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Robinson v. National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak)

United States District Court, E.D. New York

April 23, 2014

ANN ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION (AMTRAK), Defendant

For Ann Robinson, Plaintiff: Robert P. Rovegno, LEAD ATTORNEY, Rovegno & Taylor, P.C., Great Neck, NY.

For National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak), Defendant: Ronald E. Joseph, LEAD ATTORNEY, Landman Corsi Ballaine & Ford, New York, NY; Elliot Dov Buckman, Landman Corsi Ballaine & Ford PC, New York, NY.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

Brian M. Cogan, U.S.D.J.

This is a slip-and-fall case brought against Amtrak (formally, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation) in the Queens County Supreme Court. The incident occurred in Wilson, North Carolina. Amtrak removed the case to this Court, basing jurisdiction on 28 U.S.C. § § 1331, 1349, in that more than one-half of its stock is owned by the United States, and thus the action is deemed to arise under federal law. See Hollus v. Amtrak Northeast Corridor, 937 F.Supp. 1110 (D. N.J. 1996), aff'd, 118 F.3d 1575 (3d Cir. 1997) (table). Amtrak has moved to transfer the case to North Carolina pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).

It is unclear, and plaintiff has not explained it in opposing Amtrak's motion, why plaintiff brought this action in the Queens County Supreme Court. She is a New Jersey resident, not a New Yorker, and the case has no connection to Queens County. Her state court complaint asserted venue under New York Civil Practice Rules § 503, but it is doubtful that Queens

Page 336

County was a proper venue under that statute. It provides that venue may be based on a corporation's residence, but the residence of a corporation is deemed to be that county within the state " in which its principal office is located." Although Amtrak has some facilities in Long Island City, within Queens County, it is common knowledge that its principal office in New York state is at Pennsylvania Station in the Borough of Manhattan.

It is equally unclear, and, again, plaintiff has not explained it in opposing Amtrak's motion, why she brought this case in New York state at all, since she does not live here and the accident did not happen here. Presumably, whatever basis she had for asserting personal jurisdiction over Amtrak in New York -- and, although Amtrak has not raised it, it is not entirely clear that there is such a basis in light of Daimler AG v. Bauman, No. 11-965, U.S., 134 S.Ct. 746, 187 L.Ed.2d 624 (2014) -- there is an equally viable basis for personal jurisdiction in New Jersey, where Amtrak also maintains facilities and does quite a bit of business. See http://www.amtrak.com/northeast-train-bus-stations (last visited 4/19/14). There seems no reason why plaintiff could not have brought this case in New Jersey, where it would be more convenient for her and no less convenient for Amtrak, on the same basis that she brought it here. Just as inexplicably, in opposing Amtrak's transfer motion, she has not proposed as an alternative that, if this Court is inclined to transfer the case, it should be transferred to New Jersey, although this was discussed at the premotion conference. She appears content with insisting on her strange choice of a New York forum or, if the Court does not accept that, having the case transferred to North Carolina.

Of course, the case is properly venued in this district as an initial matter, even if it could not have been originally brought here, as Amtrak had no choice once it decided to remove but to remove the case to the federal district encompassing Queens County. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). And it remains Amtrak's burden to show cause why the case should be transferred. See e.g., National Utility Serv., Inc. v. Queens Grp., Inc., 857 F.Supp. 237 (E.D.N.Y. 1994). Nevertheless, Congress has recently confirmed that § 1404(a) is fully applicable to removed actions. See 28 U.S.C. § 1390(c).

The facts leave the case in a peculiar posture for purposes of determining a § 1404(a) motion. None of the cases the parties cite naming Amtrak are helpful, because they all involve, as one would expect, plaintiffs who sued either in their home forum, or where the accident occurred, or at least in Washington, D.C., where Amtrak has its principal offices. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that unlike the usual meticulous balancing of convenience factors that courts typically undertake under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), the absence of any reason at all for the case to be in this district is itself a weighty factor in favor of transferring the case to the loci delecti commissi. The disconnection between this forum and the dispute, coupled with the occurrence of the accident in another district, at least satisfies Amtrak's obligation to present a prima facie case for transfer.

Nabisco, Inc. v. Brach's Confections,

Page 337

Inc., No 00-cv-5875, 2000 WL 1677935, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 8, 2000) (citing Hall v. South Orange, 89 F.Supp.2d 488, 494 (S.D.N.Y. 2000). " The emphasis that a court places on plaintiff's choice of forum diminishes where ... the facts giving rise to the litigation bear little material connection to the chosen forum." Pilot Corp. v. U.S. Robotics, Inc., No. 96-cv-5483, 1997 WL 47790, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 6, 1997), quoting, Fontana v. E.A.R., ...


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