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Lizaso v. Provident Life and Casualty Insurance Co.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 22, 2017

ARLENE LIZASO, Plaintiff,
v.
PROVIDENT LIFE AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, et al, Defendants.

          ORDER

          C.W. Hoffman, Jr. United States Magistrate Judge.

         Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion to transfer venue (ECF No. 12), filed on October 13, 2016. Plaintiff filed a response (ECF No. 13) on October 28, 2016, and Defendants filed a reply (ECF No. 16) on November 21, 2016.

         I. Introduction

         This case arises out of an insurance dispute between Plaintiff, Arlene L. Lizaso, and Defendants, Provident Life and Casualty Insurance Company (PLC), Provident Life and Accident Insurance Company (PLA), and Unum Group (Unum). PLC issued Plaintiff an insurance policy while she was living and employed in New York as a registered nurse. Based on an injury claim brought by Plaintiff, Defendants began paying disability payments to Plaintiff in June, 2011. Defendants continued payment for full disability until July, 2013, and for partial disability until August, 2014, when they terminated benefits upon their finding that Plaintiff was fully able to return to work.

         In January, 2015, Plaintiff moved to Nevada, and in February, 2015 she filed an appeal of Defendants' decision to terminate her benefits. Defendants denied her appeal, first in August, 2015, and again in May, 2016. Plaintiff then brought a claim against Defendants in the District Court for Clark County, Nevada, which was subsequently removed to the District Court of Nevada.

         Defendants now request that this case be transferred to the District Court for the Southern District of New York, arguing that the subject matter of the case is more strongly connected to New York, that New York law will apply, and that the convenience of the witnesses and parties would be better served by litigating the case in New York. Plaintiff opposes transfer, arguing that her choice of forum deserves deference, that the convenience of the parties favors Nevada, and that Nevada law will apply.

         II. Discussion

         The Court has authority under 28 U.S.C. § 1404 to transfer a civil action "[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice" to any other district where it might have been brought. District courts have broad discretion "to adjudicate motions for transfer according to an individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness." Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 23 (1988) (See also Jones v. GNCFranchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 498 (9th Cir. 2000)). To determine whether a change of venue is warranted, the Court considers "(1) the location where the relevant agreements were negotiated and executed, (2) the state that is most familiar with the governing law, (3) the plaintiffs choice of forum, (4) the respective parties' contacts with the forum, (5) the contacts relating to the plaintiffs cause of action in the chosen forum, (6) the differences in the costs of litigation in the two forums, (7) the availability of compulsory process to compel attendance of unwilling non-party witnesses, and (8) the ease of access to sources of proof." Jones, 211 F.3d at 498.

         Here, both parties concede that this action might have been brought in the Southern District of New York. (Mot. at 3, Resp. at 6). Therefore, the only remaining questions for the Court are whether the convenience of the parties and witnesses would be served by transfer, and whether transfer serves the interest of justice. The Court will consider the eight factors articulated in Jones to answer these questions.

         1. The location where the relevant agreements were negotiated and executed

         Both parties concede that Plaintiffs insurance policy was negotiated, executed and delivered while she was living and working in New York. This factor weighs strongly in favor of transfer to New York.

         2. The state that is most familiar with the governing law

         The parties agree that Nevada tends to follow the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws in determining choice-of-law questions involving insurance contracts. Under the Restatement, the validity of a life insurance contract is generally determined by the local law of the state where the insured was domiciled at the time the policy was applied for. Restatement (Second) of Conflicts of Laws § 192 (1971). An exception to this generalization may be warranted when another state has a more significant relationship to the transaction and the parties. Id. Here, both parties agree that Plaintiff was domiciled in New York when the policy was executed.

         However, because she was domiciled in Nevada when she filed her appeals, and when Defendants ultimately denied those appeals, Plaintiff argues that Nevada has a more significant relationship to the transaction and the parties than New York. Under this view, the exception noted above might apply. Defendants respond that Plaintiffs claim arose upon termination of her benefits, ...


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