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Logsdon v. BNSF Railway Co.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

June 24, 2015

STEVEN C. LOGSDON, Plaintiff,
v.
BNSF RAILWAY COMPANY, and ANDREW CALLAHAN, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO TRANSFER

CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

This matter is before the Court on Defendants’ Motion to Transfer. (Doc. # 13.) Defendants BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) and Andrew Callahan request that this case be transferred to the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska. For the reasons discussed below, the instant Motion is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Steven Logsdon, a citizen of Nebraska, brought this action pursuant to the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq., and the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA), 49 U.S.C. § 20109 et seq. Plaintiff’s Complaint alleges that in September or October of 2012, he sustained injuries to his upper body while working for BNSF in Alliance, Nebraska, after he was “required to manually remove a piece of slip paper with coal on it from underneath a coal car by grabbing the slip paper with both hands and walking in a backward direction.” (Doc. # 1, ¶ 11.) Plaintiff also alleges that when he reported this injury to BNSF Management employee Callahan, Callahan became upset because there had been three prior employee injuries and one death that had occurred at BNSF’s facilities in Nebraska. (Id., ¶ 25.) Plaintiff claims that he was intimidated by Callahan to change his story about the origin of his injury, such that it would not be reportable to the Federal Railroad Administration. (Id., ¶ 26.) Specifically, in completing his BNSF Employee Personal Injury/Occupational Illness Report and handwritten statement, Callahan pressured Plaintiff to lie and state that his injury did not relate to a specific acute event and instead that his symptoms of pain had “accumulated” over a longer period of time. (Id., ¶¶ 26-27.) Plaintiff reported his injury per Callahan’s instructions, and after doing so, received medical care in Scottsbluff, Nebraska and continued working for BNSF. (Id. ¶ 29.)

However, in May of 2013, Plaintiff was asked to provide a recorded statement to BNSF Claims Representative Matthew Dimmitt about his injury report, at which point Plaintiff informed Dimmitt that, in fact, he sustained his upper-body injury as a result of the single incident described above, in 2012. (Id., ¶ 30.) In July of 2013, Plaintiff was notified that he was required to attend a disciplinary investigation for being dishonest about his injury report, and Plaintiff was permanently terminated from employment with BNSF after a formal investigation hearing was held in November of 2013. (Id., ¶¶ 32-34.)

Defendants filed the instant Motion, arguing that this action should be transferred to the U.S. District Court of Nebraska because all of the relevant events occurred in Nebraska, nearly all of the relevant witnesses reside in or are routinely working in Nebraska, and nearly all of the relevant documents and records are located in Nebraska. Plaintiff opposes the requested relief. (Doc. # 24.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), a district court may “transfer any civil action to any other district where it might have been brought” for the “convenience of the parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice.” FELA cases are not exempt from the scope of § 1404(a), notwithstanding its broad venue provision. See Ex parte Collett, 337 U.S. 55, 60–61 (1949). “The idea behind § 1404(a) is that where a ‘civil action’ to vindicate a wrong-however brought in a court-presents issues . . . that make one District Court more convenient than another, the trial judge can, after findings, transfer the whole action to the more convenient court.” Cont'l Grain Co. v. The FBL–585, 364 U.S. 19, 26 (1960). In the Tenth Circuit, the moving party must prove that (1) the action could have been brought in the alternate forum, (2) the current forum is inconvenient, and (3) the interests of justice are better served in the alternate forum. Chrysler Credit Corp. v. Country Chrysler, Inc., 928 F.2d 1509, 1515 (10th Cir.1991) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) and Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 254 (1981)).

In assessing whether parties are inconvenienced and whether the interests of justice would be best served by a transfer, the Court balances the criteria outlined in Chrysler Credit. These criteria include, but are not limited to:

[1] the plaintiff's choice of forum; [2] the accessibility of witnesses and other sources of proof, including the availability of compulsory process to insure attendance of witnesses; [3] the cost of making the necessary proof; [4] questions as to the enforceability of a judgment if one is obtained; [5] relative advantages and obstacles to a fair trial; [6] difficulties that may arise from congested dockets; [7] the possibility of the existence of questions arising in the area of conflict of laws; [8] the advantage of having a local court determine questions of local law; and, [9] all other considerations of a practical nature that make a trial easy, expeditious and economical.

Chrysler Credit, 928 F.2d at 1516 (quoting Texas Gulf Sulphur Co. v. Ritter, 371 F.2d 145, 147 (10th Cir. 1967)). The “party moving to transfer a case pursuant to § 1404(a) bears the burden of establishing that the existing forum is inconvenient.” Scheidt v. Klein, 956 F.2d 963, 965 (10th Cir. 1992) (quotation marks and citation omitted). The decision to transfer venue, however, lies in the sole discretion of the district court and should be based on an “individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness.” Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988) (quoting Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 622 (1964)).

III. APPLICATION

A. This Case Might Have Been Brought in the District of Nebraska

Plaintiff does not dispute that this case could have been brought in the District of Nebraska or that venue is proper in that District. (See Doc. # 24.) As the challenged actions here have a connection to the transferee District, the Court finds that this case might have been brought in the District of Nebraska. Similarly, because BNSF has operations in Nebraska, Defendant Callahan is subject to personal jurisdiction in that state, and because a substantial part of the events at ...


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