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Mahoney v. Eli Lilly & Co.

April 22, 2008

ELIZABETH MAHONEY ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ELI LILLY & CO. ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Document No. 30

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DENYING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO TRANSFER

I. INTRODUCTION

Today the court denies a motion to transfer. Eli Lilly & Co., one of three remaining defendants, moves to transfer this suit to the District of Massachusetts on the grounds that the District of Columbia is an inconvenient forum for the litigation of this products liability action for the manufacture, distribution and sale of Diethystilbestrol ("DES").*fn1 The plaintiffs, Elizabeth Mahoney and Alicia Benting (sisters exposed in utero to DES) and Richard Benting (Alicia's husband), oppose transfer. Noting the lateness of the request, the near conclusion of discovery, and the familiarity of this court with DES litigation, they submit that an improper motive of delay provides the impetus behind the defendant's request. The defendant insists that it merely seeks to ensure that the law is applied by the forum most closely connected to the facts of the case. Had the defendant sought transfer sooner, the court might agree. But at this stage of the case, the balance of equities does not favor a transfer because the prejudice to private interests in maintaining the case here is negligible, as is the prejudice to public interests in light of this District's growing familiarity with DES litigation. The court, therefore, denies the motion.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Factual History

The plaintiff sisters allege that their mother ingested DES during her pregnancies in the late 1960s, resulting in their in utero exposure to the drug, the side effects of which have caused them injuries including uterine and cervical malformations, infertility, ectopic pregnancy, medical expenses and physical and mental pain and suffering. Compl. ¶¶ 4-5, 27-28. Plaintiff Richard Benting alleges that his wife's above injuries have deprived him of her love, services and affection. Id. ¶ 50. The plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages. Id. at 11-12.

B. Procedural History

On October 27, 2006, the plaintiffs filed an 11-count complaint alleging negligence, strict liability, breach of warranty, misrepresentation, and loss of consortium in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Eli Lilly filed a notice of removal on the basis of diversity to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on November 30, 2006. On August 27, 2007, the parties appeared for an initial status hearing, at which time the court referred the case to Magistrate Judge Kay for settlement discussions and pretrial discovery matters. Min. Order (Aug. 27, 2007). The court also entered a scheduling order setting the close of discovery for March 24, 2008. Id. The plaintiffs responded to Eli Lilly's preliminary discovery requests on October 4, 2007. Pls.' Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. to Transfer ("Pls.' Opp'n") at 1; Def.'s Mot., Ex. 1. Eli Lilly filed its motion to transfer five months later on March 14, 2008.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for Transfer Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)

When federal jurisdiction is premised solely on diversity, 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a) controls venue, establishing that venue is proper in:

(1) a judicial district where any defendant resides, if all defendants reside in the same State, (2) a judicial district 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, or (3) a judicial district in which any defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction at the ...


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