Federal Circuit IP

In Re Planned Parenthood Federation of America 5th Cir. (Fed. Cir. October 31, 2022)

By Francisco Almeida Published March 3, 2023

In Re Planned Parenthood Federation of America 5th Cir. Case No. 22-11009, Decided October 31, 2022 (Elrod, Graves, Ho)

Overview: The Fifth Circuit made some statements about its venue law that contradict the Federal Circuit’s recent interpretation of Fifth Circuit venue case law.  Thus, transferring a case out of the Eastern and Western Districts of Texas may have become more challenging.

Facts/Procedural Posture:

  • Relator filed complaint in the Amarillo Division of the Northern District of Texas against Planned Parenthood, alleging false and fraudulent claims under the Medicaid system.
  • Petitioners (Planned Parenthood) moved to transfer to Austin Division of the Western District of Texas.
  • Ct. denied Petitioners’ motion because both private and public interest factors weighed against transfer.
  • Petitioners filed mandamus petition.

Issue on Appeal: Did the D. Ct. clearly abuse its discretion in finding that the W.D. Tex. was not a clearly more convenient venue than the N. D. Tex.?

Holding: No, because:

(1) Private interest factors weighed against transfer.

  • Vast majority of evidence was electronic, and therefore accessible from any district; some remaining documentary evidence was in both districts.
  • Petitioners failed to identify any witness unwilling to testify in existing venue.
  • Cost of flights and availability of flights did not weigh in any direction.
  • Petitioners’ failure to seek relief until seven months after case was unsealed.

(2) Public interest factors weighed against transfer.

  • Case was not delayed in Northern District.
  • Austin citizens had no more interest in this case.
  • Forum’s familiarity with the law and avoidance of conflicts-of-law.

Takeaways (Fifth Circuit Contradicting Federal Circuit’s Interpretation of Fifth Circuit Law):

  • Location of electronic evidence (most of evidence today) may receive less weight because it can easily be electronically transmitted to any forum.
  • Witnesses are presumed willing to appear in a venue unless shown to be unwilling.
    • Relative cost of lodging/meals in the two districts may be considered. Expect to see Plaintiffs in W.D. Tex. and E.D. Tex. using hotel and restaurant costs as a fact against transfer.
    • Appeals court deferred to district court’s own estimation of relative docket congestion.