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First Financial Bank N.A. v. Williams

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division

September 25, 2019

FIRST FINANCIAL BANK, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION PLAINTIFF
v.
TIMOTHY N. WILLIAMS DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Thomas B. Russell, Senior Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Timothy Williams’ motion to transfer venue. [DN 5.] Plaintiff First Financial Bank (“First Financial”) responded, [DN 14], and Defendant replied, [DN 15.] Fully briefed, this matter is now ripe for adjudication. For the reasons stated herein, Defendant’s motion is DENIED.

         I. Background

         This action arises out of Defendant Williams’ former employment with First Financial. Williams was Vice President of Mortgage Services for Heritage Bank from October 2013 until July 22, 2019. [DN 4-2 at 3.] Heritage Bank maintained its headquarters in Hopkinsville, Kentucky and operated in locations throughout Southwest Kentucky and Northern Tennessee. [DN 4-2 at 32.] Heritage Bank merged into First Financial on July 27, 2019. [Id. at 9.]

         In January 2017, Williams entered into an Employment Agreement with Heritage Bank. [Id. at 3.] The employment agreement selected Christian County Circuit Court for the venue and Kentucky law to govern. [DN 4-3 at 5.] First Financial alleges Williams planned secret meetings with employees of Heritage Bank and encouraged them to remove confidential business information. [DN 4-2 at 7-8.] Heritage Bank terminated Williams who began working for First Advantage. [Id. at 9.]

         First Financial initiated this suit against Williams on September 5, 2019 in Christian County Circuit Court. [Id. at 41.] Williams subsequently removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332 and 1441. [DN 1.] Williams then filed the motion to transfer venue at hand.

         II. Legal Standard

         28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) provides that, 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.” The plain text of § 1404(a) requires a two-part analysis. The Court must first determine if the action could have originally been filed in the transferee district. Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964). If so, the Court must then determine “whether, on balance, a transfer would serve ‘the convenience of the parties and witnesses’ and otherwise promote ‘the interest of justice.’” Atl. Marine Constr. Co. v. U.S. Dist. Court for W. Dist. of Tex., 134 S.Ct. 568, 581 (2013) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)). “As the permissive language of the transfer statute suggests, district courts have ‘broad discretion’ to determine when party ‘convenience’ or ‘the interest of justice’ make a transfer appropriate.” Reese v. CNH Am. LLC, 574 F.3d (6th Cir. 2009).

         The Court evaluates various private- and public-interest factors, always mindful to “give some weight to the [plaintiff’s] choice of forum.” Id. Factors that are relevant include (1) the convenience of the witnesses, (2) the location of relevant documents and the relative ease of access to sources of proof, (3) the convenience of the parties, (4) the locus of the operative facts, (5) the availability of process to compel attendance of unwilling witnesses, (6) the relative means of the parties, (7) a forum’s familiarity with the governing law, (8) the weight accorded the plaintiff’s choice of forum, and (9) trial efficiency and the interests of justice based upon the totality of the circumstances. McDorman v. D&G Properties, 2018 WL 6133167 *3 (W.D. Ky. Nov. 21, 2018).

         “As the permissive language of the transfer statute suggests, district courts have ‘broad discretion’ to determine when party ‘convenience’ or ‘the interest of justice’ make a transfer appropriate.” Reese, 574 F.3d at 320. The movant bears the burden of showing that transfer is appropriate. Boiler Specialists, LLC v. Corrosion Monitoring Servs., Inc., No. 1:12-CV-47, 2012 WL 3060385, at *2 (W.D. Ky. July 26, 2012).

         III. Discussion

         A. Could the Action Have Been Filed in The Middle District of Tennessee

         First Financial asserts that this suit could not have been filed in the Middle District of Tennessee. Plaintiff relies on the forum selection clause within the employment agreement. The clause unambiguously states that any suit is to be brought in the Circuit Court of Christian County, Kentucky. However, the Court disagrees. When determining whether an action could have been brought in a specific forum under § 1404, the Court only considers whether the federal venue laws are satisfied. Atlantic Marine Const. Co., Inc. v. U.S. Dist. Court for W. Dist. of Texas, 571 U.S. 49, 55 (2013). Therefore, the Court will examine whether this claim meets the requirements for § 1332 diversity jurisdiction.

         First Financial is a banking association with its principal place of business in Terre Haute, Indiana. Defendant is domiciled in Clarksville, Tennessee. The Court also agrees that it is established by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Smith v. Wyeth, Inc.,488 F.Supp.2d 625, 630 (W.D. Ky. 2007). Hayes v. Equitable Energy Resources Co.,266 F.3d 560, 572-73 (6th Cir. 2001). Therefore, this action could have been ...


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