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Finch v. Weigh Down Workshop Ministries, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division

March 18, 2019

CHANTEL RAY FINCH, Plaintiff,
v.
WEIGH DOWN WORKSHOP MINISTRIES, INC., GWEN SHAMBLIN, and "WEIGH DOWN MINISTRIES," Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          HENRY COKE MORGAN, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Weigh Down Workshop Ministries, Inc.'s ("Weigh Down"); Gwen Shamblin's ("Shamblin"); and "Weigh Down Ministries's ("WDM") (collectively, "Defendants'") Motion to Transfer Venue to the Middle District of Tennessee (the "Motion"), filed on June 25, 2018. Doc. 3. The Court held a hearing on this matter on February 7, 2019. For the reasons set forth herein, the Court DENIES the motion.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         This declaratory judgment-copyright case arises out of a dispute as to whether Plaintiffs weight-loss book, titled Waist Away the Chantel Ray Way, infringes on the weight-loss books published by Defendants. Plaintiffs book provides advice to readers on weight loss and a healthier life. Doc. 1 ("Compl.") ¶ 11. Defendants own rights to evidently similar weight-loss books. Doc. 3-1 ¶¶ 7-8.[2]

         Plaintiff lives and works in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Doc. 8 ("Finch Decl.") ¶ 2. Plaintiff claims that, in her book, she describes her personal struggle with weight loss and her interviews with over 1, 000 "thin women." Compl. ¶10. She claims that she conducted these interviews, researched the majority of her relevant information, and wrote the majority of her book in Virginia Beach. Finch Decl. ¶¶ 6-7. She claims that she wrote and published this book in 2017 and did not discover Defendants' materials until after she published her book. Compl. ¶ 9; Finch Decl. ¶ 8.

         Defendants are businesses organized under the laws of Tennessee with their principle place of business in the Middle District of Tennessee. Doc. 3-1 ¶ 3. Defendant Shamblin is a resident of the Middle District of Tennessee. Doc. 3-2 ¶ 2.

         When Defendants learned of Plaintiffs work, Defendants issued a cease and desist letter ("the Letter") to Plaintiff, telling her that Defendants were aware of her work, claiming that she was infringing on their works, and asking her to stop her "infringing activities." Doc. 3-1 ¶ 8. Defendants claim that this is the only communication they had with Plaintiff prior to this lawsuit. Id ¶ 9.

         Rather than respond to the Letter, Plaintiff filed this declaratory judgment action, asking this Court to declare that she has not infringed on any copyrights owned by Defendants. Defendants filed this motion to transfer venue. Defendants argue that under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3) and 28 U.S.C. § 1406, this Court should transfer this lawsuit to the Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville Division. Doc. 3. at 1. In the Motion, Defendants ask only that this Court transfer this case to the Middle District of Tennessee under rule 12(b)(3) and section 1406. Id. Plaintiff filed her response opposing the Motion on July 6, 2018. Doc. 7. Defendants filed their reply on July 12, 2018. On February 7, 2019, this Court held a hearing to hear oral arguments on the Motion.

         I WHETHER VENUE IS PROPER IN THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA.

         The primary issue currently before the Court is whether venue is proper in the Eastern District of Virginia.

         A. LEGAL STANDARD

         Venue in copyright cases is usually governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1400. However, because this is a declaratory judgment action, the general venue statute applies. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b), venue is proper in a judicial district if that district meets one of the following criteria:

(1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the State in which the district is located;
(2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the ...

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