United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION & TRANSFER ORDER
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss and Memorandum (“Defs.' Mem.”)
[collectively, ECF No. 12] and exhibits in support
(“Defs.' Exs.”) [ECF No. 12-1]. Defendants
move to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (“Am.
Compl.”) [ECF No. 6], pursuant to Fed. Rs. Civ. P.
12(b)(3) and (b)(6), or alternatively, transfer this matter
to Virginia. Plaintiff filed an Opposition (“Pl.'s
Opp.”) [ECF No. 18], to which Defendants have filed a
Reply [ECF No. 19]. For the reasons stated herein,
Defendants' Motion is granted, and this case will be
transferred in the interest of justice to the Eastern
District of Virginia.
filed the Amended Complaint on April 23, 2018. She sues the
United States, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S.
Attorney's Office, Jefferson B. Sessions III (in his
official capacity as U.S. Attorney General),  Chad A. Readler
(in his official capacity as Acting Assistant Attorney
General for the United States Department of Justice), James
N. Mattis (in his official capacity as Secretary of Defense),
Admiral Mark D. Harnitchek (in his official and individual
capacity as Director of the Defense Logistics Agency),
Michael Simon, III (in his official and individual capacity
as the Program Manager of the Defense Travel Office of the
Defense Logistics Agency), and Davis McLemore, (in his
official and individual capacity as the Deputy Program
Manager of the Defense Travel Office of the Defense Logistics
Agency). See Am. Compl. at 3.
brings an assortment of tort claims, all pursuant to the
Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), see 28
U.S.C. Pt. VI Ch. 171; see also 28 U.S.C. §
134, including, “intentional infliction of emotional
distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and
negligence, negligent acts and omissions during her
employment.” Am. Compl. at 1. She specifically alleges
that, while working at the Defense Logistics Agency
(“DLA”), a support agency of the Department of
Defense, her employer and supervisors, Harnitchek, Simon, and
McLemore, “failed to protect her from abuses before[, ]
during[, ] and after the filing of her [Federal
Employees' Compensation Act] FECA claim.”
Id. at 5. She alleges that, as a result of her FECA
claim, she suffered inter-office harassment and abuses by
co-workers. See Id. at 4; see also Pl.'s Opp. at
4. She expressly states that “[t]his is not a Title VII
complaint, ” and that this matter “does not hinge
on Title VII issues.” Am. Compl. at 2. She seeks
damages in excess of $15 million. See Id. at 1-2.
argue that Plaintiff has failed to establish venue in the
District of Columbia. See Defs.' Mem. at 3-6. In
reviewing a motion to dismiss for improper venue under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(3), a court “accepts the
plaintiff's well-pled factual allegations regarding venue
as true, draws all reasonable inferences from those
allegations in the plaintiff's favor and resolves any
factual conflicts in the plaintiff's favor.”
James v. Verizon Servs. Corp., 639 F.Supp.2d 9, 11
(D.D.C. 2009). The Court, however, need not accept
Plaintiff's legal conclusions as true, and may consider
material outside the pleadings, including undisputed facts
evidenced in the record, to determine whether it has
jurisdiction and if venue is proper. See Jerome Stevens
Pharm., Inc. v. Food & Drug Admin., 402 F.3d 1249,
1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005); Coal. for Underground Expansion v.
Mineta, 333 F.3d 193, 198 (D.C. Cir. 2003); Herbert
v. Nat'l Acad. of Sci., 974 F.2d 192, 197 (D.C. Cir.
1992); McCain v. Bank of Am., 13 F.Supp.3d 45, 51
(D.D.C. 2014), aff'd 602 Fed.Appx. 836 (D.C.
Cir. 2015); Ananiev v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 968
F.Supp.2d 123, 129-30 (D.D.C. 2013) (citations omitted);
Wilson v. Obama, 770 F.Supp.2d 188, 190 (D.D.C.
2011) (citations omitted).
prevail on a motion to dismiss for improper venue, the
defendant must present facts that will defeat the
plaintiff's assertion of venue.” Khalil v. L-3
Commc'ns Titan Grp., 656 F.Supp.2d 134, 135 (D.D.C.
2009). Nevertheless, the burden remains on Plaintiff to
establish that venue is proper since it is “the
plaintiff's obligation to institute the action in a
permissible forum.” Williams v. GEICO Corp.,
792 F.Supp.2d 58, 62 (D.D.C. 2011) (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted). Here, Defendants provide sufficient
facts, legal argument, and evidentiary support, demonstrating
that venue in this jurisdiction is improper.
resides in Manassas, Virginia. See ECF No. 1 at
caption; see also No. 18-cv-00738 (RC) Matter
Docket. The Court takes judicial notice that the DLA
headquarters is located at 8725 John J. Kingman Road, Fort
Belvoir, VA 22060-6221. See, e.g., Louis v. Hagel,
177 F.Supp.3d 401, 404 n.4 (D.D.C. 2016) (taking judicial
notice of locations and geographical distances in venue
challenge); see also Abraham v. Burwell, 110
F.Supp.3d 25, 27 (D.D.C. 2015) (taking judicial notice of
agency location in venue challenge); Defs.' Ex. 1. While
employed with DLA, Plaintiff worked in Virginia and resided
in Virginia. See Defs.' Ex. 2. Plaintiff filed
an administrative claim related to the instant case,
identifying the Fort Belvoir address and alleging that all
relevant events occurred at DLA. See Defs.' Ex.
1. She also attested that all of her known witnesses are
located in Virginia. See id.
Amended Complaint alleges that the events occurred “in
the District of Columbia Metropolitan Area/National Capital
Region.” Am. Compl. at 3. In opposition to
Defendants' arguments, Plaintiff claims that venue is
proper because “the District of Columbia . . . is the
“Capital of the United States[, ] . . .the Department
of Defense is based in the Pentagon which is widely known to
be headquartered in Washington, D.C. . . .[and] the Secretary
of the Defense sits in the Pentagon.” Pl.'s Opp. at
is improper in the District of Columbia. The district court
of a district in which is filed a case laying venue in the
wrong division or district shall dismiss, or if it be in the
interest of justice, transfer such case to any district or
division in which it could have been brought. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1406(a). Courts in this jurisdiction must examine
personal jurisdiction and venue carefully to guard against
the danger that a plaintiff might manufacture venue in the
District of Columbia. See Cameron v. Thornburgh, 983
F.2d 253, 256 (D.C. Cir. 1993). By naming federal government
agencies as defendants, a plaintiff could attempt to bring a
suit in the District of Columbia that should properly be
pursued elsewhere. See Id. In that regard, the
location of the agency's headquarters office does not
automatically establish venue in this district. See
Bartel v. Federal Aviation Admin., 617 F.Supp. 190, 199
(D.D.C. 1985) (District of Columbia location of headquarters
was irrelevant to determining proper venue for FTCA claim,
where plaintiff resided in Maryland and no events occurred in
District of Columbia). Therefore, the mere inclusion of the
Department of Defense as a defendant in this matter does not
FTCA allegations against the United States or its agencies
“may be prosecuted only in the judicial
district where the plaintiff resides or wherein the act or
omission complained of occurred.” 28 U.S.C. §
1402(b) (emphasis added). “Under the prevailing
interpretation of section 1402(b), venue is proper in the
District of Columbia if sufficient activities giving rise to
plaintiff's cause of action took place here.”
Franz v. United States, 592 F.Supp. 374, 378 (D.D.C.
1984). Plaintiff fails to identify any events that
took place in the District of Columbia and improperly relies
solely on the fact that she is suing the federal government.
See Am. Compl. at 3; see also Pl.'s
Opp. at 3.
does not dispute that she resides in Virginia or that the
activities giving rise to her cause of action also occurred
there. She instead argues that the location of DLA
headquarters is irrelevant because she is, in essence, suing
the United States. See Pl.'s Opp. at 3.
Plaintiff is correct that the location of an agency does not,
on its face, necessarily establish venue. However, in
Plaintiff's particular circumstance, the location of DLA
is exceedingly relevant because she worked there, and the
events transpired there, and if not there, another Virginia
location. See Defs.' Mem. at 3-6; see
also Defs.' Exs. 1-2. These facts, in addition to
Plaintiff's Virginia residence, are central and
conclusive to the analysis of venue in a FTCA matter.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1402(b).
determined that venue in this District is improper, the Court
must either dismiss the Amended Complaint or, if the Court
finds that it is “in the interest of justice, transfer
[the] case to any district or division in which it could have
been brought.” 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). The decision
whether to transfer or dismiss “rests within the sound
discretion of the district court.” Naartex
Consulting Corp. v. Watt, 722 F.2d 779, 789 (D.C. Cir.
1983); see also 14D Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R.
Miller & Edward H. Cooper, Federal Practice &
Procedure § 3827 (3d ed. 2015) (“[I]t is enough
simply that the district judge, in the sound exercise of
discretion, concludes that transfer is in the interest of
justice, as many courts have concluded.”).
“Generally, the interest of justice requires
transferring such cases to the appropriate judicial district
rather than dismissing them.” Williams, 792
F.Supp.2d at 64 (citing Goldlawr, Inc. v. Heiman,
369 U.S. 463, 466-67 (1962); James v. Booz-Allen,
227 F.Supp.2d 16, 20 (D.D.C. 2002)).
Court finds that it is in the interest of justice to transfer
this case to the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Virginia, rather than dismiss Plaintiff's
Amended Complaint. While the Amended Complaint is not a model
in clarity, and will likely face additional challenges,
complaints filed by pro se litigants are held to
less stringent standards than those applied to formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404
U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Furthermore, it would be more efficient
and economical to transfer the case, rather than compel
Plaintiff to re-file and re-serve these parties in another
District. See Roland v. Branch Banking & Trust
Corporation, 149 F.Supp.3d 61, 68-9 (D.D.C. 2015)
(transferring pro se case in lieu of dismissal);
see also Herbert v. Sebelius, 925 F.Supp.2d 13, 22
(D.D.C. 2013) (determining same).
of the foregoing reasons, and accordingly, Defendants'
Motion is GRANTED pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(3), and it is ORDERED that this case
is TRANSFERRED in the interest of justice,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a), to the U ...