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Inlandboatmen's Union of Pacific v. Foss Maritime Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

January 5, 2015



JAMES L. ROBART, District Judge.


Before the court is Defendant Foss Maritime Company's ("Foss") motion to transfer venue. ( See Mot. (Dkt. # 6).) Having considered the submissions of the parties, the balance of the record, and the relevant law, the court GRANTS Foss's motion and TRANSFERS venue to the District of Hawai'i.


This case has its genesis in an employment dispute between Leonard Kapea, Jr. and Young Brothers, Limited ("Young Brothers"), which is an independent subsidiary of Foss. ( See generally Compl. (Dkt. # 1); Kapoi Decl. (Dkt. # 7) ¶¶ 5-7, 13.) Young Brothers, which is incorporated and has its principal place of business in Hawai'i, has provided inter-island cargo services throughout the state of Hawai'i for over 100 years. (Kapoi Decl. ¶ 3.) Young Brothers is a party to a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") with the Hawai'i Region unit of Plaintiff Inlandboatmen's Union of the Pacific ("the Union"). ( Id. ¶ 4.)

Mr. Kapea is a member of the Union's Hawai'i Region unit. ( Id. ¶ 5.) Mr. Kapea was employed by Young Brothers as an ordinary seaman and cook in two stints: from November 2007 to September 2008, and then again beginning in August 2010. ( Id. ) In June 2014, Young Brothers terminated Mr. Kapea's employment allegedly in response to a series of "unsafe and negligent acts in violation of the company's safety policies" by Mr. Kapea. ( Id. ¶ 7.) According to Foss, the precipitating event was Mr. Kapea's neardisastrous leap across a growing gap between a tug and a barge. ( Id. )

In July 2014, the Hawai'i Region unit of the Union initiated a grievance procedure against Young Brothers to contest Mr. Kapea's discharge. ( Id.; see also Compl. ¶ 4.3.) Young Brothers denied the grievance on July 7, 2014. (Compl. ¶ 4.4.) The Union advanced the grievance to arbitration on July 16, 2014. ( Id. ¶ 4.6) That same day, Young Brothers requested an extension of time to respond to the grievance, which the Union granted. ( Id. ) Young Brothers, however, did not respond by the Union's August 2, 2014, deadline. ( Id. ) The Union wrote two letters to Young Brothers, the second of which was sent on August 13, 2014, and neither of which Young Brothers acknowledged. ( Id. ¶¶ 4.7-4.9.) Instead, Young Brothers reinstated Mr. Kapea on August 28, 2014. (Kapoi Decl. ¶ 8.)

Nonetheless, the Union filed this suit on September 11, 2014, under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). ( See Compl.) The Union claims that, according to the terms of the CBA, once Young Brothers failed to respond by August 2, 2014, the grievance was effectively resolved in favor of Mr. Kapea, and Mr. Kapea is automatically entitled to be fully reinstated and otherwise "made whole" for his discharge. ( Id. )

Foss maintains it is not a proper defendant to the suit because it is not a party to the CBA and did not employ Mr. Kapea. (Mot. at 3.) Before reaching the merits, Foss first moves to transfer the case to the District of Hawai'i on the basis that Hawai'i is the state where the operative events occurred and the pertinent witnesses are located. ( See generally id.; Reply (Dkt. # 16).) In addition, Foss moves to stay the initial discovery deadlines pending resolution of the motion to transfer. (Mot. to Stay (Dkt. # 9).) The Union opposes the motion to transfer on the basis that the case presents only questions of law regarding interpretation of the text of the CBA, and as such may be decided on summary judgment without the need to inconvenience any witnesses that may reside in Hawai'i. (Resp. (Dkt. # 10).) The Union also formally opposes the motion to stay, despite having agreed with Foss to extend the discovery deadlines by 30 days. ( See Resp. to Mot. to Stay (Dkt. # 10); 12/4/14 Letter (Dkt. # 19).) These motions are now before the court.


Under 28 U.S.C. § 1404, the court has discretion to transfer this case in the interests of convenience and justice to another district in which venue would be proper. See Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 498 (9th Cir. 2000). Specifically, Section 1404(a) states:

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 or to any district or division to which all parties have consented.

28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The purpose of this statute is to "prevent the waste of time, energy, and money and to protect litigants, witnesses and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense." Pedigo Prods., Inc. v. Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc., No. 3:12-CV-05502-BHS, 2013 WL 364814, at *2 (W.D. Wash. Jan. 30, 2013) (quoting Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964)).

The parties do not dispute that venue is proper in both the District of Hawai'i and the District of Washington. ( See generally Resp.; Reply); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a), (b). Therefore, disposition of this motion depends on whether transfer to Hawai'i is most convenient and just. Foss bears the burden of showing that a transfer is appropriate. Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 255-56 (1981); ...

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