Virginia Lawyers Weekly//January 3, 2022
Virginia Lawyers Weekly//January 3, 2022//
Where a company sued for alleged overtime violations is in the Alexandria division, the majority of the relevant witnesses were found in that division and a related suit is pending there, the suit will be transferred to Alexandria.
The instant case is the result of Lori Jenkins’ dismissal from a separately pending Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, collective action in Florida. That court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss out-of-state plaintiffs because the court lacked personal jurisdiction over the claims of the non-Floridian plaintiffs. Jenkins then filed this suit. Defendants have moved to transfer venue to the Alexandria division.
Defendants are both residents of the Alexandria division, as their headquarters are located in Reston, Virginia. Additionally opt-in plaintiffs Christenson and Bailes worked in the Alexandria division, along with their managers, which indicates that a substantial part of the events giving rise to their claims occurred in the Alexandria division. Thus, this action could have been properly brought in the Alexandria division.
The court turns to the question of the convenience of the parties and witnesses and the interest of justice. In addressing this question, the court considers four factors: (1) the plaintiff’s choice of forum; (2) the convenience of the parties; (3) the convenience of the witnesses and (4) the interest of justice.
There is a connection between the Norfolk division and Jenkins’ claim. Not only does Jenkins live in the Norfolk division, she worked here for defendants during the period in question. Despite this, the fact that Jenkins, along with the other plaintiffs, have put defendants’ overtime policies at issue strengthens the nexus this case shares with the Alexandria division and diminishes the amount of deference owed to Jenkins’ choice of forum. The overtime policies at issue were issued and created at defendants’ headquarters in Reston, Virginia. Additionally, Jenkins is the only plaintiff of the six current plaintiffs that resides in the Norfolk division.
The Alexandria division is clearly the more convenient forum for defendants. Jenkins, however, resides in the Norfolk division. Bailes and Christenson both reside in the Alexandria division, while the other three plaintiffs reside outside of Virginia.
While transferring the case to the Alexandria division would be less convenient for Jenkins, it is far more convenient for all of the other plaintiffs, especially the two plaintiffs who reside and worked in the Alexandria division, and it is also more convenient for defendants. Jenkins has shown, by her past actions as a participant as a plaintiff in the Florida FLSA collective action, that inconvenience is really not an issue. Regardless of which forum is chosen, some plaintiffs may be inconvenienced; however, transferring the case to the Alexandria division would mitigate the inconvenience for most of the parties. The court thus finds that the convenience of the parties weighs in favor of transfer.
Defendants’ headquarters are in Reston, and they allege that the majority of their employees with knowledge related to the matter are based in Reston. Only a few potential witnesses related to Jenkins are located in the Norfolk division. Moreover, defendants’ business operations could be greatly inconvenienced if their officers and managers must attend a trial in the Norfolk Division. Consequently, the court finds that the convenience of the witnesses weighs in favor of transfer.
Interest of justice
This analysis considers “the pendency of a related action, the court’s familiarity with the applicable law, docket conditions, access to premises that might have to be viewed, the possibility of unfair trial, the ability to join other parties, and the possibility of harassment.” The only factor that is applicable to the instant matter is the pendency of a related action.
After the Virginia plaintiffs were dismissed from the Florida suit, Joel Hughes, who also worked for defendants, filed his new case in the Alexandria division. They are closely related because the claims are against defendants, arise from the dismissal of the claims from the Florida case, involve similar claims, defenses and questions of law, will involve overlapping discovery and all parties are represented by the same attorneys. The presence of closely related litigation weighs heavily in favor of transferring this action to the Alexandria division.
Defendants’ motion to transfer venue granted.
Jenkins v. NVR Inc., Case No. 2:21-cv-495, Dec. 3, 2021. EDVA at Norfolk (Doumar). VLW 021-3-543. 10 pp.