United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
MICHAEL MAYFIELD, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
ACE AMERICAN INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
ORDER TRANSFERRING VENUE
RICARDO S. MARTINEZ CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Defendant ACE American
Insurance Company's Motion to Transfer Venue, Dkt. #29.
ACE moves to transfer venue to the United States District
Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Id.
28 U.S.C. § 1404, this 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
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 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12690, 2013 WL
364814, at *2 (W.D. Wash. Jan. 30, 2013) (quoting Van
Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616, 84 S.Ct. 805, 11
L.Ed.2d 945 (1964)).
Ninth Circuit, district courts typically apply a nine-factor
balancing test to determine whether to transfer a case under
§ 1404(a), examining: “(1) the location where the
relevant agreements were negotiated and executed, (2) the
state that is most familiar with the governing law, (3) the
plaintiff's choice of forum, (4) the respective
parties' contacts with the forum, (5) the contacts
relating to the plaintiff's cause of action in the chosen
forum, (6) the differences in the costs of litigation in the
two forums, (7) the availability of compulsory process to
compel attendance of unwilling non-party witnesses,  (8)
the ease of access to sources of proof, and (9) the public
policy considerations of the forum state.”
Jones, 211 F.3d at 498-99.
Michael Mayfield brings this ERISA action as a putative class
action. Dkt. #1 at 1. As a benefit of his employment with
Delta Air Lines, Mr. Mayfield was a participant in an
insurance plan (“Plan”) which included accidental
death and dismemberment (“AD&D”) insurance.
See Id. at ¶¶ 10-11; Dkt #29-1 at 6.
Defendant ACE insured the Plan's AD&D benefit under
the terms of a policy “delivered” in the State of
Georgia. Dkt. #29-2 at 77.
policy provided Mr. Mayfield coverage for him and his wife
for accidental loss of life. This case concerns the death of
Mrs. Mayfield, ACE's initial refusal to pay on the claim,
and ACE's current refusal to pay interest on the delayed
payment. See Dkt. #1. Mr. Mayfield brings this
action on behalf of all others similarly situated-as a
putative class action. See id.
Mayfield resides in the Western District of Washington and
Defendant ACE is an insurance company licensed to conduct
business in the State of Washington, incorporated and with
its principal place of business in the State of Pennsylvania.
See Id. The Plan Administrator for the insurance
policy at issue is the Administrative Committee of Delta Air
Lines, Inc., located in the Northern District of Georgia.
See Dkt. #29 at 2. The Plan is governed by ERISA but
provides that it “shall be governed by the laws of the
State of Georgia to the extent not preempted by ERISA.”
Dkt. #29-1 at 11.
asserts that, in the applicable 3-year period from 2015 to
2018, 114 individuals submitted claims for benefits under the
policy, and that of that number 45 reside in Georgia and 4 in
Washington State. Dkt. #30 (“McCreary Decl.”),
in ERISA cases is proper in any district “where the
plan is administered, where the breach took place, or where a
defendant resides or may be found.” 29 U.S.C. §
1132(e)(2). ACE argues that venue is proper in the Northern
District of Georgia because (1) it is where the Plan is
administered (see Dkt. #29-2 at 63), (2) the policy
that forms the basis for the alleged breach of the Plan was
delivered in Georgia (see Dkt. #2-2 at 77) and (3)
ACE has at least some employees with knowledge of this case
in Georgia (see McCreary Decl. at ¶ 6).
argues that Georgia law is unlikely to arise in this case,
which is governed largely by federal law, and that “ACE
fails to articulate a single question of state law that might
arise.” Dkt. #35 at 7. Plaintiff argues that his choice
of forum should be given great weight, and that “as to
the Delta plan participants, the majority reside somewhere
outside Georgia.” Id. at 9. Plaintiff cites
In re Ferrero Litig., 768 F.Supp.2d 1074, 1078 (S.D.
Cal. 2011) for the proposition that the class
representatives' choice of forum should be given
deference. Id. Plaintiff argues that it is ACE,
headquartered in Pennsylvania, and not Delta or the Plan, in
Georgia, who corresponded with Plaintiff and ultimately
denied his claim. Id. at 10.
Reply, ACE generally repeats its prior points, but does offer
some additional facts and citations to law. ACE cites the
Declaration of Erin Haffner as evidence that the Plan was
negotiated and executed in Georgia and cites two cases out of
districts in the Ninth Circuit where the transferring court
relied on such a factor. Id. at 3 (citing Dkt. #41
(Haffner Decl.”), ¶ 9; Liberty Surplus Ins.
Corp. V. Perma-Pipe, Inc., No. C 13-0908 RS, 2013 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 121216, at *5 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 26, 2013);
Arrowood Surplus Lines Ins. Co. v. Paul Ryan
Assocs., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14923, at *8-9 (D. Haw.
Jan. 29, 2014)). ACE cites several cases for the proposition
that a Plaintiff's choice of forum is given less
deference if it brought on behalf of a putative class.
Id. at 5 (citing Defazio v. Hollister Emp. Share
Ownership Tr., 406 F.Supp.2d 1085, 1088 (E.D. Cal.
2005); Lou v. Belzberg, 834 F.2d 730, 739 (9th Cir.
on the record before it, the Court is convinced that this
case might have been brought in the Northern District of
Georgia, and that it would be more convenient to all parties
involved, including potential class members and witnesses,
for the case to proceed in that district. Because this is a
putative class action, the deference to Plaintiff's
choice of forum is clearly reduced. See In re Ferrero
Litig., 768 F.Supp.2d at 1078 (citing Lou v.
Belzberg, supra). This case is distinct from
Ferrero in that the connection to this forum is
minimal. The apparent remaining issues for this case have
more to do with the insurer and less to do with Plaintiff and
the circumstances of his late wife's death. This case has
a significant technical connection to Georgia, given that the
Plan at issue was negotiated and executed there. To the
extent Georgia law may apply to this case, that district is
obviously more familiar with that body of law. Perhaps most
importantly, locating this action in the Northern District of
Georgia will reduce the costs of litigation for such parties,
class members, witnesses, and counsel travelling from within
Georgia or other states located on the ...