To transfer or not to transfer, that is often the question in inter-state business litigation where parties come from various states, often far from where the actual dispute takes place. In Shakir Development & Construction, LLC v. Flaherty & Collins Construction, Inc., the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois recently explained how a Court should decide on a request to transfer a case from one federal court to another.
Plaintiffs Shakir Development & Construction, LLC and a number of other entities as well as two individuals filed the action in Cook County Circuit Court against Defendants Flaherty & Collins Construction, Inc. and various related entities as well as two individuals, alleging fraud, breach of contract, tortuous interference with contract and unjust enrichment. According to the complaint, the parties entered into two contracts under which Defendants allegedly agreed to build and manage an apartment complex in Noblesville, Indiana. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants ultimately breached the contract, committing fraud in the course of so doing.
Defendants removed the case to the Northern District of Illinois on diversity grounds. Federal courts are empowered to hear cases in which none of the plaintiffs are from the same state as any of the defendants. In this case, the two individual defendants resided in Indiana and are Indiana citizens, while the entity defendants are Indiana corporations with their principal place of business in Indiana. The two individual plaintiffs resided in Illinois and are Illinois citizens; the entity plaintiffs are Indiana limited liability companies located in Indiana, but they are Illinois citizens for diversity purposes because their sole member is Sohail Shakir, one of the individual plaintiffs and an Illinois citizen.
Defendants then filed a motion requesting that the matter be transferred to the Southern District of Indiana, which includes Noblesville. 28 U.S.C. § 1404 allows a district court to transfer an action to another district court “for the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice…” Citing its prior decision in Law Bulletin Publishing, Co. v. LRP Publications, Inc., the Court stated that it considers the following factors in evaluating convenience: 1) the plaintiff’s choice of forum; (2) the situs of the material events; (3) the relative ease of access to sources of proof; (4) the convenience of the witnesses; and (5) the convenience of the parties.
The Court granted Defendants’ transfer motion, finding that the factors “weigh heavily” in favor of transfer. Although Plaintiffs preferred to stay in Chicago, the Court noted that “choice of forum has only minimal value where none of the conduct occurred in the forum selected by the plaintiff.” Here, the alleged breach and fraud occurred in statements mailed from and made in meetings in Indiana. Similarly, the material events all occurred in Indiana and, as a result, the majority of witnesses – including Defendants’ employees along with subcontractors, architects and engineers – and parties were located in Indiana. Thus, the Court granted the motion to transfer.
Venue is just one of many issues to be considered before filing a lawsuit. Thebusiness dispute attorneys at Lubin Austermuehle are focused on complex disputes and can assist clients in making this and other strategic decisions. If your company is involved in a business dispute and you need experienced legal representation, our attorneys are pleased to offer a free consultation to discuss your case.
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