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The full case caption appears at the end of this opinion. POLITZ, Circuit Judge: GNC Franchising, Inc., challenges the district court’ s refusal to enforce a forum selection clause in its franchise agreement withCharles B. Jones. The company contends that the court erred in denying its motion to either dismiss or transfer venue under 28U.S.C. � � 1404 and 1406. For the reasons assigned, we affirm. BACKGROUND GNC, a subsidiary of General Nutrition Companies, Inc., is franchisor of General Nutrition Stores throughout the United States.The company’ s principal place of business is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Jones is the franchisee of a GNC store in LaVerne,California. In January 1995 and August 1996, the parties entered into written agreements, including an Option Agreement and a FranchiseAgreement, for Jones’ store. Each agreement contains a choice of law clause requiring that it be “interpreted and construed underthe laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which laws shall prevail in the event of any conflict of law.” Both agreementsalso contain a forum selection clause providing that any action instituted by a franchisee against GNC “in any court, whetherfederal or state, shall be brought only within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the judicial district in which Franchisor has itsprincipal place of business; and the parties waive all questions of personal jurisdiction or venue for the purpose of carrying out thisprovision.” A dispute about the agreements arose and Jones filed suit in California state court alleging multiple causes ofaction. [FOOTNOTE 2] GNC timely removed the litigation to federal court, invoking diversity jurisdiction. [FOOTNOTE 3] Thecompany subsequently moved to either dismiss or transfer venue to the Western District of Pennsylvania, citing 28 U.S.C. �1406(a). [FOOTNOTE 4] Alternatively, GNC sought a transfer of venue under 28 U.S.C. � 1404(a). [FOOTNOTE 5] After considering the motions and Jones’ response, the district court denied the motion to dismiss or transfer under � 1406(a),concluding that the forum selection clause was unenforceable because it contravened California’ s strong public policy againstsuch provisions. The court also denied the motion to transfer under � 1404(a) after weighing the relevant factors under therequisite “interest of justice” analysis. GNC petitioned for permission to appeal the district court’ s decision, citing 28 U.S.C. � 1292(b) and Federal Rule of AppellateProcedure 5. Permission was granted. ANALYSIS I. Enforcement of the Forum Selection Clauseunder � 1406 In diversity cases, federal law governs the analysis of the effect and scope of forum selection clauses. [FOOTNOTE 6] We haveheld that the rule set forth by the Supreme Court in M/S Bremen v. Zapata Off-Shore Co. [FOOTNOTE 7] controls theconsideration of a motion to dismiss for improper venue based upon a forum selection clause. [FOOTNOTE 8] In Bremen, the Supreme Court held that a forum selection clause is presumptively valid and should not be set aside unless theparty challenging the clause “clearly show[s] that enforcement would be unreasonable and unjust, or that the clause was invalid forsuch reasons as fraud or overreaching.” [FOOTNOTE 9] The court added, however, that a contractual forum selection clause is”unenforceable if enforcement would contravene a strong public policy of the forum in which suit is brought, whether declared bystatute or by judicial decision.” [FOOTNOTE 10] Moreover, even though a clause is the product of a full and free bargainingprocess, and contravenes no public policy of the forum, it “may nevertheless be ‘ unreasonable’ and unenforceable if the chosenforum is seriously inconvenient for the trial of the action.” [FOOTNOTE 11] The party challenging the forum selection clausebears a “heavy burden” of establishing the existence of one of the aforementioned grounds for rejecting itsenforcement. [FOOTNOTE 12] The district court declined to enforce the parties’ contractual forum selection clause, concluding that it contravened California’ sstrong public policy against enforcing such clauses in franchise agreements, as expressed in � 20040.5 of the California Businessand Professions Code. Section 20040.5 provides that “[a] provision in a franchise agreement restricting venue to a forum outsidethis state is void with respect to any claim arising under or relating to a franchise agreement involving a franchise businessoperating within this state.” [FOOTNOTE 13] The forum selection clause at bar would restrict venue to Pennsylvania courts. It isapparent that � 20040.5 is intended to void this clause with respect to any claim arising under or relating to the agreement involvingthe franchise located in LaVerne, California. GNC, however, contends that the district court erred in concluding that the Californiastatute embodies a strong public policy interest precluding enforcement of the clause under federal law. We find this contention to be without merit. Bremen teaches that a strong public policy may be “declared by statute.” [FOOTNOTE 14] By voiding any clause in a franchise agreement limiting venue to a non-California forum for claims arisingunder or relating to a franchise located in the state, � 20040.5 ensures that California franchisees may litigate disputes regardingtheir franchise agreement in California courts. [FOOTNOTE 15] We conclude and hold that � 20040.5 expresses a strong publicpolicy of the State of California to protect California franchisees from the expense, inconvenience, and possible prejudice oflitigating in a non-California venue. A provision, therefore, that requires a California franchisee to resolve claims related to thefranchise agreement in a non-California court directly contravenes this strong public policy and is unenforceable under thedirectives of Bremen. Accordingly, we affirm the district court’ s order denying GNC’ s motion to dismiss or transfer the actionunder � 1406(a). II. Transfer of Venue under � 1404(a) GNC also claims error in the district court’ s denial of its motion to transfer venue to the Western District of Pennsylvania underthe provisions of � 1404(a). We review that order for abuse of discretion. [FOOTNOTE 16] Under � 1404(a), the district court has discretion “to adjudicate motions for transfer according to an ‘ individualized, case-by-caseconsideration of convenience and fairness.’ “ [FOOTNOTE 17] A motion to transfer venue under � 1404(a) requires the court toweigh multiple factors in its determination whether transfer is appropriate in a particular case. [FOOTNOTE 18] For example, thecourt may consider: (1) the location where the relevant agreements were negotiated and executed, (2) the state that is mostfamiliar with the governing law, (3) the plaintiff’ s choice of forum, (4) the respective parties’ contacts with the forum, (5) thecontacts relating to the plaintiff’ s cause of action in the chosen forum, (6) the differences in the costs of litigation in the twoforums, (7) the availability of compulsory process to compel attendance of unwilling non-party witnesses, and (8) the ease ofaccess to sources of proof. [FOOTNOTE 19] Additionally, the presence of a forum selection clause is a “significant factor” in thecourt’ s � 1404(a) analysis. [FOOTNOTE 20] We also conclude that the relevant public policy of the forum state, if any, is at leastas significant a factor in the � 1404(a) balancing. [FOOTNOTE 21] The district court weighed each of the aforementioned factors and concluded that GNC failed to meet its burden of showing thatPennsylvania was the more appropriate forum for the action. [FOOTNOTE 22] Although the forum selection clause designatesPennsylvania as the exclusive forum, the court determined that other factors “clearly” demonstrated that California was moreappropriate. For example, the court found that the vast majority of the other agreements underlying Jones’ claims were negotiatedand executed in California. The court noted that Jones chose California as the forum for his lawsuit, and his choice is supported byCalifornia’ s strong public policy to provide a protective local forum for local franchisees. The court further found that the extent ofthe parties’ contacts with Pennsylvania and California clearly favored California, and that Jones’ claims arose out of theconstruction and initial operation of the store located in LaVerne, California. The court also concluded that the relative financialburdens of litigating in each of the forums favored California. Finally, the court noted that more of the relevant witnesses and othersources of proof were located in California. Review of the relevant law and record on appeal persuades us that the trial court didnot abuse its discretion in denying the motion to transfer venue under � 1404(a). The judgment appealed is, in all respects, AFFIRMED. :::FOOTNOTES::: FN1 Honorable Henry A. Politz, Senior United States Circuit Judge for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting by designation. FN2 Jones’ claims include: (1) breach of written contract, (2) negligence, (3) breach of the covenant of good faith and fairdealing, (4) selling franchises by means of untrue or misleading statements, (5) intentional misrepresentation of fact, (6) negligentmisrepresentation of fact, and (7) intentional interference with contractual relations. FN3 The district court sua sponte remanded the action to state court based upon lack of diversity jurisdiction after GNC’ s initialremoval attempt. Upon GNC’ s second attempt at removal, the court determined that it had diversity jurisdiction. FN4 “The district court of a district in which is filed a case laying venue in the wrong division or district shall dismiss, or if it be inthe interest of justice, transfer such case to any district or division in which it could have been brought.” 28 U.S.C. � 1406(a). FN5 “For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to anyother district or division where it might have been brought.” 28 U.S.C. � 1404(a). FN6 Manetti-Farrow, Inc. v. Gucci America, Inc., 858 F.2d 509, 513 (9th Cir. 1988) FN7 407 U.S. 1 (1972). FN8 Manetti-Farrow, 858 F.2d at 513. FN9 407 U.S. at 15. FN10 Id. FN11 Id. at 16. “In such circumstances it should be incumbent on the party seeking to escape his contract to show that trial in thecontractual forum will be so gravely difficult and inconvenient that he will for all practical purposes be deprived of his day incourt.” Id. at 18. FN12 Fireman’ s Fund Ins. Co. v. M.V. DSR Atlantic, 131 F.3d 1336, 1338 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 525 U.S. 921 (1998). FN13 Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code � 20040.5 (West 1997). FN14 Bremen, 407 U.S. at 15. FN15 The legislative history of � 20040.5 provides further evidence that the statutory prohibition against such forum selectionclauses reflects a strong state public policy interest. The author of the bill that became � 20040.5 stated that the bill’ s purpose was”to ensure that California franchisees are not unfairly forced to litigate claims arising out of their franchise agreement in anout-of-state court at considerable expense, inconvenience, and possible prejudice to the California franchisee.” Report to SenateJudiciary Committee, 1993-94 Regular Session, AB 1920 (Peace), at 1. The author was motivated by the concern that [m]any franchise contracts contain clauses that require a civil action or proceeding arising under or relating to a franchiseagreement to be commenced in a designated out-of-state venue, which is usually the state of the franchisor’ s headquarters. Fewfranchisees can easily afford to defend or prosecute their actions in another state. The author of AB 1920 contends that thesecontractual provisions put the California franchisee at a great disadvantage in pursuing meritorious actions against a franchisor.Moreover . . . these provisions are usually part of the standard contract which the franchisee is offered on a “take-it or leave-it”basis. In the absence of arms length negotiations and equal bargaining position, such terms are usually unconscionable. The authorasserts that it is in the state’ s interest and powers to void such contractual terms to protect its residents. Id. at 2. FN16 Lou v. Belzberg, 834 F.2d 730, 734 (9th Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 485 U.S. 993 (1988). FN17 Stewart Org. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988) (citation omitted). FN18 Id. FN19 See, e.g., Stewart, 487 U.S. at 29-31; Lou, 834 F.2d at 739. FN20 Stewart, 487 U.S. at 29 (holding that � 1404(a) governed a forum non conveniens motion to transfer based upon a forumselection clause despite the current forum’ s public policy that “may refuse to enforce” such provisions). A forum selection clause,however, is not dispositive. Id. at 31. FN21 Although the majority opinion in Stewart did not expressly state that the law of the forum is a relevant factor forconsideration under � 1404(a), the Court noted that the district court must weigh “those public-interest factors of systemic integrityand fairness that . . . come under the heading of ‘ the interest of justice.’ “Id. at 30. In a concurring opinion, Justice Kennedy andJustice O’ Connor recognized that “state policies should be weighed in the balance.” Id. at 33. We conclude that the public policyof the forum is not dispositive in a � 1404(a) determination but, rather, it is another factor that should be weighed in the court’ s �1404(a) “interest of justice” analysis. FN22 Under the doctrine of forum non conveniens, GNC bears the burden of proving that an adequate alternative forum exists. Cheng v. Boeing Co., 708 F.2d 1406, 1411 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 1017 (1983).
Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc. United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Charles B. Jones, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. GNC Franchising, Inc., a Pennsylvania Corporation; and DOES 1 through 50, Defendant-Appellant. No. 99-55633 Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. Dickran M. Tevrizian, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. CV-98-10611-DMT Argued and Submitted March 13, 2000 Filed May 3, 2000 Before: Henry A. Politz, [FOOTNOTE 1] Stephen Reinhardt, and Michael Daly Hawkins, Circuit Judges. Counsel: Philip A. Kramer, Kramer & Kaslow, Los Angeles, California, for the plaintiff-appellee. Jonathan Solish, Law Offices of Garrett J. Zelen, Los Angeles, California, and Howard A. Kroll, Preston Gates & Ellis, Los Angeles, California, for the defendant-appellant.
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