Big Score Entertainment LLC v. Chriswell
A court can balance convenience and fairness to a pro se defendant against the plaintiff's choice of forum when it decides whether to grant a motion to transfer. The plaintiff, Big Score Entertainment, is a Stratford, Conn.-based record company that promotes singer-songwriter Arika Kane's products. Allegedly, the defendant, Erica Chriswell, who resides in Illinois began using the name Eryka Kane to market her music. The plaintiff sued Chriswell, alleging that she infringed its trademark for use of the name "Arika Kane," in violation of the Lanham Act and CUTPA, the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. The plaintiff presented evidence that consumers in Connecticut used the Internet to order "Eryka Kane" songs from the defendant. The defendant moved to dismiss or to transfer jurisdiction to the Northern District of Illinois, where the defendant apparently filed a related complaint that is based on the same trademark dispute. The defendant argued that she provides care for an 80-year-old individual who is on dialysis and lacks funds to hire a Connecticut attorney. The District Court found that the plaintiff established jurisdiction under Connecticut's long-arm statute, C.G.S. §52-59b. The District Court denied the defendant's claim that the court lacked personal jurisdiction. When ruling on a forum, a court may consider: 1.) the plaintiff's choice of forum; 2.) convenience of witnesses; 3.) location of evidence; 4.) convenience of parties; 5.) locus of operative facts; 6.) availability of process to compel reluctant witnesses; and 7.) means of the parties. A serious question exists with respect to whether the pro se defendant possesses the capacity to defend her interests, if the complaint is prosecuted in Connecticut. The plaintiff does not deny it possesses sufficient resources to litigate the trademark dispute in Connecticut or Illinois. The District Court granted the motion to transfer to the Northern District of Illinois. "[T]he balance of convenience and fairness," wrote the District Court, favors "the Illinois forum."