United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
DOWN-LITE INTERNATIONAL, INC. Plaintiff,
CHAD AL TBAIER, ET AL., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER 
Stephanie K. Bowman U.S. Magistrate Judge.
matter is before the Court pursuant to Defendants' motion
to transfer venue and consolidate (Doc. 8) which was filed on
Thursday, August 1, 2019. A phone conference was held on
Monday, August 5, 2019 wherein Plaintiff was ordered to
respond to the motion by 10:00am Tuesday, August 6, 2019.
(See Doc. 13). Defendants were given until 1:00pm this same
day to reply if necessary. (See Doc. 14).
is an Ohio family owned corporation founded by Bob Altbaier,
Marvin Werthaiser and Larry Werthaiser, with its principal
place of business located in Ohio. (Verified Complaint, Doc.
1-4, ¶¶ 6, 12). Down-lite's business is
concentrated in the United States, Canada and Europe, but
operates globally. (Doc. 1-4, ¶2). Defendant Chad
Altbaier, one of three children of Bob Altbaier, was an
employee at Down-Lite. Chad Altbaier began working for
Down-Lite as a Management Trainee in 2001. (Declaration of
Chad Altbaier, Doc. 3-2, ¶1). Starting in 2003, Chad
Altbaier alleges to have worked out of his home in
California. (Id. at ¶2). Most recently, Chad
Altbaier was "the founder and head of Down[-]lite's
Outdoor division ...". (Doc. 1-4, ¶18). Chad
Altbaier is a signatory to an Employee Agreement that
contains noncompete and nonsolicitation provisions and a
Shareholder Agreement which also contains restrictive
covenants and a forum selection clause indicating that claims
be exclusively brought in Hamilton County, Ohio, courts.
(Doc. 1-4, ¶9, see also Doc. 13-2).
Altbaier formed his own business, Paice Partners Global, LLC,
a California limited liability company, on April 30, 2019.
(Doc. 1-4, ¶8). Paice is a single-member LLC, 100%
owned, controlled and managed by Chad Altbaier. (Id.
¶20). Chad Altbaier resigned from Down-lite, effective
August 1, 2019. Down-lite alleges that Chad Altbaier is
violating both agreements by competing with Down-lie and
misappropriating its trade secrets. (Id. at ¶
was granted an ex parte Temporary Restraining Order
("TRO") against Defendants, in Hamilton County,
Court of Common Pleas, on July 22, 2019, which by its own
terms expired on August 5, 2019. A preliminary injunction
hearing was scheduled in state court for August 5, 2019. On
July 29, 2019, Defendants removed the matter from state court
to this federal district court. In conjunction with the
Notice of Removal, Defendants filed a motion to dissolve the
TRO and the expedited discovery that was previously ordered
by the state court. This case was referred to the undersigned
on July 30, 2019 and a conference was held on July 31, 2019
to schedule the preliminary injunction hearing in this court.
It is scheduled for August 7, 2019. An expedited briefing
schedule for the motion to dissolve the TRO was established
and will be ruled on by separate order.
July 29, 2019, Defendants filed their own complaint for
damages and injunctive relief and an ex parte
application for a TRO in the Northern District of California,
Case Number 3:19cv4348-EMC. Judge Chen set a hearing on the
TRO for August 6, 2019 at 1:30 PST.
move to transfer venue to the United States District Court
for the Northern District of California and to consolidate
this matter with Altbaider, et al. v. Down-lite
International, Inc., Case No. 3:19-CV-04348, pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). (Doc. 8).
relevant part, 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) states "[f]or
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." A decision to transfer venue is discretionary.
Midwest Motor Supply Co. v. Kimball, 761 F.Supp.
1316, 1318 (S.D. Ohio 1991); Louis Dreyfus Co. Metals
Merch. LLC v. PLS Logistics Servs., No. 16-cv-00777,
2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 218053, at *3 (S.D. Ohio Sep. 30,
2017). The moving party bears the burden of proving that a
venue change is warranted. Slate Rock Constr., Co. v.
Admiral Ins. Co., No. 2:10-CV-1031, 2011 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 97122, at*19 (S.D. Ohio Aug. 30, 2011). However,
"unless the balance is strongly in favor of the
defendant, the plaintiff's choice of forum should rarely
be disturbed." Reese v. CNH Am. LLC, 574 F.3d
315, 320 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Dowling v.
Richardson-Merreti, Inc., 727 F.2d 608, 612 (6th Cir.
1984). Moreover, a valid forum-selection clause should
usually control the decision to transfer the case, unless
extraordinary circumstances are present. Atl. Marine
Const. Co. v. U.S. Dist. Court for W. Dist. Of Texas,
571 U.S. 49, 134 S.Ct. 568, 581-2, 187 L.Ed.2d 487 (2013);
Louis Dreyfus Co. Metals Merch. LLC v. PLS Logistics
Servs., No. 16-cv-00777, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 218053,
at *3 (S.D. Ohio Sep. 30, 2017).
two-step framework should be used when determining whether to
grant a motion to transfer venue. Sky Tech, Partners, LLC
v. Midwest Research Inst.,125 F.Supp.2d 286 (S.D. Ohio
2000). The court must first determine whether venue would be
proper in the proposed venue. Id. at 291. If yes,
the court must weigh a number of private and public factors
to determine whether the proposed venue is a ...