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Shirley E. Sheffer and Scott Sheffer v. Novartis Pharmaceuticals

July 10, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John D. Bates United States District Judge


Plaintiffs Shirley and Scott Sheffer bring this action against defendant Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, alleging that Ms. Sheffer suffered injuries as a result of her treatment with drugs marketed and distributed by Novartis. Defendant now moves to transfer venue, arguing that the Southern District of Ohio is a more convenient and just forum for this litigation. For the reasons stated below, the Court finds that private and public interest considerations outweigh the deference given to plaintiffs' choice of forum. Accordingly, the Court will grant defendant's motion and transfer this action to the Southern District of Ohio.

I. Background

The Sheffers are residents of Yorkshire, Ohio, located in the Southern District of Ohio.

Compl. ¶ 2. All of the events leading up to this lawsuit occurred in Yorkshire and the surrounding area. Id.; Def.'s Mot. to Change Venue at 1 (May 7, 2012) [Docket Entry 9]. Novartis is a multinational corporation that markets and distributes Aredia, a drug used to treat diseases that have metastasized to bone, throughout all fifty states and the District of Columbia. Compl. ¶¶ 5, 7.

Ms. Sheffer's physicians treated her for breast cancer by infusing her with Aredia. Id. ¶ 2. Plaintiffs claim that Aredia caused the bone tissue of Ms. Sheffer's jaw to die, a painful and disfiguring condition known as osteonecrosis. Id. ¶ 1. They further claim that defendant knew or should have known of this adverse effect, and nonetheless continued to market and distribute Aredia. Id. ¶¶ 12-16.

Invoking diversity jurisdiction, plaintiffs filed suit in this district on May 27, 2008. Id. ¶ 6. They seek compensatory and punitive damages under a number of different theories, including strict liability, failure to warn, and, in Mr. Sheffer's case, loss of consortium. Id. ¶¶ 22-54. On August 1, 2008, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transferred this case to the Middle District of Tennessee, where hundreds of similar lawsuits have been consolidated to litigate common factual questions more efficiently. See In re Aredia and Zometa Prods. Liab. Litig., No. 3:06-md-1760 (M.D. Tenn.) ("MDL-1760"); Letter from J.P.M.L. (Aug. 1, 2008) [Docket Entry 2]. The Panel having remanded the case back to this Court, defendant now moves to transfer venue. See Def's Mot.; Conditional Remand Order (Jan. 9, 2012) [Docket Entry 4].

II. Discussion

Novartis seeks to transfer this case to the Southern District of Ohio under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), which provides:

For 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.

Section 1404(a) is a "federal judicial housekeeping measure" that allows a district court to "authorize a change of courtrooms" based on an "individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness." Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 622, 636-37 (1964). The burden is on the moving party to establish that transfer is proper. Trout Unlimited v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 944 F. Supp. 13, 16 (D.D.C. 1996).

The threshold requirement of § 1404(a) is met here: the transferee forum is a district "where [the action] might have been brought." See id. Venue and jurisdiction are proper in both the Southern District of Ohio and the District of the District of Columbia.*fn1 Neither party disputes that the action could have been brought in either district. See Def.'s Mot.; Pls.' Mem. in Opp'n to Def's Mot. (May 18, 2012) [Docket Entry 10].

In deciding whether the "convenience of parties and witnesses" and "the interest of justice" warrant transfer, courts have identified several relevant factors. Mirroring the statutory language, these factors fall under two broad headings, private-interest factors and public-interest factors. See Trout Unlimited, 944 F. Supp. at 16. "If the balance of private and public interests favors a transfer of venue, then a court may order a transfer." Montgomery v. STG Int'l, Inc., 532 F. Supp. 2d 29, 32 (D.D.C. 2008).

A. Private-interest Factors

In determining whether "the convenience of parties and witnesses" favors transfer, courts consider the following private-interest factors:

(1) the plaintiff's choice of forum;

(2) the defendant's choice of forum;

(3) whether the claim arose ...

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