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Cain v. Twitter, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

April 25, 2017

ANNE CAMERON CAIN, individually and as representative on behalf of the Estate of ALEXANDER PINCZOWKSI, BEATRIZ GONZALEZ, individually and as representative on behalf of the Estate of NOHEMI GONZALEZ, JOSE HERNANDEZ, REY GONZALEZ, PAUL GONZALEZ, and REYNALDO GONZALEZ, Plaintiffs,
v.
TWITTER, INC., Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER

          HONORABLE PAUL A. CROTTY, United States District Judge.

         Beatriz Gonzalez ("Beatriz"), Jose Hernandez ("Hernandez"), Rey Gonzalez ("Rey"), Paul Gonzalez ("Paul"), Reynaldo Gonzalez ("Reynaldo, " and together with Beatriz, Hernandez, Rey, and Paul, the "Gonzalez Plaintiffs"), and Anne Cameron Cain ("Cain, " and together with the Gonzalez Plaintiffs, "Plaintiffs") sue Twitter, Inc. ("Twitter"), seeking damages pursuant to the Anti-Terrorism Act ("ATA"), 18 U.S.C. § 2333. They allege that Twitter knowingly allowed ISIS members to use their platform, thereby providing "material support" to, aiding and abetting, and conspiring with ISIS in connection with two heinous terrorist attacks in Paris, France and Brussels, Belgium, that took the lives of three of Plaintiffs' family members. They also assert related claims for wrongful death and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

         Twitter moves, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), to transfer this action to the Northern District of California, where it has its principal place of business and where the Gonzalez Plaintiffs have asserted similar claims against Google Inc. ("Google"). For the reasons below, the Court grants Twitter's motion

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs allege that on November 13, 2015, Nohemi Gonzales ("Nohemi") was murdered by three ISIS terrorists who open fired at the Paris cafe where Nohemi and her friends were dining ("Paris Attack"). See Am. Compl., Dkt. 15, ¶¶ 510-12. They also allege that on March 22, 2016, siblings Alexander Pinczowski ("Alex") and Sascha Pinczowski ("Sascha") were murdered by a bomb detonated by an ISIS terrorist at the Brussels airport ("Brussels Attack"). See Id. ¶¶ 520-21. Beatriz and Reynaldo are Nohemi's parents, Hernandez is Nohemi's step-father, and Rey and Paul are Nohemi's brothers. Id. ¶¶ 40-43. Alex was Cain's husband. See Id. ¶ 39.

         I. The California Action

         On June 14, 2016, Reynaldo commenced an action against Twitter, Google, and Facebook, Inc. ("Facebook") in the Northern District of California, on his own behalf and "as a successor-in-interest of the estate of his daughter Nohemi Gonzalez" ("California Action"). See Gonzalez v. Twitter, Inc., 4:16-cv-03282-DMP (N.D. CaL), Dkt. 1 ¶ 9. He asserted two claims against the defendants pursuant to the ATA, claiming that the defendants "knowingly permitted the terrorist group ISIS to use their social networks as a tool for spreading extremist propaganda, raising funds and attracting new recruits, " thus enabling ISIS to carry out terrorist attacks, including the Paris Attack that resulted in Nohemi's death. See Id. ¶ 1.

         After Reynaldo filed the California Action, Nohemi's mother, Beatriz, filed a Petition for Probate in the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, seeking appointment as the sole administrator of Nohemi's estate. See Mot. Ex. 6, Dkt. 14-8. On January 25, 2017, Letters of Administration were filed in the California Superior Court appointing Beatriz as the sole administrator of Nohemi's estate. See California Action, Dkt. 73-1. On January 31, 2017, Beatriz informed the district court in the California Action of her appointment as administrator, and moved the court to update the docket to reflect that she is the administrator of Nohemi's estate. See California Action, Dkt. 72. On February 2, 2017, Beatriz and Reynaldo voluntarily dismissed, without prejudice, the claims against Twitter and Facebook. California Action, Dkt. 74, 75. On February 7, 2017, the district court granted Beatriz's motion for the docket to be updated to reflect that she is the administrator of Nohemi's estate. See California Action, Dkt. 77.

         On April 21, 2017, the California Action plaintiffs filed a Second Amended Complaint against Google. California Action, Dkt. 95. The Second Amended Complaint asserts that Google aided and abetted, conspired with, and provided material support to ISIS in connection with, among other things, the Paris Attack that took Nohemi's life. See Id. at 87-91.

         II. The Instant Action

         On January 8, 2017, while Beatriz's petition for appointment as sole administrator of Nohemi's estate was pending, Beatriz, Cain, Hernandez, Rey, and Paul filed the instant action here in the Southern District of New York. See Compl., Dkt. 1. Beatriz brought the action individually and as representative on behalf of Nohemi's estate, and Cain brought the action individually and as representative on behalf of Alex's estate. On March 15, 2017, Twitter filed a motion to transfer this action to the Northern District of California. Dkt. 14, refiled as Dkt. 21. Twitter contends that the action has a "vanishingly small" connection with the Southern District, and that the action should be transferred to the Northern District of California where Twitter is headquartered, and where the "sister" California Action is currently pending. See Mot., Dkt. 22, atl.

         Plaintiffs amended their Complaint on April 6, 2017, adding Reynaldo as a plaintiff, and opposed Twitter's transfer motion on April 7, 2017. Dkt. 15, 16. Plaintiffs argue that venue should not be transferred to the Northern District of California because no plaintiff resides there (Beatrix, Hernandez, Rey, and Paul appear to reside in Southern California, see Decl. of Patrick J. Carome, Mot. Ex. 2, Dkt. 22-3 ("Carome Decl.") ¶ 3, and Reynaldo lives in California, see Am. Compl. ¶ 43), "Alex and [Cain] lived in New York, where they were married in 2013, " and Sascha "had graduated from New York's Marymount Manhattan College in 2015 and stayed in New York that summer to work as an intern." Opp'n, Dkt, 16, at 1.

         DISCUSSION

         28 U.S.C § 1404(a) provides that "[f]or 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 or to any district or division to which all parties have consented." The Court must first determine whether this action could have been brought in the transferee district. Next, the Court must decide ...


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