.C. ยง 1404(a); Merkur v. Wyndham Int'l Inc., 2001 WL 477268 *1 (E.D.N.Y. March 30, 2001) (citing Baker v. ...


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