In Wiley v Gerber Products Company, 667 F. Supp. 2d 171 (D. Mass. 2009), a purchaser of fruit juice snacks for toddlers brought a putative class action against the snacks’ manufacturer in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts based on the snacks’ allegedly deceptive packaging. Plaintiff alleged fraud, breach of warranties and intentional misrepresentation under Massachusetts and New Jersey law. Defendant moved to transfer the case to the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, where a factually-identical class action already was pending.
The court first cited 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) for the proposition that, for the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a federal district court may transfer an action to any other district where the action might have been brought. The court rejected plaintiff’s argument that, as a Massachusetts resident who bought the snacks in Massachusetts, she could not have brought the action in California. The court reasoned that, under the general venue statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1391, a corporate defendant may be sued wherever it “resides,” which in turn is defined as wherever it is subject to personal jurisdiction, and defendant had consented to personal jurisdiction in California.
Turning to whether transfer was warranted, the court first held that the possibility of consolidating duplicative actions can and should be a consideration in deciding a motion to transfer, and that in such a circumstance, the preferred venue is that of the first-filed action. The court rejected plaintiff’s argument that Massachusetts was a more convenient forum than California, holding that “the proper inquiry is not whether Massachusetts is more convenient than California in the abstract but instead whether sanctioning a second, nearly identical action here is more convenient than transferring the case for the purpose of consolidation.” The court rejected plaintiff’s argument that the court’s familiarity with Massachusetts law weighed against transfer, noting that the putative nationwide class action would require choice of law analysis and the court had no special competence in the law of any other state. Finally, the court held that plaintiff’s choice of forum, which traditionally weighs against transfer, was entitled to less deference because plaintiff was proceeding on behalf of a nationwide class.