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Fuse Satellite, LLC v. National Tech Services

United States District Court, D. Utah

September 5, 2017

FUSE SATELLITE, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
NATIONAL TECH SERVICES d/b/a NTS; EZIQUIEL GARCIA; and MICHAEL PRATHER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO CHANGE VENUE PURSUANT 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)

          Jill N. Parrish, United States District Court Judge.

         Before the Court is a Motion to Change Venue filed by Defendants National Tech Services, Eziquiel Garcia, and Michael Prather. (Docket No. 6). As explained below, the Court DENIES the Motion.

         BACKGROUND

         This lawsuit arises from a contractual dispute between two companies who deal in satellite television subscriptions. The first, Plaintiff Fuse Satellite (“Fuse”), is a sales and marketing company based in Utah, with door-to-door sales forces in numerous states. The second, Defendant National Tech Services (“NTS”), is a partnership that also specializes in sales and marketing and is based in Texas. Defendants Eziquiel Garcia and Michael Prather are allegedly the sole partners of NTS. Both Fuse and NTS apparently act as intermediaries between customers and DirecTV, selling DirecTV subscriptions door-to-door and installing satellite systems in exchange for commissions from the provider.

         At some point in 2015, Defendants Garcia and Prather allegedly began working with Fuse as independent contractors. After Defendants Garcia and Prather formed NTS in 2016, they allegedly entered into an oral agreement with Fuse regarding certain Spanish-speaking customers in Texas. The agreement was allegedly shaped over several discussions-conducted via telephone, text messages, and in-person meetings-between Fuse representatives in Utah and Defendants Garcia and Prather in Texas. Pursuant to the agreement, Fuse representatives working in Texas were to refer interested Spanish-speaking customers to NTS, who would then connect the customers with DirecTV and pay Fuse a commission from the resulting profit. A dispute soon arose regarding the amount owed to Fuse in commissions and Fuse's access to a DirecTV “portal”-an interface that allowed dealers to track customer data and payments from DirecTV. Communication between Fuse and NTS broke down, the business relationship soured, and the instant lawsuit resulted.

         Fuse filed the instant lawsuit in Utah state court on October 24, 2016 and NTS[1] was served with the complaint three days later. NTS removed the lawsuit to this Court on November 28, 2016 on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. (Docket No. 2). On December 9, 2016, NTS filed the instant Motion to Change Venue, requesting a transfer to the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas. (Docket No. 6). Fuse filed a memorandum in opposition on January 5, 2017. (Docket No. 17). NTS did not file a reply in the time allotted by the local rules and did not otherwise submit the Motion for decision. The Court concludes that oral argument would not materially advance resolution of this Motion and therefore resolves the Motion on the briefs. See DUCivR 7-1(f).

         DISCUSSION

         As explained above, Defendants request transfer of this case to the Western District of Texas pursuant to 28 U.S.C § 1404(a). Under that section, this Court “may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought or to any district or division to which all parties have consented.” 28 U.S.C § 1404(a). However, the Court may make such an order only upon a showing that “the convenience of parties and witnesses” and “the interest of justice” justify transfer. See id.; Atl. Marine Const. Co. v. U.S. Dist. Court, 134 S.Ct. 568, 580 (2013) (explaining that § 1404(a) codified “the doctrine of forum non conveiens for the subset of cases in which the transferee forum is within the federal court system”). Thus, any party moving for a transfer under § 1404(a) must clearly demonstrate “that: (1) the transferee court is a proper forum in which the action could have been brought originally; and (2) the transfer will enhance the convenience of the parties and witnesses, and is in the interest of justice.” Cmty. Television of Utah, LLC v. Aereo, Inc., 997 F.Supp.2d 1191, 1205 (D. Utah 2014) (citing Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616, 634 (1964)).

         Here, neither party disputes that the Western District of Texas is an appropriate transferee forum under § 1404(a). Accordingly, the Court need only evaluate whether the requested transfer will materially “enhance the convenience of the parties and witnesses, and is in the interest of justice.” See Id. Again, “[t]he ‘party moving to transfer a case pursuant to § 1404(a) bears the burden of establishing that the existing forum is inconvenient.'” Emp'rs Mut. Cas. Co. v. Bartile Roofs, Inc., 618 F.3d 1153, 1167 (10th Cir. 2010) (quoting Scheidt v. Klein, 956 F.2d 963, 965 (10th Cir. 1992)); see also Tex. Gulf Sulphur Co. v. Ritter, 371 F.2d 145, 147 (10th Cir. 1967). In evaluating the relative inconvenience of this forum and the interest of justice, courts must consider

the plaintiff's choice of forum; the accessibility of witnesses and other sources of proof, including the availability of compulsory process to insure attendance of witnesses; the cost of making the necessary proof; questions as to the enforceability of a judgment if one is obtained; relative advantages and obstacles to a fair trial; difficulties that may arise from congested dockets; the possibility of the existence of questions arising in the area of conflict of laws; the advantage of having a local court determine questions of local law; and all other considerations of a practical nature that make a trial easy, expeditious and economical.

Emp'rs Mut. Cas. Co., 618 F.3d at 1167 (brackets omitted) (quoting Chrysler Credit Corp. v. Country Chrysler, Inc., 928 F.2d 1509, 1516 (10th Cir. 1991)).

         Here, NTS focuses its arguments entirely on a single factor-“the accessibility of witnesses and other sources of proof.” See id.; (Docket No. 6, at 6-7). NTS asserts that the “only reason Fuse filed this lawsuit in Utah was to make litigation costly for NTS as all witnesses, customers, [and] sales force [are located in Texas] and [all] customer service calls and [other] service[s] were performed in Texas.” (Id. at 7). Fuse responds that its choice of forum weighs heavily against transfer, see Emp'rs Mut. Cas. Co., 618 F.3d at 1168 (explaining that a plaintiff's choice of forum “should rarely be disturbed”), and that NTS has failed to demonstrate that Utah is inconvenient vis-à-vis the accessibility of witnesses and other sources of proof, (Docket No. 17, at 5). As explained below, the Court agrees with Fuse and concludes that NTS has failed to carry its burden to demonstrate any inconvenience necessitating transfer. See Emp'rs Mut. Cas. Co., 618 F.3d at 1167 (placing the burden on movant to demonstrate inconvenience of a given forum).

         A. FUSE'S CHOICE OF FORUM

         The Court finds that the first factor-the plaintiff's choice of forum-weighs heavily against transfer. “Unless the balance is strongly in favor of the movant, the plaintiff's choice of forum should rarely be disturbed.” Emp'rs Mut. Cas. Co., 618 F.3d at 1168 (brackets and quotations omitted) (quoting Scheidt v. Klein, 956 F.2d 963, 965 (10th Cir. 1992)). Thus, district courts must normally accord “great weight” to the plaintiff's choice of forum. KCJ Corp. v. Kinetic Concepts, Inc., 18 F.Supp.2d 1212, 1214 (D. Kan. 1998). But, “where the facts giving rise to the lawsuit have no material relation or significant connection to the plaintiff's chosen forum, ” courts treat plaintiff's choice of forum with significantly less deference-assigning it ...


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