United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
OPINION AND ORDER
TIMOTHY L. BROOKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
pending before the Court are a Motion to Transfer (Doc. 18)
and Brief in Support (Doc. 19) filed by Defendant Walmart on
October 17, 2018. Plaintiff Robustiano Griffin a/k/a Isaiah
Hoover, who is representing himself pro se in this
matter, did not respond to the Motion. Mr. Griffin appeared
in person along with counsel for Walmart at a case management
hearing on October 11, 2018, and at that time, Mr. Griffin
explained in detail the nature of his claims against Walmart
and agreed then that the incident that is the subject of his
lawsuit took place in the parking lot of a Walmart store
outside of Atlanta, Georgia. He further agreed that the
Walmart employee or contractor whom Mr. Griffin blames for
causing his damages in this lawsuit was a security guard who
was patrolling the parking lot in that same Walmart store in
to Mr. Griffin's Complaint and his oral explanation of
his claims during the case management hearing, on October 11,
2017, he was sitting in his truck in the parking lot of a
Walmart store after completing his grocery shopping. After
some time, a Walmart security guard named Brown approached
Mr. Griffin's truck, asked him to leave, and uttered a
racial slur. Mr. Griffin later called Walmart and lodged
complaints about the incident involving Officer Brown, but
Walmart failed to address the complaints to Mr. Griffin's
the case management hearing, counsel for Walmart stated on
the record that he planned to file a motion to transfer this
matter to the Northern District of Georgia. Because the
transfer issue was discussed at length in open Court, Mr.
Griffin was aware of the basis for the motion and the high
likelihood that Walmart would file it in the near future.
Nearly three weeks have now passed since the Motion was
filed, and Mr. Griffin has failed to respond. The Court has
therefore reviewed the Motion and finds, in its discretion,
that the matter should be transferred to the Northern
District of Georgia-where all of the events at issue in the
lawsuit took place and where all relevant witnesses likely
reside, including Mr. Griffin.
change of venue statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), provides
that "for the convenience of parties and witnesses, in
the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any
civil action to any other district where it might have been
brought." Although the statute provides three general
categories of factors that courts must consider when
evaluating a motion to transfer, Terra Int'l v. Miss.
Chem. Corp., 119 F.3d 688, 691 (8th Cir. 1997), the
Eighth Circuit has declined to offer an exhaustive list,
In re Apple, Inc., 602 F.3d 909, 912 (8th Cir.
2010). Rather, district courts possess the discretion under
section 1404(a) "to adjudicate motions for transfer
according to an individualized, case-by-case consideration of
convenience and fairness." Stewart Org., Inc. v.
Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988). Moreover, because
"federal courts give considerable deference to a
plaintiff's choice of forum ... the party seeking a
transfer under section 1404(a) typically bears the burden of
proving that a transfer is warranted." Terra
Int'l, 119 F.3d at 695.
threshold matter, the Court has satisfied itself that the
Northern District of Georgia is a district where this action
originally could have been brought. 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).
Under the general venue statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2),
venue is proper in, among other places, "a judicial
district in which a substantial part of the events or
omissions giving rise to the claim occurred." Since the
alleged injury in question took place in a Walmart store
located in the Northern District of Georgia, venue is proper
that this threshold inquiry has been satisfied, the Court
must next determine whether transfer is warranted "for
the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of
justice." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Courts consider
several relevant factors that directly bear upon the
convenience of litigating in a particular court. These
factors include: 1) the convenience of the parties, 2) the
convenience of the witnesses-including the willingness of
witnesses to appear, the ability to subpoena witnesses, and
the adequacy of deposition testimony, 3) the accessibility to
records and documents, 4) the location where the conduct
complained of occurred, and 5) the applicability of each
forum state's substantive law. Terra Int'l,
119 F.3d at 696.
convenience of the parties is neutral with respect to
transfer. Walmart is headquartered in Arkansas, yet it
advocates in favor of transfer to Georgia because it argues
that, on balance, it would suffer greater inconvenience if it
were denied the opportunity to subpoena witnesses located in
Georgia who are outside the subpoena power of the Court. Mr.
Griffin stated in open Court at the recent hearing that he
was willing to travel to Arkansas for future proceedings,
despite the fact that he lives in Georgia. The Court doubts
it is actually more convenient for him to litigate this
matter in Arkansas, but for purposes of this inquiry, the
Court will take him at his word.
convenience of the witnesses strongly weighs in favor of
transfer to the Northern District of Georgia. It is
anticipated that all necessary witnesses are located in or
around the Northern District of Georgia, including the store
manager of the Walmart store in question, the security
officer named Brown, Mr. Griffin himself, and Mr.
Griffin's medical care providers. With the exception of
Mr. Griffin, it is unlikely that any of the witnesses would
voluntarily travel to Arkansas to testify at trial if the
case remained in this District, and all witnesses would
likely be outside the subpoena power of the Court.
location of documents and evidence also appears to weigh in
favor of transfer. While it is true that the digital age has
made storage and transmission of evidence possible and less
burdensome, courts still consider the location and access to
evidence under the 1404(a) analysis. See, e.g., In re
Volkswagen of Am., Inc., 545 F.3d 304, 316 (5th Cir.
2008). It is likely that any written records concerning this
incident, including the police report and any documents
generated by the Walmart store at issue, will be located in
Georgia. Also, any of Plaintiffs medical records and bills
related to this incident are likely to be located in Georgia,
the location of the alleged tortious conduct and place where
the Plaintiff resides.
final factor in the "convenience" analysis is the
potential application of each jurisdiction's substantive
law. Regardless of whether this case is transferred or
remains here, Arkansas' choice-of-law rules will
ultimately govern which state's substantive law applies.
If the case remained here, this Court sitting in diversity
would be bound to apply the forum state's substantive
law. See Erie R.R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78
(1938). That would mean that Arkansas' choice-of-law
rules would apply. A similar result would occur if this case
were transferred, as the Supreme Court held in Van Dusen
v. Barrack that "the transferee district court must
be obligated to apply the state law that would have been
applied if there had been no change of venue [as a] change of
venue... should be, with respect to state law, but a change
of courtrooms." 376 U.S. 612, 639 (1964).
in either case, it will be Arkansas' choice-of-law rules
that govern which state's substantive law will apply. As
the Arkansas Supreme Court indicated in Ganey v. Kawasaki
Motors Corp., USA, Arkansas now relies both upon the
doctrine of lex loci delicti and the Leflar
choice-influencing factors in deciding which state's
substantive law to apply. 366 Ark. 238, 251 (2006). It
therefore seems likely that Arkansas' choice-of-law rules
will eventually result in the application of Georgia
substantive law to the underlying action-as that is where the
alleged injury occurred, and as the Leflar factors likely
would not change the analysis. See Miller v.
Pilgrim's Pride Corp., 366 F.3d 672, 674 (8th Cir.
2004) (listing the five Leflar factors: (1) predictability of
results; (2) maintenance of interstate and international
order; (3) simplification of the judicial task; (4)
advancement of the forum's governmental interests; and
(5) application of the better rule of law).
now to the "interest of justice" factors, courts
consider the following: 1) judicial economy, 2) the
plaintiffs initial forum choice, 3) the comparative costs to
both parties of litigating in the different forums, 4)
enforceability issues for any resulting judgment, 5)
obstacles to a fair trial, 6) conflict of law concerns, and
7) the advantage of having a local court determine questions
of local law. Terra Int'l, 119 F.3d at 696.
economy concerns weigh strongly in favor of transfer. Courts
in the Western District of Arkansas have held that "the
administration of justice is served more efficiently when the
action is litigated in the forum that more clearly
encompasses the locus of operative facts." Beijing
ZhongyiZhongbiao Elec. Info. Tech. v. Microsoft Corp.,
2013 WL 3808009, at *5 (W.D. Ark. July 22, 2013); see
also Miller v. Christus St Michael Health Sys., 2017 WL
2266887, at *4 (same). As noted above, the ...