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Enriquez v. Seaton, LLC

United States District Court, D. Kansas

February 26, 2014

SARAH M. ENRIQUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
SEATON, LLC d/b/a STAFF MANAGEMENT, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

RICHARD D. ROGERS, District Judge.

Plaintiff is a former employee of defendant who filed a state court petition in the District Court for Montgomery County, Kansas alleging that she was terminated from her position at defendant's facility in Coffeyville, Kansas in retaliation for filing a workers compensation claim. Plaintiff currently resides in Texas. Defendant removed the case to this court on the grounds of diversity jurisdiction.

This case is now before the court upon defendant's motion to dismiss for improper venue pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(3). Defendant's motion is based upon a forum-selection clause contained in a one-page employment agreement signed by plaintiff. Defendant contends that the clause requires that this case be brought in Chicago, Illinois. The clause states:

I agree that this agreement and the performance hereunder shall be governed by the laws of Illinois. All suits arising from this agreement and the performance hereunder shall be brought in the appropriate court in Chicago, Illinois. I shall be responsible for any and all litigation and collections costs and expenses, including attorney's fees, in any manner arising from any breach of, or the failure to perform under, this agreement.

In further support of its motion, defendant asserts that it is a Chicago-based company that employs 10, 276 people in 23 states, and that all of its managerial team, business records, and human resources files are maintained in Chicago.

Upon review and consideration, the court shall treat defendant's motion as a motion to transfer under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The court shall grant the motion to transfer and direct that this case be transferred to the Northern District of Illinois and assigned to a court located in Chicago.

I. Defendant's motion to dismiss under FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(3) should be treated as a motion to transfer under § 1404(a).

Venue is proper in this court for the purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 1391. This case is in "a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred." § 1391(b)(2). In the recent case of Atlantic Marine Construction Co., Inc. v. U.S. District Court , 134 S.Ct. 568, 577 (2013), the Supreme Court held that a motion to dismiss for "improper venue" under Rule 12(b)(3) was not the proper device to enforce a forum-selection clause when venue was authorized under § 1391. Instead, the proper approach to enforce a forum-selection clause is to file a motion to transfer under § 1404(a). Id . at 579. So, the court shall treat defendant's motion to dismiss as a motion to transfer.[1]

II. Transfer is proper under § 1404(a).

Section 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 or to any district or division to which all parties have consented." Obviously, defendant is relying upon the consent of the parties as demonstrated in the forum-selection clause as the major factor in support its motion.

A. The forum selection clause is mandatory.

The court believes the meaning of the forum-selection clause should be interpreted according to Illinois law and that under such law, the clause should be considered mandatory. The Tenth Circuit has suggested that Illinois law should be applied in this instance where the parties have designated that the employment agreement is governed by the laws of Illinois. Yavuz v. 61 MM, Ltd. , 465 F.3d 418, 428 (10th Cir. 2006). Under Illinois law, the forum-selection provisions in this case would be considered as mandatory. Paper Exp., Ltd. v. Pfankuch Maschinen GmbH , 972 F.2d 753, 756 (7th Cir. 1992)("shall be filed" coupled with "all disputes, " manifests a mandatory venue clause); Continental Cas. Co. v. LaSalle Re Ltd. , 500 F.Supp.2d 991, (N.D. Ill. 2007)(indicating that language stating that "all disputes shall be resolved in an Illinois court" would be considered mandatory); Calanca v. D & S Mfg. Co. , 510 N.E.2d 21, 22-23 (Ill.App. 1987)(the word "shall" is interpreted to mean that the stated forum is exclusive).

B. The forum-selection clause covers plaintiff's retaliation claim.

Plaintiff states in her opposition to defendant's motion that "[t]here was no agreement by Plaintiff to waive her right to bring her tort claim in Kansas, the forum most convenient to her." Doc. No. at p. 6. If this statement is a claim that the forum-selection clause only covers contract claims, not tortious ...


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