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MacMunn v. Eli Lilly Co.

June 19, 2008

JUDITH MACMUNN ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ELI LILLY COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



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

Document No. 17

MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO TRANSFER

I. INTRODUCTION

Before the court is the defendant's motion to transfer this products liability case to Massachusetts. The defendant, Eli Lilly & Co., argues that both private and public interests favor transfer primarily because the case has little if any ties to this District. The plaintiffs, Judith MacMunn and her husband Michael MacMunn, oppose transfer citing numerous cases involving the same defendant and subject matter that have been resolved in this District. Because the contacts relevant to this dispute are overwhelmingly focused in Massachusetts and because this case is still in its nascent stages, the court grants the defendant's motion to transfer.

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Judith MacMunn alleges that her mother ingested Diethylstilbestrol ("DES") while pregnant with her in 1962. Compl. ¶ 3. The exposure to DES in utero purportedly resulted in uterine and cervical malformations, infertility, physical and mental pain and medical expenses and treatment. Id. ¶ 6. On September 14, 2007, the plaintiff and her husband, Michael MacMunn filed a 7-count complaint in D.C. Superior Court, claiming negligence, strict liability, breach of warranty, misrepresentation and loss of consortium. See generally id. Collectively, the plaintiffs seek 3 million dollars in compensatory damages and 3 million dollars in punitive damages. Id. at 6.

On November 2, 2007, the defendant removed the case to this court based on diversity of citizenship. On January 8, 2008, the parties appeared before Magistrate Judge Kay for an initial status hearing, at which time the court set dates to govern discovery, which closes on September 22, 2008. Four months after the initial status conference, the defendant filed a motion to transfer this case to the District of Massachusetts. The plaintiffs have filed a response and the defendant a reply. The court now turns to this motion.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for Venue under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a) and 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 time the action is commenced, if there is no district in which the action may otherwise be brought.

28 U.S.C. § 1391(a).

In an action where venue is proper, 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) nonetheless authorizes a court to transfer a civil action to any other district where it could have been brought "for the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice[.]" 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Section 1404(a) vests "discretion in the district court to adjudicate motions to transfer according to [an] individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness." Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 27 (1988) (quoting Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 622 (1964)). Under this statute, the moving party bears the burden of establishing that transfer is proper. Trout Unlimited v. Dep't of Agric., 944 F. Supp. 13, 16 (D.D.C. 1996).

Accordingly, the defendant must make two showings to justify transfer. First, the defendant must establish that the plaintiff originally could have brought the action in the proposed transferee district. Van Dusen, 376 U.S. at 622. Second, the defendant must demonstrate that considerations of convenience and the interest of justice weigh in favor of transfer to that district. Trout Unlimited, 944 F. Supp. at 16. As to the second showing, the statute calls on the court to weigh a number of case-specific private and public-interest factors. Stewart Org., 487 U.S. at 29. The private-interest considerations include: (1) the plaintiff's choice of forum, unless the balance of convenience is strongly in favor of the defendants; (2) the defendant's choice of forum; (3) whether the claim arose elsewhere; (4) the convenience of the parties; (5) the convenience of the witnesses; and (6) the ease of access to sources of proof. Trout Unlimited, 944 F. Supp. at 16 (citing Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3d Cir. 1995); Heller Fin., Inc. v. Riverdale Auto Parts, Inc., 713 F. Supp. 1125, 1129 (N.D. Ill. 1989); 15 FED. PRAC. & ...


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