Where the court considered whether to transfer this suit alleging an insurer selected, retained and otherwise ratified poorly-performing investments in its retirement plan, to the Alexandria division, where two similar suits with common issues were pending, but plan documents required this suit to be brought in the Richmond division, the suit will remain here.
Peter Trauernicht and Zachary Wright, on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated individuals, bring suit against Genworth Financial Inc. The complaint alleges that Genworth breached its fiduciary duty under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by selecting, retaining and otherwise ratifying poorly-performing investments for participants of the Genworth Financial Inc. Retirement and Savings Plan.
During the initial pretrial conference on Nov. 16, 2022, the court raised the issue of possibly transferring the suit to the Alexandria Division because a judge there was presiding over two other cases with common issues filed by counsel who represents the plaintiffs here. Both parties thereafter filed statements with their position on possible transfer.
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), a court can transfer a case to another district or division, even if venue is proper in the original court, if (1) the case might have been brought in the transferee district and (2) a transfer is convenient for the parties and witnesses and in the interest of justice. However, “[a]s a general matter, courts enforce forum selection clauses unless it would be unreasonable to do so.”
In the present case, it is clear that the forum-selection clause in the plan precludes transferring the case from the Richmond Division. The clause clearly states that any action related to the plan must be brought in the “Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, located in Richmond, Virginia.” This “clear language showing that jurisdiction is appropriate only in the designated forum” shows that the clause is mandatory and must be followed by the court unless it is unreasonable.
There is nothing to suggest, and the plaintiffs do not contend, that the plan’s forum-selection clause is unreasonable, so the court must abide by its language as agreed upon by the parties to the plan. Accordingly the court will abide by the clear language of the clause and, therefore, declines to transfer the case to the Alexandria Division.
Trauernicht v. Genworth Financial Inc., Case No. 3:22-cv-532, Dec. 30, 2022. EDVA at Richmond (Payne). VLW 022-3-564. 7 pp.