United States District Court, E.D. New York
DESERIE MICHEL, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
PETCO ANIMAL SUPPLIES STORES, INC., and PETCO HOLDINGS, INC., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER
LASHANN DEARCY HALL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Deserie Michel brings the instant action against Defendants
Petco Animal Supplies Stores, Inc. and Petco Holdings, Inc.
(collectively, “Petco” or
“Defendants”) on behalf of a purported class of
Assistant Store Managers at Petco in New York, alleging
violations of the New York Labor Law (“NYLL”).
The Kellgren Action
v. Petco, which is pending in the Southern District of
California, is a nationwide Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”) collective action brought by Assistant
Store Managers at Petco against Petco Animal Supplies, Inc.,
Petco Holdings, Inc., and “Does 1 to 100.”
(See Am. Compl. ¶ Introduction, Kellgren v.
Petco, No. 13-cv-644 (S.D. Cal.), ECF No. 20.
(“Kellgren Compl.”).) The
Kellgren complaint alleges that the defendants
improperly classified Assistant Store Managers as exempt from
overtime pay and accordingly failed to pay proper overtime
wages. (Id. ¶¶ 34-36.) The
Kellgren complaint alleges only violations of the
FLSA. (Id. ¶¶ 47-59.) Discovery in
Kellgren is still progressing and is scheduled to be
completed by August 2, 2017. (Second Am. Scheduling Order,
Kellgren v. Petco, No. 13-cv-644 (S.D. Cal.), ECF
No. 184.) One hundred and fifty-eight New York Assistant
Store Managers were sent a notice and consent form to join
the Kellgren action. (Reply Decl. of Maneker ¶
10, ECF No. 26-1.) Thirty-three individuals chose to opt in,
including Michel. (Id.; see Notice of
Filing Consents to Become Party Plaintiffs, Kellgren v.
Petco, No. 13-cv-644 (S.D. Cal.), ECF No. 118.)
The Instant Action
filed the instant complaint on April 14, 2016, two weeks
after she opted into the Kellgren case on March 31,
2016. (Compl., ECF No. 1 (“Michel
Compl.”); see Notice of Filing Consents to
Become Party Plaintiffs, Kellgren v. Petco, No.
13-cv-644.) Michel was employed by Defendants from September
2013 to February 2015 as an Assistant Store Manager at a
Petco store in Brooklyn, New York. (Michel Compl.
¶ 2.) Michel alleges that Defendants improperly
classified Assistant Store Managers as exempt from the
overtime pay requirements of the NYLL, resulting in a failure
to pay overtime wages. (Id. ¶¶ 25, 41-45.)
In addition, Michel alleges that Defendants failed to comply
with the NYLL's wage statement and record-keeping
requirements. (Id. ¶¶ 46-53.) The
complaint is limited to New York state law claims and does
not allege any violations of the FLSA. On September 15, 2016,
Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint or, in the
alternative, to transfer the case to the Southern District of
California or stay the case. (Defs.' Notice of Mot., ECF
No. 24.) Defendants' motion to dismiss or stay the case
is denied.For the reasons discussed below,
Defendants' motion to transfer the case is granted.
typically evaluates a motion to transfer under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1404 under a two-pronged inquiry. First, the
court must determine whether the proposed venue is proper.
That is, “whether the action sought to be transferred
is one that ‘might have been brought' in the
district court in which the movant seeks to have the case
litigated.” Blechman v. Ideal Health, Inc.,
668 F.Supp.2d 399, 403 (E.D.N.Y. 2009) (quoting Frasca v.
Yaw, 787 F.Supp. 327, 330 (E.D.N.Y. 1992)).
if the proposed venue is proper, the court considers
“whether the transfer will serve the convenience of
witnesses and parties and is in the interests of
justice.” Id. In making this second inquiry,
the court takes into account several factors, including: (1)
the convenience of the parties; (2) the convenience of
witnesses; (3) the relative means of the parties; (4) the
locus of operative facts and relative ease of access to
sources of proof; (5) the attendance of witnesses; (6) the
weight accorded the plaintiff's choice of forum; (7)
calendar congestion; (8) the desirability of having the case
tried by the forum familiar with the substantive law to be
applied; (9) practical difficulties; and (10) trial
efficiency and how best to serve the interests of justice,
based on an assessment of the totality of material
circumstances. Id. (collecting cases and outlining
factors for fairness analysis). None of these factors are
singularly dispositive, and the court has “broad
discretion in determining whether transfer is
warranted.” Id.; see also In re Cuyahoga Equip.
Corp., 980 F.2d 110, 117 (2d Cir. 1992)
(“[M]otions to 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.”);
Am. Steamship Owners Mut. Prot. and Indem. Ass'n,
Inc. v. Lafarge North Am., Inc., 474 F.Supp.2d 474, 480
(S.D.N.Y. 2007) (“‘There is no rigid formula for
balancing these factors and no single one of them is
determinative' in what is ‘essentially an equitable
task left to the Court's discretion.'”). The
party moving for a change of venue bears the burden to
clearly establish that transfer is appropriate. Longo v.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 79 F.Supp.2d 169, 170 (E.D.N.Y.
when more than one court has concurrent jurisdiction over an
action involving the same parties and issues, a threshold
inquiry will be made under the “first-filed
rule.” Blechman, 668 F.Supp.2d at 404
(outlining first-filed rule). The first-filed rule is a
“well-settled legal doctrine, instructing that
‘where there are two [or more] competing lawsuits, the
first suit should have priority, absent the showing of
balance of convenience or special circumstances giving
priority to the second.'”
Wyler-Wittenberg., 899 F.Supp.2d at 243 (quoting
First City Nat. Bank and Trust Co. v. Simmons, 878
F.2d 76, 79 (2d Cir. 1989). This approach “enables
courts to prevent ‘duplicative litigation by adhering
to the inherently fair concept that the party who commenced
the first suit should generally be the party to attain its
choice of venue.'” Id. (quoting Ontel
Prods., Inc. v. Project Strategies Corp., 899 F.Supp.
1144, 1150 (S.D.N.Y. 1995)). The burden of showing such
special circumstances or balance of convenience is on the
party seeking to proceed with the second action. Quality
King Distribs., Inc. v. KMS Research, Inc., 946 F.Supp.
233, 237 (E.D.N.Y. 1996).
The First Filed ...