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Janosko v. United of Omaha Life Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia

July 25, 2016

TRACY JANOSKO, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED OF OMAHA LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY and MUTUAL OF OMAHA, Defendants.

          OPINION

          ROBERT B. KUGLER, U.S.D.J.

         This dispute over insurance benefits stems from a denial of benefits made by Defendants United of Omaha Life Insurance Company and Mutual of Omaha (collectively, “Defendants”) following the death of Plaintiff Tracy Janosko (“Plaintiff”)’s husband. This matter comes before the Court on Defendants’ Motion to Transfer Venue to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia[1] pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) (“Defendants’ Motion” [Dkt. No. 6]). Plaintiff opposes the transfer. For the following reasons, Defendants’ Motion is GRANTED.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff resides at 2843 Meadow Lane, Falls Church, Virginia 22042. (Compl. [Dkt. No. 1] ¶ 1.) Plaintiff was married to Andrew Janosko (“Decedent”) until his death on June 23, 2014. (Id. ¶ 7.) Prior to his death, Decedent was employed by Packing Machinery Manufacturers Institute (“PMMI”), located at 11911 Freedom Drive, Suite 600, Reston, Virginia 20190. (Id. ¶ 8.) Through his employment with PMMI, Decedent received coverage for accidental death and dismemberment insurance benefits through an insurance policy (the “Policy”) PMMI obtained from Defendants. (Id. ¶¶ 9-10.) Plaintiff was named as the beneficiary under the terms of Decedent’s Policy. (Id. ¶ 11.)

         On June 22, 2014, while in a rental home in Florida, Decedent fell down the stairs of the property, suffering fatal injuries. (Id. ¶¶ 12-14.) He was later pronounced dead at Bay Medical Center in Panama City, Florida on June 23, 2014. (Id. ¶ 16.) After Decedent’s death, a claim for benefits under the Policy was submitted to Defendants. (Id. ¶ 17.) On October 14, 2014, Plaintiff received a letter from Defendants, in which Defendants denied the claim for benefits under the accidental death and dismemberment portion of the Policy. (Id. ¶ 18.) Defendants cited to a clause in the exclusion section of the Policy which denied benefits for any loss caused by the policy holder or which resulted of injuries sustained while intoxicated. (Id. ¶ 19.) The denial letter relied on toxicology reports, which Defendants claimed proved that Decedent was intoxicated at the time he received his injuries, and therefore, no benefits were to be paid. (Id. ¶ 20.)

         Plaintiff then brought suit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”)[2] in this District on February 26, 2016. (See Id. ¶¶ 23-26.) Plaintiff claims that Defendants failed to “establish and follow reasonable claims procedures in the denial of [Decedent]’s Accidental Death benefits.” (Id. ¶ 22.[3])

         II. JURISDICTION

         As stated in the Complaint, Plaintiff brings her suit under ERISA. Thus, the Court exercises subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 29 U.S.C. § 1132(f).

         III. 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 or to any district or division to which all parties have consented.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). In contrast to transfer of venue under 28 U.S.C. § 1406, where the court finds the original venue improper, transfer of venue is done under § 1404(a) “for the convenience of the parties even if the court finds that the original venue is proper.” Ferratex, Inc. v. U.S. Sewer & Drain, Inc., 121 F.Supp.3d 432, 436 (D.N.J. 2015).

         The decision whether to transfer an action pursuant to § 1404(a) is within the Court’s discretion and is reviewed for abuse of discretion. Kisano Trade & Invest Ltd. v. Lemster, 737 F.3d 869, 872 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing Lacey v. Cessna Aircraft Co., 862 F.2d 38, 43 (3d Cir. 1988)); Santi v. Nat’l Bus. Records Mgmt., LLC, 722 F.Supp.2d 602, 606 (D.N.J. 2010). The party seeking transfer of venue bears the burden of establishing that transfer is warranted and must submit “sufficient information in the record” to facilitate the Court’s analysis. Hoffer v. InfoSpace.com, Inc., 102 F.Supp.2d 556, 572 (D.N.J. 2000) (citations omitted). Before transferring venue, the Court must articulate specific reasons for its decision. Lawrence v. Xerox Corp., 56 F.Supp.2d 442, 451 (D.N.J. 1999) (internal quotations omitted).

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), the court must take into account a wide range of public and private interests when determining if a transfer to a new venue is appropriate. The Third Circuit has identified the following private factors as being significant to the § 1404(a) analysis:

[1] [P]laintiff’s forum preference as manifested in the original choice; [2] the defendant’s preference; [3] whether the claim arose elsewhere; [4] the convenience of the parties as indicated by their relative physical and financial condition; [5] the convenience of the witnesses-but only to the extent that the witnesses may actually be unavailable for trial in one of the fora; and [6] the location of books and records (similarly limited to the extent that the files could not be produced in the alternative forum).

Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3d Cir. 1995) (citations omitted). Among the public factors that courts ...


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