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Robertson v. Standard Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Oregon

December 16, 2014

SHERRY F. ROBERTSON, Plaintiff,
v.
STANDARD INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

Michael D. Grabhorn, Grabhorn Law Office, PLLC, Louisville, KY, John C. Shaw, Megan E. Glor, Megan E. Glor Attorneys at Law, Portland, OR, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

Andrew M. Altschul, Buchanan Angeli Altschul & Sullivan LLP, Portland, OR, Jacqueline J. Herring, Warren Sebastian von Schleicher Smith, von Schleicher & Associates, Chicago, IL, Attorneys for Defendant.

OPINION & ORDER

MARCO A. HERNNDEZ, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Sherry F. Robertson, seeks legal and equitable damages from Defendant, Standard Insurance Company, under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). Defendant submitted a motion to change or transfer venue (Motion to Transfer) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), requesting that this matter be transferred to either the Southern District of West Virginia or the Middle District of North Carolina. For the following reasons, this Court denies Defendant's Motion to Transfer.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff worked as a cytogenetic technologist for Wake Forest University Health Sciences (Wake Forest) in Winston-Salem, North Carolina for over 26 years. As a benefit of her employment, Plaintiff obtained long-term disability (LTD) insurance coverage and life insurance. Plaintiff's LTD insurance and life insurance policies are, and were, underwritten, issued, and administered by Defendant. Compl. ¶ 7. Defendant does business within the state of Oregon as an insurer and its corporate offices are located in Oregon. Id.

On March 7, 2012, Plaintiff ceased working for Wake Forest due to disability. Id. at ¶ 11. Plaintiff remains disabled and is unable to maintain any full-time gainful employment. Id . From September 2012 through October 2013, Defendant agreed that Plaintiff was disabled and provided her with monthly income benefits and waived the premium on her life insurance. Id. at ¶ 12. However, in October 2013, Defendant determined that Plaintiff failed to establish that she continued to satisfy her insurance policies' definition of disabled. Id. at ¶ 13. Plaintiff appealed this decision to Defendant, but Defendant upheld its decision on appeal. Id. at ¶ 20. Defendant also required Plaintiff to apply for Social Security disability income (SSDI) benefits because Defendant was entitled to reduce the amount of Plaintiff's monthly income by the amount of income provided by SSDI benefits. Id. at ¶ 15. Towards this end, Defendant retained counsel to represent Plaintiff in her SSDI claim. Id. at ¶ 16. Defendant's counsel successfully demonstrated that Plaintiff was totally and permanently disabled from gainful employment and she was awarded SSDI. Id . Defendant then sought to recover from Plaintiff the amount of previously conveyed monthly income for which she received SSDI benefits. Id. at ¶ 17.

In response, Plaintiff filed a complaint in the Western District of Kentucky, where her counsel resides. Defendant moved to dismiss for improper venue and Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed her complaint. On October 10, 2014, Plaintiff filed this case in the District of Oregon. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant breached its duty to Plaintiff under ERISA. Id. at ¶ 33.

Now before this Court is Defendant's Motion to Transfer pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Defendant requests that this case be transferred to the Southern District of West Virginia or the Middle District of North Carolina. Defendant argues that the convenience of the parties and witnesses and the interest of justice favor transferring this case.

STANDARDS

A motion to transfer venue is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), which provides that "[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 or division where the action might have been brought[.]" The purpose of the 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) is to "prevent the waste of time, energy and money and to protect litigants, witnesses, and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense." Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).

A motion to transfer lies within the broad discretion of the district court, and must be determined on a case-by-case basis. See Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 498 (9th Cir. 2000). However, the burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that the balance of conveniences favoring the transfer is high. The defendant must make "a clear showing of facts which... establish such oppression and vexation of a defendant as to be out of proportion to plaintiff's convenience, which may be shown to be slight or nonexistent." Dole Food Co. v. Watts, 303 F.3d 1104, 1118 (9th Cir. 2002).

Courts employ a two-step analysis when determining whether transfer is proper. First, a court must ask "whether the transferee district was one in which the action might have been brought by the plaintiff." Hoffman v. Blaski, 363 U.S. 335, 343-44 (1960). Second, if the moving party has made this threshold showing, courts may consider "individualized, case-by-case consideration[s] of convenience and fairness." Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988). A court may consider a number of factors including: (1) the plaintiff's choice of forum; (2) the convenience of the parties; (3) the convenience of the witnesses; (4) ease of access to the evidence; (5) familiarity of each forum with the applicable law; (6) feasibility of consolidation of other claims; (7) any local interest in the ...


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