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Bowers v. Tension International, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

June 8, 2016

DAVID BOWERS, Plaintiff,
v.
TENSION INTERNATIONAL, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE

          William J. Martínez Judge

         Plaintiff brought this action pursuing individual and class claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., and the Colorado Wage Act, Colo. Rev. Stat. § 8-4-101 et seq. Defendant, Tension International, Inc., has filed a Motion to Transfer Venue (ECF No. 10) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), seeking to enforce a forum-selection clause found in the "Sub-Contracting Agreement" entered into by Plaintiff and Defendant (ECF No. 10-2 at 8, ¶ 11(d)) and to have this case transferred to the Western District of Missouri on that basis. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants Defendant’s Motion.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         "For 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). The party seeking to transfer a case pursuant to § 1404(a) bears the burden of establishing that the existing forum is inconvenient. See Chrysler Credit Corp. v. Cnty. Chrysler, Inc., 928 F.2d 1509, 1515 (10th Cir. 1991).

         "In the typical case not involving a forum-selection clause, a district court considering a § 1404(a) motion (or a forum non conveniens motion) must evaluate both the convenience of the parties and various public-interest considerations." Atl. Marine Constr. Co. v. U.S. Dist. Ct. for W. Dist. of Tex., 134 S.Ct. 568, 581 (2013) ("Atlantic Marine"); see also Chrysler Credit Corp., 928 F.2d at 1516 (setting out factors courts consider in "an individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness" (internal quotation marks omitted)). "Ordinarily, the district court would weigh the relevant factors and decide whether, on balance, a transfer would serve ‘the convenience of parties and witnesses’ and otherwise promote ‘the interest of justice.’" Atl. Marine, 134 S.Ct. at 581 (citing § 1404(a)).

         The calculus changes, however, when the parties have a contract containing a valid forum-selection clause, which "represents the parties’ agreement as to the most proper forum." Id. (quoting Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 31 (1988)). "[A] valid forum-selection clause should be given controlling weight in all but the most exceptional cases." Atl. Marine, 134 S.Ct. at 581 (alterations in original omitted). As relevant here, the Supreme Court has held that "[t]he presence of a valid forum-selection clause requires district courts to adjust their usual § 1404(a) analysis" in two ways:

First, the plaintiff’s choice of forum merits no weight. Rather, as the party defying the forum-selection clause, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that transfer to the forum for which the parties bargained is unwarranted. . . .
Second, a court evaluating a defendant’s § 1404(a) motion to transfer based on a forum-selection clause should not consider arguments about the parties’ private interests. When parties agree to a forum-selection clause, they waive the right to challenge the preselected forum as inconvenient or less convenient for themselves or their witnesses, or for their pursuit of the litigation. A court accordingly must deem the private-interest factors to weigh entirely in favor of the preselected forum . . . . As a consequence, a district court may consider arguments about public-interest factors only. Because those factors will rarely defeat a transfer motion, the practical result is that forum-selection clauses should control except in unusual cases."

Id. at 581-82.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, a Colorado resident, performed work for Defendant, a Missouri corporation, at a facility in Longmont, Colorado. (ECF No. 1 at 2 & ECF No. 12-1.) Plaintiff and Defendant entered into sub-contracting agreements governing this work as of January 10, 2013 and October 13, 2013. (ECF Nos. 10-2 & 10-3.) Both agreements contain an identical forum selection provision:

The parties consent to the exclusive jurisdiction of courts situated in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri or the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri in the event any legal proceedings are instituted relating to this Agreement.

(ECF No. 10-2 at 8, ¶ 11(d); ECF No. 10-3 at 8, ¶ 11(d).)

         Plaintiff brought this suit on December 16, 2015, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, alleging that they should have been classified as employees, not as sub-contractors or independent contractors. (ECF No. 1 at 8-10.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated the FLSA and other provisions of federal law, as well as the Colorado Wage Act, Colo. Rev. Stat. § 8-4-101 et seq.[1] Plaintiff’s Complaint seeks a declaratory judgment that he was an employee, damages for misclassification, unpaid overtime pay, civil damages for fraudulent tax reporting pursuant to 26 U.S.C. § ...


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