United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin, Milwaukee Division
JOSEPH, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Walton brings this lawsuit against the United States of
America under the Federal Tort Claims Act. He alleges that
medical personnel at a federal prison in the Eastern District
of Arkansas where he was incarcerated failed to provide him
adequate follow-up care after a corneal transplant of his
right eye and that as a result, he suffered severe vision
loss in his right eye. The United States of America moves to
transfer venue of the lawsuit to the Eastern District of
Arkansas under 28 U.S.C. §1404(a).
28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), a court may transfer a case to
another district where the action may have been brought if
transfer serves the convenience of the parties and witnesses
and will promote the interests of justice. 28 U.S.C. §
1404(a). The parties do not dispute that venue is proper in
both the Eastern District of Wisconsin and the Eastern
District of Arkansas. Accordingly, I need only address
whether transfer would serve the convenience of the parties
and witnesses and promote the interests of justice. The
convenience inquiry requires consideration of the situs of
material events, ease of access to sources of proof,
including the location of the parties and the witnesses, and
plaintiff's choice of forum. Harley-Davidson, Inc. v.
Columbia Tristar Homes Video, Inc., 851 F.Supp. 1265,
1269 (E.D. Wis. 1994); Kinney v. Anchorlock Corp.,
736 F.Supp. 818, 829 (N.D. Ill. 1990). The “interest of
justice” analysis focuses on whether transfer would
promote the “efficient administration of the court
system, ” including whether transfer would insure or
hinder a speedy trial. Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron
Works, 796 F.2d 217, 221 (7th Cir. 1986). As the movant
in this case, the United States bears the burden of
establishing that the transferee forum is clearly more
convenient. Id. at 219.
with the convenience inquiry. The plaintiff's choice of
forum is usually given substantial weight, particularly if it
is also the plaintiff's home forum. However, the
plaintiff's choice of forum is given less deference when
the incident underlying the complaint did not occur in the
chosen forum. In this case, the Eastern District of Wisconsin
is Walton's home, but the events underlying the complaint
occurred in the federal prison in the Eastern District of
Arkansas. Therefore, this factor weighs in favor of transfer.
the ease of access to proof, given today's technology,
access to documents would not be an inconvenience to either
party. This is not a case where it is necessary to visit the
sight of the incident. Accordingly, this consideration does
not tip the scale in favor of either location.
heart of the dispute on the convenience inquiry is which
district is more convenient for the parties and witnesses.
The United States maintains that all of the witnesses that
might be called at trial reside in the Eastern District of
Arkansas or in nearby Memphis Tennessee. It, therefore,
argues that keeping the case in this district would be
expensive and unnecessarily time consuming. (Gov't Br. at
4, Docket # 12.)
argues, as already stated, that he resides in the Eastern
District of Wisconsin. He further argues that because of his
loss of vision and his lack of employment, travelling would
be difficult for him. Additionally, he argues that his
treating physician who will testify in support of his claim
resides in this district. Finally, Walton anticipates calling
as witnesses family and friends who can attest to the impact
his blindness has had on his life and ability to work.
Because of all this, he argues that transferring venue to the
Eastern District of Arkansas would create significant
financial and logistical burden on his ability to prosecute
his claim. (Pl.'s Br. at 4, Docket # 13.)
that either side will have to travel and suffer the
inconveniences and expenses associated with travel, this
becomes a question of which side would be more inconvenienced
and financially burdened. Though a close call, it appears
that Walton and his witnesses would be more inconvenienced.
In addition to Walton being unemployed, his blindness would
make it difficult for him to travel. Further, unlike the
United States' witnesses whose travel expenses would be
covered by their employer, Walton's witnesses, his
treating physician and family members, would have to cover
their own costs of travel. I also consider that this is not a
case where the United States will have to produce inmates to
testify and be burdened by the security risks associated with
the transportation of inmates. The United States'
witnesses are the medical professionals of the prison or
contracted by the prison. Also, as the party with the burden
of proof at trial, Walton is more likely to be prejudiced if
he cannot get his witnesses to travel to the Eastern District
of Arkansas to testify. Accordingly, the defendants have not
shown that the Eastern District of Arkansas is the more
convenient location for all or most of the witnesses. Thus,
this factor weighs against transfer.
“interests of justice” analysis focuses on
whether transfer would promote the “efficient
administration of the court system, ” including whether
transfer would insure or hinder a speedy trial.
Coffey, 796 F.2d at 221. The interests of justice
may be determinative in a particular case, even if the
convenience of the parties and witnesses might call for a
different result. Id. at 220.
United States correctly argues that this lawsuit is in its
early stage and that there are no significant motions under
consideration weighing against transfer of venue. As for the
efficient administration of justice, the United States
submits that the two districts offer competing advantages.
Citing to the Federal Court Management Statistics, the United
States submits that the Eastern District of Wisconsin reaches
civil dispositions faster, but the Eastern District of
Arkansas brings cases to civil trial more quickly. In my
view, because the districts offer competing advantages,
neither keeping the case in this district nor transferring it
to the Eastern District of Arkansas would hinder the interest
end, balancing the convenience of the parties and witnesses
and the interest of justice, I am not persuaded the United
States has shown that the scale tips in favor of transfer to
the Eastern District of Arkansas. I appreciate that the
underlying incident occurred in the Eastern District of
Arkansas. Though this is an important consideration, it is
not the only factor to consider. I also appreciate that
having this case in this district poses inconveniences to the
United States' witnesses all or most who are medical
personnel at the federal prison in Eastern District of
Arkansas. Though the determination on the convenience to the
parties is close, the financial and logistical burden that
travel would ...