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Cohn v. Metropolitan Life Insurance

May 31, 2007

MICHAEL COHN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE, CO., CITIGROUP SHORT TERM DISABILITY PLAN, AND CITIGROUP LONG TERM DISABILITY PLAN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Harold Baer, Jr., District Judge

OPINION & ORDER

This is an action to recover employee disability benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Securities Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001, et seq. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. ("MetLife"), Citigroup Short Term Disability Plan ("STD Plan") and Citigroup Long Term Disability Plan ("LTD Plan") (collectively "Defendants") move this Court to transfer venue of this action from the Southern District of New York to the Northern District of Illinois pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For the reasons stated below, this motion is DENIED.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Michael Cohn ("Cohn" or "Plaintiff") filed this suit in conjunction with his claim to recover disability benefits under employee benefit plans governed by ERISA. Plaintiff Cohn is a resident of Highland Park, Illinois and worked as a stock options floor trader for Citigroup or its subsidiary from May 1997 through April 13, 2006. Compl. ¶ 8. As a Citigroup employee, he was provided with both short-term and long-term disability insurance coverage. Plaintiff alleges that on April 13, 2006, he became totally disabled due to severe foot, ankle, leg, hip, and knee pain which precluded him from standing. Thereafter, Plaintiff applied for disability benefits. Id. at ¶ 11. MetLife, Citigroup's third-party Plan administrator (STD and LTD Plans), granted short-term disability benefits from April 13 through June 11, 2006, but did not pay short-term disability benefits for the remaining thirteen weeks allowable under the STD Plan or long-term disability payments. Id. Plaintiff appealed MetLife's denial of benefits and, by letter dated January 19, 2007, MetLife denied Cohn's appeal. Plaintiff filed here on February 8, 2007. On April 16, 2007, Defendants filed a motion to transfer venue to the Northern District of Illinois pursuant to 28 U.S.C.§ 1404. I heard oral argument on May 17, 2007.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Courts have broad discretion to transfer an action "[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses [and] in the interests of justice. . . to any other district or division where [a civil action] might have been brought." 28 U.S.C.§ 1404(a). See Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 618 (1964) (courts should transfer cases to "prevent the waste[] of time, energy and money and to protect litigants, witnesses and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense") (citations and internal quotations omitted); Filmline (Cross-Country) Productions, Inc. v. United Artists Corp., 865 F.2d 513, 520 (2d Cir. 1989) ("The determination whether to grant a change of venue requires a balancing of conveniences, which is left to the sound discretion of the district court.") (citations omitted).

A two-step inquiry is required. The court must establish whether the case could have been filed in the transferee district and if so, determine whether the convenience and the interests of justice favor transfer. See, e.g., Fuji Photo Film Co., Ltd. v. Lexar Media, Inc., 415 F. Supp. 2d 370, 373 (S.D.N.Y. 2006). Courts consider the following in making this determination: (1) plaintiff's choice of forum, (2) location of operative facts, (3) convenience of parties and witnesses, (4) location of documents and ease of access to sources of proof, (5) relative means of the parties, (6) forum's familiarity with the governing law, (7) trial efficiency, and (8) the interests of justice. Id. No single factor is determinative. See Citigroup Inc. v. City Holding Co., 97 F. Supp. 2d 549, 561 (S.D.N.Y. 2000); see also Red Bull Associates v. Best Western Int'l, 862 F.2d 963, 967 (2d Cir. 1988) (stating that district courts have "considerable discretion to adjudicate motions for transfer according to an 'individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness.'"). The movant bears the burden of demonstrating that transfer is appropriate. Habrout v. City of New York, 143 F. Supp. 2d 399, 401 (S.D.N.Y. 2001); see, e.g., Factors Etc., Inc. v. Pro Arts, Inc., 579 F.2d 215, 218 (2d Cir. 1978).

III. DISCUSSION

Defendants argue that transfer to the Northern District of Illinois is appropriate because

(1) the action could originally have been brought in that district;

(2) it would be more convenient for the parties and the witnesses; and

(3) transfer would be in the interests of justice.

a. Proper Transferee Forum

As a preliminary matter, the Plaintiff does not dispute that this action could have been brought in the Northern District of Illinois. Tr. at 10:3-5; Pl's Opp. to Defs' Mot. to Transfer at 2. Thus, the critical inquiry is whether Defendants have carried their burden of establishing that a transfer of venue to the Northern District of ...


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