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Sellers v. Whole Foods Market Group, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division

April 2, 2019

EVERETT SELLERS, Plaintiff,
v.
WHOLE FOODS MARKET GROUP, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          W. CARLETON METCALF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Transfer Venue (Doc. 7). The issues have been fully briefed, and the matter is ripe for ruling. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is denied.

         I. Procedural Background

         On August 27, 2018, Plaintiff filed his Complaint in the Superior Court Division of the General Court of Justice of Jackson County, North Carolina. See (Doc. 1-1).

         Defendant removed the case to the Western District of North Carolina, Charlotte Division, on October 26, 2018 based on diversity jurisdiction. The case was then transferred to the Asheville Division.

         On November 9, 2018, Defendant filed its Answer (Doc. 6).

         On November 20, 2018, Defendant filed the instant Motion to Transfer Venue (Doc. 7) and a supporting brief (Doc. 8). Plaintiff later filed a response (Doc. 12) and Defendant replied (Doc. 13). Plaintiff also filed, with leave of Court, a sur-reply (Doc. 19).

         Other filings were interspersed with the parties' submissions concerning the Motion to Transfer Venue, including an Amended Complaint (Doc. 10) and a partial motion to dismiss, which motion was denied by the presiding District Judge (Doc. 20).[1]

         II. Factual Background

         A summary of the facts, as set forth in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Doc. 10), is as follows:

         Plaintiff is a resident of Jackson County, North Carolina, and Defendant is a Delaware corporation that conducts business in Braselton, Georgia. Am. Compl. (Doc. 10) ¶¶ 1, 2, 7. Plaintiff contends that Defendant has significant contacts with the state of North Carolina, “including but not limited to owning and/or operating fifteen stores in North Carolina . . . operating commercial motor vehicles on the roads and highways throughout North Carolina . . . and sell[ing] other products . . . with other entities in North Carolina.” Id. ¶ 3.

         On September 28, 2015, Plaintiff, an employee of Grant & Holden, Inc., was directed by his employer to pick up a loaded commercial trailer that contained bales of “bundled cardboard” from Defendant's Distribution Center located in Braselton, Georgia. Id. ¶¶ 7, 8. Employees at the Distribution Center had loaded the trailer with the bales prior to Plaintiff's arrival and left the trailer parked outside of the security gates of the Distribution Center “on an incline and/or hill” for Plaintiff to pick up. Id. ¶¶ 8, 10, 11.

         Plaintiff arrived at the Distribution Center after it had closed and attached his tractor to the loaded trailer. Id. ¶¶ 13, 14. Plaintiff transported the trailer to Jackson County, North Carolina. Id. When he arrived at Jackson Paper Manufacturing in Sylva, North Carolina, Plaintiff opened the doors of the trailer and two bales of cardboard fell out and onto Plaintiff, crushing his pelvis. Id. ¶¶ 14, 16.

         Plaintiff has asserted the following claims: (1) Negligence; (2) Negligent Hiring, Training, and Supervision; (3) Res Ipsa Loquitur; and (4) Last Clear Chance. See id.

         III. Legal Standard

         Title 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) allows a case to be transferred for the convenience of the parties and witnesses, and in the interest of justice, to any jurisdiction where the matter “might have been brought.” Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 613 (1964). The decision to transfer a matter pursuant to § 1404(a) is discretionary. See Akers v. Norfolk & Western Railway Co., 378 F.2d 78, 80 (4th Cir. 1967).

         The burden of persuasion is on the movant to show “(1) more than a bare balance of convenience in [its] favor and (2) that a transfer does more than merely shift the inconvenience.” Datasouth Computer Corp. v. Three Dimensional Tech., Inc., 719 F.Supp. 446, 451 (W.D. N.C. 1989) (quotation omitted, and alteration added).

         The following factors are reviewed when a motion to ...


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