N.D. Cal. Ruling on Motion to Transfer: Ease of Access to Evidence Still a Factor in the Age of ESI
This past Friday, Judge Jon S. Tigar issued a decision, Imran v. Vital Pharm., Inc., No. 18-cv-05758-JST; No. 18-cv-06300-JST, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59389 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 5, 2019), denying motions to transfer and granting a motion to consolidate. The Imran and Madison plaintiffs filed separate suits against Vital for its alleged misrepresentation of the effects of BANG energy drinks. Vital filed motions to transfer the cases to the Southern District of Florida, and the Plaintiffs filed a motion to consolidate.
The Court weighed nine different factors in reaching its decision to deny the transfer motions.
1. Vital maintains its corporate headquarters in Florida, and proper venue and personal jurisdiction exist in the Southern District of Florida.
2. The Florida district might be more convenient to the witnesses in the case.
3. Court congestion. The Florida court resolves cases more quickly.
3. Deference to the Plaintiff's choice of forum
4. The fact that the claims arose under California law.
5. Local interest in the controversy.
6. Familiarity with governing law
7. Feasibility of consolidation. The first to file default consideration worked in favor of the Imran and Madison plaintiffs who filed before another pair pf plaintiffs in Florida, and multi-district coordination was an option.
8. Convenience of the parties.
The ninth factor weighed by the Court, "Ease of Access to Evidence", is the one we'll focus on here since it involves technical considerations. Judge Tigar noted judicial precedent finding the transportation of documents not to be burdensome because of technological advances, but held that, "[w]hile this diminishes the weight of this factor in the transfer determination, ease of access to the evidence remains a factor to consider." Id. at *13. This case concerns some documents not available in electronic format, and requires inspection of a laboratory and warehouse in Florida. The Plaintiffs only contended that the ease of access to evidence could be disregarded because the electronic transfer of data was possible. Judge Tigar concluded that this factor, "weighs slightly in favor of transfer." Id. Although it did not make the difference in this case, the ease of access to evidence continues to be given weight even in what is arguably the vanguard of digital technology in the United States, Northern California.
The motion to consolidate was granted under the Court's broad discretion to consolidate cases with common questions of law and fact.