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Winmar Construction, Inc. v. JK Moving & Storage, Inc.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 7, 2018

WINMAR CONSTRUCTION, INC. Plaintiff,
v.
JK MOVING & STORAGE, INC. Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Emmet G. Sullivan United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court is defendant JK Moving & Storage, Inc.'s (“JK Moving”) motion to dismiss plaintiff Winmar Construction, Inc.'s (“Winmar”) complaint, or, in the alternative, transfer venue to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. See Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 6. Upon consideration of the motion, the response and reply, the applicable law, and the entire record, JK Moving's motion shall be GRANTED IN PART and this proceeding shall be TRANSFERRED to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (“Eastern District”).

         I. Background

         Winmar, a District of Columbia (“D.C.”) commercial construction corporation, brings this complaint against JK Moving, a Virginia moving and storage corporation. See generally Compl., ECF No. 1. In 2016, Winmar was hired to renovate the Hilton Crystal City at Washington Reagan National Airport Hotel (“the Hilton”). Id. ¶ 2. To accomplish the renovations, Winmar entered into five contracts with JK Moving to move and store the Hilton's furniture. Id. ¶ 3. The relevant contracts were negotiated and signed in D.C. between February and December 2016. Id. The furniture was moved from the Hilton, located in Arlington, Virginia, and stored in JK Moving's warehouse, located in Sterling, Virginia. Exhibit 1 to Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 6-1 at 12. To date, Winmar has paid JK Moving nearly $115, 000 for its services. Compl., ECF No. 1 ¶ 5. JK Moving has demanded that that Winmar pay the additional $50, 000 allegedly owed pursuant to the contracts. Id. ¶ 6. Winmar alleges that JK Moving damaged sixteen pieces of furniture and converted thirteen pieces of furniture. Id. Winmar also alleges that the contracts are void because JK Moving does not have a moving and storage license, as required by D.C. law. Id. ¶¶ 13-17.

         Seeking to collect the entire sum allegedly owed, JK Moving sued Winmar and its President, Edwin Villegas, for breach of contract and fraud in Loudoun County Circuit Court on October 12, 2017. See Eastern District Compl., ECF No. 6-1. Winmar then removed the case to the Eastern District. Notice of Removal, ECF No. 6-3. Winmar answered JK Moving's complaint on November 7, 2017, denying the allegations and asserting the affirmative defenses “set forth in Winmar's Complaint filed against JK Moving in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.” Eastern District Answer, ECF No. 6-2 ¶¶ 1, 2.

         On October 18, 2017, Winmar filed its Complaint against JK Moving in this Court. See generally Compl., ECF No. 1. Winmar's three count complaint seeks: (1) a declaratory judgment that the contracts are void under D.C. law; (2) damages resulting from JK Moving's alleged conversion of thirteen pieces of furniture; and (3) damages resulting from JK Moving's alleged negligence in moving and/or storing the furniture. Id. ¶¶ 13-27. Winmar's complaint concerns the same contracts at issue in the Eastern District case. Compare D.C. Compl., ECF No. 1 with Eastern District Compl., ECF No. 6-1.

         II. Standard of Review

         As stated by this Court:

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), “[f]or the convenience of the parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district where it might have been brought.” In so doing, the district court has discretion to transfer a case based on an “‘individualized case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness.'” Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988) (quoting Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 622 (1964)); see also Demery v. Montgomery County, 602 F.Supp.2d 206, 210 (D.D.C. 2009) (“Because it is perhaps impossible to develop any fixed general rules on when cases should be transferred[, ] . . . the proper technique to be employed is a factually analytical, case-by-case determination of convenience and fairness.”) (internal quotation marks omitted). The moving party bears the burden of establishing that transfer of the action is proper. Devaughn v. Inphonic, Inc., 403 F.Supp.2d 68, 71 (D.D.C. 2005); see also SEC v. Savoy Indus., Inc., 587 F.2d 1149, 1154 (D.C. Cir. 1978) (noting that the district court's denial of a motion to transfer “was effectively a ruling that [the appellant] had failed to shoulder his burden”).
In order to justify a transfer, defendants must make two showings. First, they must establish that the plaintiff could have brought suit in the proposed transferee district. Devaughn, 403 F.Supp.2d at 71-72; Trout Unlimited v. United States Dep't of Agric., 944 F.Supp. 13, 16 (D.D.C. 1996). Second, defendants must demonstrate that considerations of convenience and the interests of justice weigh in favor of a transfer. Devaughn, 403 F.Supp.2d at 72; Trout Unlimited, 944 F.Supp. at 16.

Berry v. United States Dept. of Justice, 49 F.Supp.3d 71, 74-75 (D.D.C. 2014).

         To determine whether “considerations of convenience and the interests of justice weigh in favor of a transfer, ” the Court considers private-interest factors including: “(1) the plaintiff's choice of forum, unless the balance of convenience is strongly in favor of the defendant; (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 witnesses may be unavailable in one fora; and (6) the ease of access to sources of proof.” Id. at 75 (citations omitted). Finally, the Court considers whether certain public-interest factors weigh in favor of transfer, including “(1) the transferee's familiarity with the governing laws, (2) the relative congestion of each court, and (3) the local interest in deciding local controversies at home.” Id. at 77 (quoting Montgomery v. STG Int'l, Inc., 532 F.Supp.2d 29, 34 (D.D.C. 2008)(additional citations omitted).

         III. Discussion

         A. Winmar Could Have Brought this Suit in the ...


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