May 17, 2014

Ferens v. John Deere | Case Brief | 494 U.S. 516, 110 S.Ct. 1274, 108 L.Ed.2d 443 (1990) - US Supreme Court

FACTS: P lost right hand in a combine harvester.  P was a resident of PA and Deere a DW corporation.  P sued D in US District Court for WEstern District of PA under contract and warranty claims which had not yet run out.  The tort limitation in PA had run out so they went to MI to sue in the District Court.  this case was diversity of jurisdiction so MI law would apply.

HISTORY: P wanted to move to PA b/c of convenience believing MI law and limitations would transfer.  The District Court in PA declined to honor the MI rules saying that Van Dusen did not apply and invoked PA's 2 year limitation.  Court of Appeals affirmed but on grounds MI violates due process b/c MI had no interest in the case.

ISSUE: When the P moves for the transfer must the transferee court follow the choice of law rules that prevailed in the transferor court?

HOLDING: Yes

RATIONALE: "1404(a) does not justify one getting a change as a bonus for a change of venue."

a)  Logic is found in Erie which wants to insure "the outcome of the litigation in the federal court should be substantially the same as it would be if tried in a state court."(455)

Although 1404(a) when allowing a transfer may harm either P or D's rights b/c of the change of law it is generally a "housekeeping measure that should not alter the state law governing a case under Erie." (457)

Ruling for Deere would only discourage transfer based on inconvenience.

b) Also want to avoid forum-shopping but even no interpretation of 1404(a) allows for it b/c of diversity.

c) Van Dusen implies transfer should be made on basis of convenience not changes in law.  However this is not realistic given judicial economy to find all changes of law.  Also, inconvenience is an important consideration in not harming witnesses.

d) If not ruled on the question exists as to what law applies when court transfers or both P and D motion for a transfer.

DISPOSITION: MI statute of limitations governs.

DISSENT: Essentially says that this approves "filing-and-transfer" as "an approved form of shopping for law."