Nicholas Malfitano Jan. 21, 2016, 1:19pm


PHILADELPHIA – Citing the time of legal action being filed and consideration of multiple interest factors, a federal judge has transferred a class action lawsuit against a marketing research firm from Pennsylvania to Florida.

Judge Anita B. Brody of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled Tuesday a class action filed by Alicia Thompson of Pennsylvania against Global Marketing Research Services (GMRS) of Melbourne, Fla., would be transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

Thompson initiated legal action against GMRS in June, charging they violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by calling cell phone customers in Pennsylvania without first obtaining their consent, in the course of conducting their business and political survey research.

GMRS motioned to transfer the case to Florida, where another class action suit (Martin v. Global Marketing Research Services) was already pending against it for similar alleged violations of the TCPA. Both suits contained similar language and the same plaintiff counsel filed both actions. The Martin suit was filed in August 2014, and GMRS cited the first-to-file rule in their motion to transfer.

The first-to-file rule provides that “in all cases of concurrent jurisdiction, the Court which first has possession of the subject must decide it.” 

Though Thompson argued the class definitions in both cases were different (her suit includes individuals in Pennsylvania while the Martin suit excludes individuals in Pennsylvania), Brody said the subject matter of the two suits was “substantially the same” and weighed in favor of transferring the case.

Brody then considered both the public and private interest factors (known as Jumara factors) regarding transfer of the case. Public factors included enforceability of the judgment, court docket crowding and the judge’s familiarity with local case law, among others, while private factors included forum preferences of the parties involved, convenience of the parties involved and origin of the claim.

Brody felt that administrative procedures could be made easier if the case’s jurisdiction were transferred, an element which would “weigh heavily in favor of transfer.”

“Transferring this case to the Middle District of Florida – which is already overseeing discovery with respect to GMRS’s campaigns in forty-eight other states – will potentially result in more streamlined discovery and a more efficient resolution of claims. This will both conserve judicial resources and be more convenient for the parties and the witnesses,” Brody said.

Brody explained the pending Martin case in the Middle District of Florida would be “given considerable weight” in this matter, and the other Jumara factors “did not tip the scales” against transferring Thompson’s case.

“Because the first-to-file rule applies to this case, and the Jumara factors support transferring Thompson’s case, I will grant GMRS’s motion to transfer,” Brody said.

The plaintiff was represented by Barry L. Cohen of Royer Cooper Cohen Braunfeld in Conshohocken and Steven L. Woodrow of Woodrow & Peluso in Denver.

The defendants are represented by Steven G. Schwartz of Schwartz Law Group in Boca Raton, Fla., plus Jonathan S. Ziss and Michael P. Luongo of Goldberg Segalla in Philadelphia.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:15-cv-03576

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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