United States District Court, D. Utah
KEVIN D. and HILARY S., individually and on behalf of J.D., a minor; Plaintiffs;
BLUE CROSS AND BLUE SHIELD OF SOUTH COROLINA and THE GROUP MEDICAL BENEFITS PLAN FOR THE EMPLOYEES OF NELSON, RILEY & SCARBOROUGH, L.L.P.; Defendants.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER TO TRANSFER
N. PARRISH UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
the court is the defendants' motion to transfer venue.
[Docket 6]. The court GRANTS the motion and transfers this
case to the Middle District of Tennessee.
D. and Hilary S. are the parents of J.D., who is minor. They
reside in Tennessee. Kevin D. participates in a self-funded
employee welfare benefits plan (Plan). He and his family
receive healthcare coverage through the Plan, which is
administered in the State of South Carolina by Blue Cross and
Blue Shield of South Carolina (Blue Cross).
D. and Hilary S. enrolled J.D. in a residential treatment
facility in New Mexico so that he could receive mental health
treatment. On June 1, 2016, Blue Cross decided that the Plan
would no longer pay for J.D.'s treatment. After
unsuccessfully appealing from this denial of coverage, Kevin
D. and Hilary S. sued Blue Cross and the Plan in Utah under
the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).
defendants moved to transfer venue under 28 U.S.C. §
1404(a). They argued that the case had little or no
connection to Utah and that the case should be transferred to
the District of South Carolina, the state where the decision
to deny coverage was made. In the alternative, the defendants
argued that the case should be transferred to the Middle
District of Tennessee, where the plaintiffs reside. The
plaintiffs did not oppose the defendants' motion to
transfer venue. But they requested that the case be
transferred to the Middle District of Tennessee rather than
the District of South Carolina.
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. § 1404(a). In deciding
whether to transfer venue, the court weighs the following
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.
Employers Mut. Cas. Co. v. Bartile Roofs, Inc., 618
F.3d 1153, 1167 (10th Cir. 2010).
case, the plaintiffs concede that the case should be
transferred. The only question is where. The plaintiffs
assert that the case should be transferred to the Middle
District of Tennessee, where they reside. The defendants
argue that the case should be transferred to the District of
South Carolina where they reside and where the decision to
stop covering J.D.'s treatment was made.
determining where to transfer this case, the court applies
the same factors used to determine whether a transfer of
venue should be granted. The court, therefore, first looks to
the plaintiffs' choice of forum. Although this factor
typically favors the forum where the case was filed, the
plaintiffs have conceded that the case should be transferred
out of this district. The plaintiffs have instead expressed
their preference that the case be transferred to the Middle
District of Tennessee. Although technically this is the
plaintiffs' second choice, the court finds that the
plaintiffs' preference is entitled to deference. There is
no indication that by choosing their home forum the
plaintiffs are choosing an inconvenient forum to
“‘vex,' ‘harass,' or
‘oppress' the defendant by inflicting upon him
expense or trouble not necessary to his own right to pursue
his remedy.” Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330
U.S. 501, 508 (1947) (citation omitted). Indeed, the
defendants concede that the Middle District of Tennessee is
an appropriate forum for this case- just not their preferred
plaintiff's choice of forum should rarely be
disturbed.” Employers Mut., 618 F.3d at 1167;
accord Gulf Oil Corp, 330 U.S. at 508. Only if the
other factors strongly favor another forum should a court
transfer a case to a defendant's preferred forum.
Id. Here, the venue transfer factors do not strongly
favor South Carolina over the Middle District of Tennessee.
accessibility of witnesses factor, the cost of making the
necessary proof factor, and the relative advantages and
obstacles to a fair trial factor are all neutral because of
the nature of this case. The plaintiffs' ERISA claims
rest upon the administrative record of Blue Cross's
denial of benefits decision. Because the administrative
record usually cannot be supplemented, Jewell v. Life
Ins. Co. of N. Am., 508 F.3d 1303, 1309 (10th Cir.
2007), issues related to witnesses, the cost of making proof,
and a trial are largely irrelevant, see Danny P. v.
Catholic Health Initiatives, No. 1:14-CV-00022-DN, 2015
WL 164183, at *2 (D. Utah Jan. 13, 2015). An ...