In deciding a convenience motion to transfer venue, courts weigh heavily the residence of important nonparty witnesses, who may be within the subpoena power of one district but not the other.
In a products liability case, plaintiff husband and wife sued defendant drug company. The case arose from the wife's mother's ingestion of Diethylstilbestrol (DES) while she was pregnant with the wife in 1962. The drug company removed the case to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction and moved to transfer the case to the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The drug company argued that both private and public interests favored transfer primarily because the case had little if any ties to the present district. Plaintiffs opposed transfer citing numerous cases involving the same drug company and subject matter that have been resolved in the present district.
If contacts relevant to the dispute are overwhelmingly focused in a certain state and the case is still in its nascent stages, should the case be transferred the district court of that state?
The drug company's motion to transfer was granted. The fact that almost all the witnesses resided in Massachusetts clearly weighed in favor of transfer. The strong presumption in favor of plaintiffs' choice of forum was overcome because the present district had no meaningful ties to the controversy and plaintiffs resided in Massachusetts. Additionally, the operative facts giving rise to the plaintiffs' claim arose in Massachusetts. The drug company argued that Massachusetts had a strong interest in seeing that the product liability claims of Massachusetts citizens were tried fairly and effectively. The present district's familiarity with DES litigation did not counterbalance that interest. Finally, the present district had a more congested docket than the District of Massachusetts. While both districts had similarly experienced magistrate judges in settling DES cases, that factor shaded nearer to transfer.