TENNESSEE –The plaintiff, Shawnee D. Douglas, filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Hamilton County, Tennessee against Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc., f/k/a McNeil-PPC, Inc. and Imerys Talc America, Inc., f/k/a Luzenac America, Inc., alleging she was exposed to the defendants’ asbestos-containing or asbestos-contaminated talc. On September 26, 2017, Johnson & Johnson removed the case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. The plaintiff then filed suit in Missouri state court based on information connecting a Missouri entity, PTI Union, LLC, to the case. Thereafter, the Eastern District of Tennessee granted the plaintiff’s motion to voluntarily dismiss her claims without prejudice against Johnson & Johnson and Imerys.
In this instant matter, Johnson & Johnson filed a motion to transfer venue and argued that this case should be transferred to the United States District for the Eastern District of Tennessee. The defendant argued that the interests of justice and the convenience of the parties and witnesses warrant transfer to the Eastern District of Tennessee. The defendant further argued that the Eastern District of Missouri has no appreciable interest in the case as the Eastern District of Tennessee is the home of the plaintiff, the location of most of the plaintiff’s alleged asbestos exposure, and the site of relevant medical records. Furthermore, all of the previously identified witnesses are located in Tennessee. The plaintiff opposed the motion and contended that Johnson & Johnson had not met its burden under Section 1404(a) to overturn her choice of forum and that the motion to transfer should be denied.
The court noted that the statute governing change of venue provides that, “[f]or 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.” 28 U.S.C. Section 1404(a). Further, when determining whether to transfer a case pursuant to Section 1404(a), courts must consider:
- The convenience of the parties
- The convenience of the witnesses
- The interests of justice.
The court found that that the balance of relevant factors clearly weighed in favor of transferring this case to the Eastern District of Tennessee. Further, the court noted that it was important that Missouri was not the plaintiff’s first choice of venue. She originally filed suit in Tennessee state court in her home county. Once the case was removed to federal court and discovery had begun, she filed her second lawsuit in Missouri state court and dismissed her case in Tennessee. The court stated that a plaintiff cannot hail an out-of-state defendant into court in the plaintiff’s home forum and then refile an essentially identical lawsuit in another forum that is foreign to all parties and still expect full deference on his or her second choice of forum.
Therefore, Johnson and Johnson’s motion to transfer venue was granted.
Read the case decision here.