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Veney v. Starbucks Corp.

June 19, 2008


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

Document No.: 6



The plaintiff, Gail Veney, brings suit against Starbucks Corporation, alleging acts of negligence in violation of Virginia common law related to her drinking tainted coffee at a Starbucks location in Alexandria, Virginia. The defendant moves to transfer the case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ("the Eastern District of Virginia" or "the transferee district"). The plaintiff contests the defendant's motion to transfer, but because the proposed transfer is appropriate pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404, the court grants the defendant's motion and transfers the case to the Eastern District of Virginia.*fn1


A. Factual History

On or about April 28, 2005, the plaintiff, a resident of the state of Virginia, visited the defendant's property located at 6754 Richmond Highway in Alexandria, Virginia. Compl. ¶¶ 5-6. The plaintiff ordered a cup of coffee but received a cup that allegedly contained a mixture of coffee and cleaning solution. See id. ¶ 11. After drinking it, the plaintiff immediately became nauseous and vomited. Id. at 8. Having sustained injuries to her tongue, throat and vocal cords, id. ¶ 14, the plaintiff went to the emergency room of Inova Mount Vernon Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia on that same day. Def.'s Mot. to Transfer ("Def.'s Mot.") at 7 & Ex. A. The plaintiff subsequently underwent two surgeries in the District of Columbia. Compl. ¶ 14, Pl.'s Opp'n at 3, Def.'s Mot., Ex. D. All other physicians who treated the plaintiff, of which there are at least four, work in Virginia. Def.'s Mot., Exs. A, B and C.

B. Procedural History

On April 2, 2007, the plaintiff filed suit in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia, alleging that the defendant was negligent in failing to maintain a safe environment for its business invitees, improperly serving business invitees food and drink that did not pass health codes and disregarding applicable safety codes and regulations. Compl. ¶¶ 12-13. Further, the plaintiff claims that the defendant's negligence directly and proximately caused the plaintiff's injuries, which include but are not limited to unspecified damage to her tongue, throat and vocal cords. Id. ¶ 14. In May 2007, the defendant removed the action to this court and thereafter moved to transfer the action to the Eastern District of Virginia. The court now turns to the defendant's motion to transfer.


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, but only to the extent that the witnesses may actually be unavailable for trial in one of the fora; 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. ...

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