Court Grants Defendant’s Motion To Transfer Venue In Class Action Even Though Named Plaintiff’s Original Choice of Forum Was Proper

Smith v. Hireright Solutions, Inc., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55477 (E.D. Pa. 2010, June 7, 2010)

Facts: Hireright Solutions, Inc. (“Defendant”) filed a motion to transfer venue to the Northern District of Oklahoma pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404. This litigation was initiated as a consumer class action based upon Defendant’s alleged willful violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681, et seq. (“FCRA”). The action was brought on behalf of thousands of employment applicants throughout the country who claimed to be the subject of prejudicial, misleading, and inaccurate background reports created by Defendant and sold to employers. Defendant is a consumer reporting agency (“CRA”), which maintains consumer files containing public record information, including the criminal record history of individuals. Defendant sold these consumer files to potential employers consisting of a customer base of more than 28,000 businesses across the country wishing to investigate the criminal history of various job applicants. Plaintiffs alleged that, as a matter of practice, Defendant, in violation of its obligations under the FCRA, neither notified the consumer of its reporting of adverse public record information, nor maintained strict procedures designed to ensure that such information was complete, up-to-date, and accurate. Moreover Defendant allegedly reported single incidents multiple times so that the consumer’s criminal record history appeared much more serious than it actually was. By the time the consumer was made aware of the inaccurate and duplicative reporting, the report had already been sold to the requesting employer and become the basis of an employment decision.

Willful Noncompliance. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendant willfully violated the FCRA by: (1) failing to notify consumers contemporaneously of the fact that criminal record information was being provided to prospective employers; (2) failing to maintain strict procedures to assure that the information was complete and up to date; and (3) failing to utilize procedures designed to assure maximum possible accuracy of the information it sold to prospective employers.

Class Certification. Plaintiffs defined the prospective class as all natural persons residing in the United States who were the subject of a consumer report prepared by Defendant within two (2) years prior to the filing of the Complaint, who were the subjects of background reports in which criminal cases were duplicatively reported, and to whom Defendants did not provide notice that they were furnishing a consumer report on the persons prior to or contemporaneously with their provision of the report.

Venue. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), a district court may transfer an action to any other district “where it might have been brought” if this transfer is “for the convenience of parties and witnesses” and “in the interest of justice.” Analysis of a request for a § 1404(a) transfer has two components. First, both the original venue and the requested venue must be proper. Second, because the purpose of allowing § 1404(a) transfers is to prevent the waste of time, energy and money and to protect litigants, witnesses and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense, the Court is required to undertake a balancing test between public and private interests in deciding whether the interests of justice would be better served by a transfer to a different forum. The burden falls on the moving defendant to show the desirability of transferring venue and to present evidence upon which the court may rely in justifying transfer.

Venue. The named Plaintiff in this case was a resident of Pennsylvania and filed suit in his home forum. However, all of the operative facts common to the defined class occurred in Oklahoma. Because the Oklahoma forum could conceivably be just as convenient to a large number of the putative members of the class, the named Plaintiff’s choice of forum was not entitled to considerable deference. Additionally, all of the challenged consumer reports originated from Defendant’s place of business in Oklahoma. After considering the factors listed above, the Court held that the Northern District of Oklahoma was the most appropriate venue for this case and granted Defendant’s Motion to Transfer Venue.