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Seltzer v. Omni Hotels

September 30, 2010

MICHAEL S. SELTZER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
OMNI HOTELS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James C. Francis IV United States Magistrate Judge

(ECF)

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This is a personal injury action arising out of an accident that occurred in a hotel in San Diego, California. Defendant Omni Hotels Management Corporation*fn1 ("Omni") has moved pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) to transfer the case to the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.

Background

Michael S. Seltzer was injured while attending a meeting at the San Diego Omni Hotel on November 12, 2008. (Affirmation of Thomas G. Darmody dated June 18, 2010 ("Darmody Aff."), ¶¶ 3, 6; Affirmation of Mitchell J. Carlinsky dated July 28, 2010 ("Carlinsky Aff."), ¶¶ 3, 6). Mr. Seltzer claims that he fell from the rear portion of a stage, which had been set up in a conference room, because a curtain obscured the edge of the stage. (Carlinsky Aff., ¶ 7). He further alleges that there was no railing or other safety measure in place that might have prevented his fall. (Carlinsky Aff., ¶ 7).

Mr. Seltzer is a citizen of New York State, residing in New York City. (Complaint, ¶ 3). The Omni San Diego Hotel is owned by the San Diego Ballpark Company, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, and managed by Omni, a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Irving, Texas. (Darmody Aff., ¶ 5).

On October 29, 2009, Mr. Seltzer filed his action in this court, asserting jurisdiction based on diversity. Thereafter, Omni moved pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) to transfer venue to the Southern District of California.

Discussion

A. Legal Standard

"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." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Congress intended § 1404(a) "to prevent the 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 (1964) (quoting Continental Grain Co. v. Barge FBL-585, 364 U.S. 19, 26, 27 (1960)).

"[M]otions for transfer lie 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 Equipment Corp., 980 F.2d 110, 117 (2d Cir. 1992); accord ESPN, Inc. v. Quiksilver, Inc., 581 F. Supp. 2d 542, 546-47 (S.D.N.Y. 2008); Berman v. Informix Corp., 30 F. Supp. 2d 653, 656 (S.D.N.Y. 1998). The party requesting a transfer bears a "heavy burden to establish that the interests of convenience and fairness will be better served by transfer to another forum." Kiss My Face Corp. v. Bunting, No. 02 Civ. 2645, 2003 WL 22244587, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2003).

The inquiry regarding a motion to transfer is two-fold. First, the court must determine whether the action could have been brought in the transferee court. See In re Nematron Corp. Securities Litigation, 30 F. Supp. 2d 397, 400 (S.D.N.Y. 1998). Second, the court must decide whether a transfer is appropriate, considering "the convenience of parties and witnesses and [] the interest of justice." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

B. Proper Venue

A civil action based on diversity jurisdiction may be brought in a venue "in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the subject of the action is situated...." 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a)(2). "An action 'could have been brought' in another forum if the defendant would have been amenable to personal jurisdiction in the transferee forum at the time the action was commenced and venue is proper there." Dostana Enterprises LLC v. Federal Express Corp., No. 00 Civ. 747, 2000 WL 1170134, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 16, 2000) (quoting Bionx Implants, Inc. v. Biomet, Inc., No. 99 Civ. 740, 1999 WL 342306, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. May 27, 1999)). Here, Omni asserts, and Mr. Seltzer does not dispute, that venue is proper in the Southern District of California. (Carlinsky Aff., ¶ 9). The events giving rise to Mr. Seltzer's claims took place there. Furthermore, Omni concedes that it is subject to personal jurisdiction in that district. (Affirmation of ...


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