The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHARD CASEY, District Judge
Werner Von Pein ("Plaintiff) brought suit against his former employer,
Hedstrom Corporation ("Defendant"), for breach of contract and violation
of the Illinois Wage Payment and Collections Law. Currently before the
Court is Defendant's motion for a change of venue under
28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The Court hereby GRANTS Defendant's motion. I.
Defendant employed Plaintiff as a Vice President and General Manager
from November 2000 until December 12, 2002, when Plaintiff was
terminated. Plaintiff alleges that the parties entered into a Severance
Agreement on March 14, 2002, which gave Plaintiff the right to receive
one year's salary and benefits for one year if he was terminated without
cause. Plaintiff alleges that he was, in fact, fired without cause and
has not received over $ 200,000 which he is owed. Defendant, however,
contends he was fired for misconduct and thus it has not breached the
Severance Agreement. Defendant's defense is based, in part, on an
allegation that Plaintiff engaged in willful misconduct when he coerced
Defendant's human resources director to make a loan to him using company
funds without knowledge of the company's chief executive officer.
Defendant brought a counterclaim based on an allegation that Plaintiff
converted property and
was planning a business to compete with Defendant while he was still
Defendant maintains its principal place of business in Arlington
Heights, Illinois, located in the Northern District of Illinois.
Plaintiff was hired in New York by Executive Interim Management ("EM"),
which appears to provide executives on a temporary basis to companies.
EIM and Defendant executed a contract under which Plaintiff provided
executive services to Defendant on an interim basis. After that interim
period, Defendant hired Plaintiff as Vice President and General Manager.
While Plaintiff appears to have worked out of New York as an EIM
employee, he worked in Arlington Heights once Defendant hired him.
Defendant maintains that this suit has no nexus to New York, and that
Defendant merely maintains an office in New York, used only a few weeks
out of the year during an annual toy show. Moreover, Defendant states
that there are eight witnesses that it intends to call, all but one of
whom reside in the Northern District of Illinois.
Plaintiff disputes the contention that the suit has no connection to
New York because: (1) the employment relationship between the parties was
actually formed in New York while Plaintiff was an EIM employee; (2) the
contract between EEM and Defendant specified that all disputes were to be
governed by New York law; and (3) Defendant spends more than $ 50,000 per
year maintaining its New York showroom. In addition, Plaintiff argues
that there are only two witnesses who would testify about events material
to the underlying dispute, and therefore the other witnesses should be
disregarded in analyzing the convenience of this venue. Finally,
Plaintiff maintains that Defendant's employees regularly travel to New
York, belying the argument that it would be inconvenient to do so for
Section 1404(a) provides: "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."*fn1 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The determination to transfer
venue is done on a case-by-case basis, guided by notions
of convenience and fairness. In re Cuyahoga Equip. Corp., 980 F.2d 110,
117 (2d Cir. 1992); Goggins v. Alliance Capital Mgmt. L.P.,
279 F. Supp.2d 228, 232 (S.D.N. Y. 2003). Courts consider the following
eight factors in deciding a motion to transfer: (1) Plaintiffs choice of
forum; (2) the locus of the operative facts; (3) convenience and relative
means of the parties; (4) convenience of the witnesses; (5) availability
of process to compel the attendance of witnesses; (6) location of
physical evidence; (7) relative familiarity of the courts with the
applicable law; and (8) interests of justice and trial efficiency. Id.
Applying these factors, the Court concludes that this case should be
transferred to the Northern District of Illinois.
A. Plaintiffs Choice of Forum
Plaintiff's choice of forum in the Southern District of New York is
entitled to considerable weight. Orb Factory Ltd, v. Design Science
Toys, Ltd., 6 F. Supp.2d 203, 210 (S.D.N. Y. 1998). But that choice is
given more deference if there is a material connection between the forum
and the events giving rise to the cause of action. Goggins, 279 F.
Supp.2d at 232. As stated below, there is little, if any, material
connection between the Southern District of New York and the events that
give rise to this suit.
B. Locus of Operative Facts
Plaintiff's case arises out of an employment relationship that took
place in the Northern District of Illinois. Plaintiff worked at
Defendant's offices in Arlington Heights, Illinois, and it is the events
surrounding his termination from that job that gives rise to both his
claims and to Defendant's counterclaim. No operative facts occurred in or
have any relation to the Southern District of New York.
Plaintiff's arguments to the contrary have little merit. First,
Plaintiff was an employee of EM, not Defendant, while he worked in New
York, and the contract between EM and Defendant has no relevance to this
case. Thus, the fact that New York law might have governed any disputes
between EM and Defendant is also irrelevant. Finally, Defendant's
warehouse in New York does not have anything to do with the controversy
between the parties. Neither the complaint nor the answer establishes any
relevant events that occurred in, or relate to, the New York warehouse.
"Courts routinely transfer cases where the principal events ...