MR. JUSTICE GOLDBERG delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case involves the construction and application of § 1404 (a) of the Judicial Code of 1948. Section 1404 (a), which allows a "change of venue" within the federal judicial system, provides that: "For 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." 28 U. S. C. § 1404 (a).
The facts, which need but brief statement here, reveal that the disputed change of venue is set against the background of an alleged mass tort. On October 4, 1960, shortly after departing from a Boston airport, a commercial airliner, scheduled to fly from Boston to Philadelphia, plunged into Boston Harbor. As a result of the crash, over 150 actions for personal injury and wrongful death have been instituted against the airline, various manufacturers, the United States, and, in some cases, the Massachusetts Port Authority. In most of these actions the plaintiffs have alleged that the crash resulted from the defendants' negligence in permitting the aircraft's engines to ingest some birds. More than 100 actions were brought in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, and more than 45 actions in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
The present case concerns 40 of the wrongful death actions brought in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by personal representatives of victims of the crash.1 The defendants, petitioners in this Court, moved under § 1404 (a) to transfer these actions to the District of Massachusetts, where it was alleged that most of the witnesses resided and where over 100 other actions are pending. The District Court granted the motion, holding that the transfer was justified regardless of whether the transferred actions would be governed by the laws and choice-of-law rules of Pennsylvania or of Massachusetts. 204 F.Supp. 426. The District Court also specifically held that transfer was not precluded by the fact that the plaintiffs had not qualified under Massachusetts law to sue as representatives of the decedents. The plaintiffs, respondents in this Court, sought a writ of mandamus from the Court of Appeals and successfully contended that the District Court erred and should vacate its order of transfer. 309 F.2d 953. The Court of Appeals held that a § 1404 (a) transfer could be granted only if at the time the suits were brought, the plaintiffs had qualified to sue in Massachusetts, the State of the transferee District Court. The Court of Appeals relied in part upon its interpretation of Rule 17 (b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.2
We granted certiorari to review important questions concerning the construction and operation of § 1404 (a). 372 U.S. 964. For reasons to be stated below, we hold that the judgment of the Court of Appeals must be reversed, that both the Court of Appeals and the District Court erred in their fundamental assumptions regarding the state law to be applied to an action transferred under § 1404 (a), and that accordingly the case must be remanded to the District Court.3
I. WHERE THE ACTION "MIGHT HAVE BEEN BROUGHT."
Section 1404 (a) reflects an increased desire to have federal civil suits tried in the federal system at the place called for in the particular case by considerations of convenience and justice.4 Thus, as the Court recognized in Continental Grain Co. v. Barge FBL-585, 364 U.S. 19, 26, 27, the purpose of the section is to prevent the waste "of time, energy and money" and "to protect litigants, witnesses and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense . . . ." To this end it empowers a district court to transfer "any civil action"5 to another district court if the transfer is warranted by the convenience of parties and witnesses and promotes the interest of justice. This transfer power is, however, expressly limited by the final clause of § 1404 (a) restricting transfer to those federal districts in which the action "might have been brought." Although in the present case the plaintiffs were qualified to bring suit as personal representatives under Pennsylvania law (the law of the State of the transferor federal court), the Court of Appeals ruled that the defendants' transfer motion must be denied because at the time the suits were brought in Pennsylvania (the transferor forum) the complainants had not obtained the appointments requisite to initiate such actions in Massachusetts (the transferee forum). At the outset, therefore, we must consider whether the incapacity of the plaintiffs at the time they commenced their actions in the transferor forum to sue under the state law of the transferee forum renders the latter forum impermissible under the "might-have-been-brought" limitation.
There is no question concerning the propriety either of venue or of jurisdiction in the District of Massachusetts, the proposed transferee forum.6 The Court of Appeals conceded that it was "quite likely" that the plaintiffs could have obtained ancillary appointment in Massachusetts but held this legally irrelevant. 309 F. 2d, at 957-958. In concluding that the transfer could not be granted, the Court of Appeals relied upon Hoffman v. Blaski, 363 U.S. 335, as establishing that "unless the plaintiff had an unqualified right to bring suit in the transferee forum at the time he filed his original complaint, transfer to that district is not authorized by § 1404 (a)." 309 F. 2d, at 957. (Emphasis in original.) The court found the analogy to Hoffman particularly persuasive because it could "perceive no basis in either logic or policy for making any distinction between the absence of venue in the transferee forum and a prospective plaintiff's lack of capacity to sue there." Ibid. In addition, the court held that the transfer must be denied because in actions by personal representatives "Rule 17 (b), Fed.R.Civ.P., requires the district court to refer to the law of the state in which it sits to determine capacity to use."7 Id., at 958.
The defendants contend that the concluding phrase of § 1404 (a)—"where it might have been brought"—refers to those districts in which Congress has provided by its venue statutes that the action "may be brought." Applying this criterion, the defendants argue that the posture of the case under state law is irrelevant. They contend that Hoffman v. Blaski, supra, did not rule that the limitations of state law were relevant to determining where the action "might have been brought" but ruled only that the requirement prohibited transfer where the proposed transferee forum lacked both venue of the action and power to command jurisdiction over the defendants when the suits were originally instituted. The defendants contend further that the decision below is contrary to the policy underlying Hoffman, since this decision effectively enables a plaintiff, simply by failing to proceed in other potential forums and qualify as a personal representative, to restrict and frustrate efforts to have the action transferred to a federal forum which would be far more convenient and appropriate. Finally, with regard to the conclusion that Rule 17 (b) precludes transfer, the defendants argue that under § 1404 (a) the effect of the Rule, like the existence of different state laws in the transferee forum, is not relevant to a determination of where, as indicated by federal venue laws, the action "might have been brought." The defendants conclude that the effect of transfer upon potential state-law defenses and upon the state law applied under Rule 17 (b) should instead be considered and assessed with reference to the criterion that the transfer be "in the interest of justice." See infra, pp. 624-626, 640-643.
The plaintiffs respond emphasizing that they are "Pennsylvania fiduciaries representing the estates of Pennsylvania decedents." They were not and are not qualified to bring these or related actions in Massachusetts and their lack of capacity would, under Massachusetts law, constitute "an absolute defense." The plaintiffs contend that Hoffman v. Blaski established that transfer must be denied unless, at the time the action was brought, the complainant had an independent right to institute that action in the transferee forum regardless of the fact that the defendant in seeking transfer might expressly or implicitly agree to venue and jurisdiction in the transferee forum and waive defenses that would have been available only under the law of the transferee State. In addition, the plaintiffs argue, even if the limiting phrase "where-it-might-have-been-brought" relates only to federal venue laws, Rule 17 (b) expressly provides that the capacity of a fiduciary to sue in a United States district court shall be determined "by the law of the state in which the district court is held." The plaintiffs understand the language of the Rule to refer to the law of the State in which the transferee court is held rather than to the law of the State of the transferor court. They conclude that since they "were not qualified to sue in Massachusetts [the State in which the transferee court would be held], they were not qualified to sue in the United States district court in Massachusetts and the District of Massachusetts was not a district in which these actions `might have been brought.' "
A. In Hoffman v. Blaski this Court first considered the nature of the limitation imposed by the words "where it might have been brought." The plaintiff opposed the defendant's motion to transfer on the ground that the proposed transferee forum lacked both "venue over the action and ability to command jurisdiction over the . . ." defendant.8 363 U. S., at 337. The question, as stated by the Court, was "whether a District Court, in which a civil action has been properly brought, is empowered by § 1404 (a) to transfer the action, on the motion of the defendant, to a district in which the plaintiff did not have a right to bring it." Id., at 336. (Emphasis in original.) The defendant emphasized that "venue, like jurisdiction over the person, may be waived." Id., at 343. This Court held that, despite the defendant's waivers or consent, a forum which had been improper for both venue and service of process was not a forum where the action "might have been brought."9
In the present case the Court of Appeals concluded that transfer could not be granted because here, as in Hoffman v. Blaski, the plaintiffs did not have an "independent" or "unqualified" right to bring the actions in the transferee forum.10 The propriety of this analogy to Hoffman turns, however, on the validity of the assumption that the "where-it-might-have-been-brought" clause refers not only to federal venue statutes but also to the laws applied in the State of the transferee forum. It must be noted that the instant case, unlike Hoffman, involves a motion to transfer to a district in which both venue and jurisdiction are proper. This difference plainly demonstrates that the Court of Appeals extended the Hoffman decision and increased the restrictions on transfers to convenient federal forums. The issue here is not that presented in Hoffman but instead is whether the limiting words of § 1404 (a) prevent a change of venue within the federal system because, under the law of the State of the transferee forum, the plaintiff was not qualified to sue or might otherwise be frustrated or prejudiced in pursuing his action.
We cannot agree that the final clause of § 1404 (a) was intended to restrict the availability of convenient federal forums by referring to state-law rules, such as those concerning capacity to sue, which would have applied if the action had originally been instituted in the transferee federal court. Several considerations compel this conclusion. First, if the concluding clause is considered as an independent entity and perused for its plain meaning, it seems clear that the most obvious referents of the words are found in their immediate statutory context.11 Section 1404 (a) was enacted as part of Chapter 87 of Part IV of the Judicial Code of 1948. That Chapter is designated "District Courts; Venue." The Chapter itself is in that Part of the Code dealing generally with "Jurisdiction and Venue." In the immediate Chapter, which includes §§ 1391-1406, the phrase "may be brought" recurs at least 10 times12 and the phrase "may be prosecuted" at least 8 times.13 The statutory context is thus persuasive evidence that the "might-have-been-brought" language of § 1404 (a) plainly refers to the similar wording in the related federal statutes and not directly to the laws of the State of the transferee forum.
Secondly, it should be asked whether the purposes of § 1404 (a) warrant a broad or generous construction of the limiting clause. The answer, we think, is quite evident. As MR. JUSTICE BLACK said, speaking for the Court in Continental Grain Co. v. Barge FBL-585, 364 U. S., at 26: "The idea behind § 1404 (a) is that where a `civil action' to vindicate a wrong—however brought in a court—presents issues and requires witnesses that make one District Court more convenient than another, the trial judge can, after findings, transfer the whole action to the more convenient court." This remedial purpose— the individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness—militates against restricting the number of permissible forums within the federal system.14 There is no valid reason for reading the words "where it might have been brought" to narrow the range of permissible federal forums beyond those permitted by federal venue statutes which, after all, are generalized attempts to promote the same goals of convenience and fairness.
Finally, in construing § 1404 (a) we should consider whether a suggested interpretation would discriminatorily enable parties opposed to transfer, by means of their won acts or omissions, to prevent a transfer otherwise proper and warranted by convenience and justice. In Continental Grain Co. v. Barge FBL-585, supra, the plaintiff, having joined in a single complaint both in rem and in personam damage claims, opposed transfer to a convenient forum on the ground that the in rem claim could not have been brought in the transferee forum.15 In approving the transfer order, this Court observed that failure to adopt a "common-sense approach . . . would practically scuttle the forum non conveniens statute so far as admiralty actions are concerned. All a plaintiff would need to do to escape from it entirely would be to bring his action against both the owner and the ship, as was done here." Id., at 24-25. The case at bar presents a similar situation. The Court of Appeals' decision would grant personal representatives bringing wrongful-death actions the power unilaterally to reduce the number of permissible federal forums simply by refraining from qualifying as representatives in States other than the one in which they wished to litigate. The extent of that power is graphically illustrated by the laws of the American jurisdictions, the vast majority of which require that, as a condition of qualifying to bring suit, a foreign executor or representative must obtain ancillary appointment or perform some preliminary act.16 The possibilities thus suggested by the facts of the present case amply demonstrate that the limiting phrase of § 1404 (a) should be construed to prevent parties who are opposed to a change of venue from defeating a transfer which, but for their own deliberate acts or omissions, would be proper, convenient and just. The power to defeat a transfer to the convenient federal forum should derive from rights and privileges conferred by federal law and not from the deliberate conduct of a party favoring trial in an inconvenient forum.
In summary, then, we hold that the words "where it might have been brought" must be construed with reference to the federal laws delimiting the districts in which such an action "may be brought" and not with reference to laws of the transferee State concerning the capacity of fiduciaries to bring suit.
B. The Court of Appeals, in reversing the District Court, relied in part upon Rule 17 (b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The relevant portion of the Rule provides that the capacity of personal representatives "to sue or be sued shall be determined by the law of the state in which the district court is held."17 In our view the "where-it-might-have-been-brought" clause does not refer to this Rule and the effect of the Rule, therefore, raises a separate question. This conclusion does not, however, establish that Rule 17 (b), if applied as interpreted by the Court of Appeals, would not preclude the requested transfer. The reliance placed on Rule 17 (b) necessarily assumes that its language—which is not free from ambiguity—requires the application of the law of the State of the transferee district court rather than that of the transferor district court.18 On this assumption, the defendants in the present case, after a transfer to Massachusetts, would be entitled to raise the defense of incapacity under Massachusetts law and thereby defeat the actions. Thus a § 1404 (a) transfer might result in a prejudicial change in the applicable state law. This possibility makes it apparent, that, although Rule 17 (b) may be irrelevant to a determination of where an action "might have been brought," the effect of the Rule may necessarily render a change of venue against the "interest of justice."
Although the Court of Appeals specifically relied on Rule 17 (b), in our opinion the underlying and fundamental question is whether, in a case such as the present, a change of venue within the federal system is to be accompanied by a change in the applicable state law.19 Whenever the law of the transferee State significantly differs from that of the transferor State—whether that difference relates to capacity to sue, statutes of limitations, or "substantive" rules of liability—it becomes necessary to consider what bearing a change of venue, if accompanied by a change in state law, would have on "the interest of justice." This fundamental question underlies the problem of the interpretation of the words of Rule 17 (b) and requires a determination of whether the existence of differing state laws would necessarily render a transfer against "the interest of justice." In view of the facts of this case and their bearing on this basic question, we must consider first, insofar as is relevant, the relationship between a change of venue under § 1404 (a) and the applicable state law.
II. "THE INTEREST OF JUSTICE": EFFECT OF A CHANGE OF VENUE UPON APPLICABLE STATE LAW.
A. The plaintiffs contend that the change of venue ordered by the District Court was necessarily precluded by the likelihood that it would be accompanied by a highly prejudicial change in the applicable state law. The prejudice alleged is not limited to that which might flow from the Massachusetts laws governing capacity to sue. Indeed, the plaintiffs emphasize the likelihood that the defendants' "ultimate reason for seeking transfer is to move to a forum where recoveries for wrongful death are restricted to sharply limited punitive damages rather than compensation for the loss suffered."20 It is argued that Pennsylvania choice-of-law rules would result in the application of laws substantially different from those that would be applied by courts sitting in Massachusetts. The District Court held, however, that transfer could be ordered regardless of the state laws and choice-of-law rules to be applied in the transferee forum and regardless of the possibility that the laws applicable in the transferor State would significantly differ from those applicable in the transferee State. This ruling assumed that transfer to a more convenient forum may be granted on a defendant's motion even though that transfer would seriously prejudice the plaintiffs legal claim. If this assumption is valid, the plaintiffs argue, transfer is necessarily precluded—regardless of convenience and other considerations—as against the "interest of justice" in dealing with plaintiffs who have either exercised the venue privilege conferred by federal statutes, or had their cases removed from state into federal court.
If conflict of laws rules are laid aside, it is clear that Massachusetts (the State of the transferee court) and Pennsylvania (the State of the transferor court) have significantly different laws concerning recovery for wrongful death. The Massachusetts Death Act provides that one who negligently causes the death of another "shall be liable in damages in the sum of not less than two thousand nor more than twenty thousand dollars, to be assessed with reference to the degree of his culpability. . . ." Mass. Ann. Laws, c. 229, § 2 (Supp. 1961). By contrast, under Pennsylvania law the recovery of damages (1) is based upon the more common principle of compensation for losses rather than upon the degree of the tortfeasor's culpability and (2) is not limited to $20,000.21 Some of the defendants urge, however, that these differences are irrelevant to the present case because Pennsylvania state courts, applying their own choice of law rules, would require that the Massachusetts Death Act be applied in its entirety, including its culpability principle and damage limitation.22 It follows that a federal district court sitting in Pennsylvania, and referring, as is required by Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co., Inc., 313 U.S. 487, to Pennsylvania choice-of-law rules, would therefore be applying the same substantive rules as would a state or federal court in Massachusetts if the actions had been commenced there. This argument highlights the fact that the most convenient forum is frequently the place where the cause of action arose and that the conflict-of-laws rules of other States may often refer to the substantive rules of the more convenient forum.23 The plaintiffs, however, point to the decision of the New York Court of Appeals in Kilberg v. Northeast Airlines, Inc., 9 N.Y.2d 34, 211 N.Y.S.2d 133, 172 N.E.2d 526, and the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Pearson v. Northeast Airlines, Inc., 309 F.2d 553, cert. denied, 372 U.S. 912, as indicating that Pennsylvania, in light of its laws and policies, might not apply the culpability and damage limitation aspects of the Massachusetts statute. The District Court, in ordering that the actions be transferred, found it both undesirable and unnecessary to rule on the question of whether Pennsylvania courts would accept the right of action provided by the Massachusetts statute while at the same time denying enforcement of the Massachusetts measure of recovery.24 204 F. Supp., at 433-436. The District Court found it undesirable to resolve this question because the Pennsylvania courts had not yet considered it and because they would, in view of similar pending cases, soon have an opportunity to do so. The District Court, being of the opinion that the District of Massachusetts was in any event a more convenient place for trial, reasoned that the transfer should be granted forth-with and that the transferee court could proceed to the trial of the actions and postpone consideration of the Pennsylvania choice-of-law rule as to damages until a later time at which the Pennsylvania decisions might well have supplied useful guidance. Fundamentally, however, the transferring District Court assumed that the Pennsylvania choice of law rule was irrelevant because the transfer would be permissible and justified even if accompanied by a significant change of law.
The possibilities suggested by the plaintiffs' argument illustrate the difficulties that would arise if a change of venue, granted at the motion of a defendant, were to result in a change of law. Although in the present case the contentions concern rules relating to capacity to sue and damages, in other cases the transferee forum might have a shorter statute of limitations or might refuse to adjudicate a claim which would have been actionable in the transferor State. In such cases a defendant's motion to transfer could be tantamount to a motion to dismiss.25 In light, therefore, of this background and the facts of the present case, we need not and do not consider the merits of the contentions concerning the meaning and proper application of Pennsylvania's laws and choice of law rules. For present purposes it is enough that the potential prejudice to the plaintiffs is so substantial as to require review of the assumption that a change of state law would be a permissible result of transfer under § 1404 (a).
The decisions of the lower federal courts, taken as a whole, reveal that courts construing § 1404 (a) have been strongly inclined to protect plaintiffs against the risk that transfer might be accompanied by a prejudicial change in applicable state laws.26 Although the federal courts have utilized a variety of doctrines in order to approve a desirable transfer and at the same time protect the plaintiffs,27 the prevailing view in the lower federal courts is that adopted by the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in 1950, only two years after the enactment of § 1404 (a), in Headrick v. Atchison, T. & S. F. R. Co., 182 F.2d 305, and further developed in the recent decision of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in H. L. Green Co., Inc., v. MacMahon, 312 F.2d 650. These cases have adopted and applied a general interpretative principle which we believe faithfully reflects the purposes underlying § 1404 (a).
In Headrick v. Atchison, T. & S. F. R. Co., supra, the plaintiff, a Missouri citizen, had been injured in an accident in California. He contended that responsibility lay with the defendant railroad, a Kansas corporation doing business in a number of States. The plaintiff's Missouri attorney entered into settlement negotiations with the defendant but "these negotiations continued until after an action was barred by the statute of limitations of California; [and] thereafter the attorney was advised that the defendant would rely upon such statute as a bar to the plaintiff's claim . . . ." Id., at 307. The plaintiff thereupon filed his action in a state court in New Mexico, where the defendant was amenable to process and where, by virtue of a longer statute of limitations, suit was not barred. The defendant then removed the case to the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico on the ground of diversity. In the District Court the defendant moved for dismissal "or in the alternative to transfer the cause to the United States District Court of California, Northern Division, pursuant to . . . § 1404 (a)." Ibid. The court denied the transfer, indicating "that it would have transferred the action to California had the statute of limitations of that state not run, but since it had, a transfer would be futile and unavailing." Id., at 308. The Court of Appeals reversed, observing first that the plaintiff:
"had a legal right to select any forum where the defendant was amenable to process and no contention is made here that the case was not properly brought in the New Mexico state court. It is conceded that the action is not barred by the New Mexico statute. Had the case been tried in the New Mexico state court, the procedural laws of New Mexico including the statutes of limitations would be applicable. . . . [I]n removal cases the Federal Court must apply the state law and the state policy." Id., at 309.
From this it followed, the court concluded, that:
"Upon removal to the Federal Court in New Mexico, the case would remain a New Mexico case controlled by the law and policy of that state, and if § 1404 (a) is applicable and a transfer to the California court is ordered for the convenience of the parties the witnesses and in the interests of justice, there is no logical reason why it should not remain a New Mexico case still controlled by the law and policy of that state." Id., at 309-310.
Although the cases following the Headrick principle have usually involved a similar problem concerning statutes of limitations, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit plainly indicated in H. L. Green Co., Inc., v. MacMahon, supra, that the Headrick rule was equally applicable to other laws of the transferor State, including choice-of-law rules, which might affect the outcome of the litigation. The plaintiff in that case brought an action under the Securities Exchange Act in the District Court for the Southern District of New York and there moved to amend his complaint to add a common-law claim arising under New York law. Without ruling on the motion to add to the complaint, the District Court granted a motion by the defendant to transfer to the Southern District of Alabama pursuant to § 1404 (a). The plaintiff objected to transfer not only because the Alabama statute of limitations would be unfavorable but also because prejudice would result from applying Alabama law "to the common law claim [which the plaintiff] has moved to join with the statutory claim." 312 F. 2d, at 652. The Court of Appeals rejected these contentions:
"Although as a matter of federal policy a case may be transferred to a more convenient part of the system, whatever rights the parties have acquired under state law should be unaffected. The case should remain as it was in all respects but location. Headrick v. Atchison, T. & S. F. Ry. Co., 182 F.2d 305 . . . ." Id., at 652-653.
The Court made the import of this rule plain by expressly declaring first that the transferee court sitting in Alabama should apply New York law in ruling on the motion to add to the complaint and, secondly, that if the complaint were thus amended, the transferee court "will apply New York law (including any relevant New York choice-of-law rules)." Id., at 654.
Of course these cases allow plaintiffs to retain whatever advantages may flow from the state laws of the forum they have initially selected. There is nothing, however, in the language or policy of § 1404 (a) to justify its use by defendants to defeat the advantages accruing to plaintiffs who have chosen a forum which, although it was inconvenient, was a proper venue. In this regard the transfer provisions of § 1404 (a) may be compared with those of § 1406 (a).28 Although both sections were broadly designed to allow transfer instead of dismissal, § 1406 (a) provides for transfer from forums in which venue is wrongly or improperly laid, whereas, in contrast, § 1404 (a) operates on the premise that the plaintiff has properly exercised his venue privilege.29 This distinction underlines the fact that Congress, in passing § 1404 (a), was primarily concerned with the problems arising where, despite the propriety of the plaintiff's venue selection, the chosen forum was an inconvenient one.30
In considering the Judicial Code, Congress was particularly aware of the need for provisions to mitigate abuses stemming from broad federal venue provisions. The venue provision of the Federal Employers' Liability Act was the subject of special concern.31 However, while the Judicial Code was pending, Congress considered and rejected the Jennings bill which, as the Court stated in Ex parte Collett, 337 U.S. 55, 64, "was far more drastic than § 1404 (a)," and which "would in large part have repealed [the venue section] of the Liability Act" by severely delimiting the permissible forums.32 This legislative background supports the view that § 1404 (a) was not designed to narrow the plaintiff's venue privilege or to defeat the state-law advantages that might accrue from the exercise of this venue privilege but rather the provision was simply to counteract the inconveniences that flowed from the venue statutes by permitting transfer to a convenient federal court. The legislative history of § 1404 (a) certainly does not justify the rather startling conclusion that one might "get a change of law as a bonus for a change of venue."33 Indeed, an interpretation accepting such a rule would go far to frustrate the remedial purposes of § 1404 (a). If a change of law were in the offing, the parties might well regard the section primarily as a forum-shopping instrument.34 And, more importantly, courts would at least be reluctant to grant transfers, despite considerations of convenience, if to do so might conceivably prejudice the claim of a plaintiff who had initially selected a permissible forum.35 We believe, therefore, that both the history and purposes of § 1404 (a) indicate that it should be regarded as a federal judicial housekeeping measure, dealing with the placement of litigation in the federal courts and generally intended, on the basis of convenience and fairness, simply to authorize a change of courtrooms.36
Although we deal here with a congressional statute apportioning the business of the federal courts, our interpretation of that statute fully accords with and is supported by the policy underlying Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64. This Court has often formulated the Erie doctrine by stating that it establishes "the principle of uniformity within a state," Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co., Inc., 313 U.S. 487, 496, and declaring that federal courts in diversity of citizenship cases are to apply the laws "of the states in which they sit," Griffin v. McCoach, 313 U.S. 498, 503.37 A superficial reading of these formulations might suggest that a transferee federal court should apply the law of the State in which it sits rather than the law of the transferor State. Such a reading, however, directly contradicts the fundamental Erie doctrine which the quoted formulations were designed to express. As this Court said in Guaranty Trust Co. v. York, 326 U.S. 99, 109:
"Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins was not an endeavor to formulate scientific legal terminology. It expressed a policy that touches vitally the proper distribution of judicial power between State and federal courts. . . . The nub of the policy that underlies Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins is that for the same transaction the accident of a suit by a non-resident litigant in a federal court instead of in a State court a block away should not lead to a substantially different result."
Applying this analysis to § 1404 (a), we should ensure that the "accident" of federal diversity jurisdiction does not enable a party to utilize a transfer to achieve a result in federal court which could not have been achieved in the courts of the State where the action was filed. This purpose would be defeated in cases such as the present if nonresident defendants, properly subjected to suit in the transferor State (Pennsylvania), could invoke § 1404 (a) to gain the benefits of the laws of another jurisdiction (Massachusetts). What Erie and the cases following it have sought was an identity or uniformity between federal and state courts;38 and the fact that in most instances this could be achieved by directing federal courts to apply the laws of the States "in which they sit" should not obscure that, in applying the same reasoning to § 1404 (a), the critical identity to be maintained is between the federal district court which decides the case and the courts of the State in which the action was filed.39
We conclude, therefore, that in cases such as the present, where the defendants seek transfer, the transferee district court must be obligated to apply the state law that would have been applied if there had been no change of venue. A change of venue under § 1404 (a) generally should be, with respect to state law, but a change of courtrooms.40
We, therefore, reject the plaintiffs' contention that the transfer was necessarily precluded by the likelihood that a prejudicial change of law would result. In so ruling, however, we do not and need not consider whether in all cases § 1404 (a) would require the application of the law of the transferor, as opposed to the transferee, State.41 We do not attempt to determine whether, for example, the same considerations would govern if a plaintiff sought transfer under § 1404 (a)42 or if it was contended that the transferor State would simply have dismissed the action on the ground of forum non conveniens.43
B. It is in light of the foregoing analysis that we must consider the interpretation of Rule 17 (b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the relationship between that Rule and the laws applicable following a § 1404 (a) transfer. As indicated, supra, at 619, the plaintiffs contend that transfer cannot be granted because, although they are fully qualified as personal representatives to sue in courts in Pennsylvania, they lack the qualifications necessary to sue in Massachusetts. Rule 17 (b) provides that for such personal representatives "capacity to sue or be sued shall be determined by the law of the state in which the district court is held."44 The question arising here is whether the Court of Appeals was correct in assuming that, in the context of a § 1404 (a) transfer between district courts, the language of the Rule referred to the law of the State in which the transferee district court is held, rather than to the law of the State of the transferor district court.
The plaintiffs, arguing that Rule 17 (b) refers only to the transferee district court, suggest that their interpretation is necessary to protect the interest of States in controlling the qualifications of foreign fiduciaries. The plaintiffs state that the vast majority of American jurisdictions permit only locally qualified foreign representatives because safeguards are needed "to protect local citizens who are potential defendants from suits by more than one fiduciary purporting to represent the same decedent and protect all persons from losses caused by the actions of irresponsible out-of-state fiduciaries." These considerations do not, however, support the plaintiffs' interpretation of Rule 17 (b).45 In the present case, for example, it is conceded that the plaintiffs are qualified as personal representatives under the laws of the transferor State (Pennsylvania). It seems clear that the defendants, who are seeking transfer to another jurisdiction, will be equitably protected if Rule 17 (b) is interpreted to refer to the laws of the transferor State (Pennsylvania). It would be ironic if Rule 17 (b) were construed so that these plaintiffs could defeat transfer by arguing that the defendants would receive inadequate protection against "foreign" fiduciaries.
We think it is clear that the Rule's reference to the State "in which the district court is held" was intended to achieve the same basic uniformity between state and federal courts as was intended by the decisions which have formulated the Erie policy in terms of requiring federal courts to apply the laws of the States "in which they sit."46 See supra, at 637-639. The plaintiffs' argument assumes,47 incorrectly we think, that the critical phrase— "in which the district court is held"—carries a plain meaning which governs even in the case of a § 1404 (a) transfer involving two district courts sitting in different States. It should be remembered, however, that this phrase, like those which were formulated to express the Erie doctrine, was employed long before the enactment of a § 1404 (a) provision for transfer within the federal system.48 We believe that Rule 17 (b) was intended to work an accommodation of interests within our federal system and that in interpreting it in new contexts we should look to its guiding policy and keep it "free from entanglements with analytical or terminological niceties." Cf. Guaranty Trust Co. v. York, 326 U. S., at 110.
Since in this case the transferee district court must under § 1404 (a) apply the laws of the State of the transferor district court, it follows in our view that Rule 17 (b) must be interpreted similarly so that the capacity to sue will also be governed by the laws of the transferor State. Where a § 1404 (a) transfer is thus held not to effect a change of law but essentially only to authorize a change of courtrooms, the reference in Rule 17 (b) to the law of the State "in which the district court is held" should be applied in a corresponding manner so that it will refer to the district court which sits in the State that will generally be the source of applicable laws. We conclude, therefore, that the Court of Appeals misconceived the meaning and application of Rule 17 (b) and erred in holding that it required the denial of the § 1404 (a) transfer.
III. APPLICABLE LAW: EFFECT ON THE CONVENIENCE OF PARTIES AND WITNESSES.
The holding that a § 1404 (a) transfer would not alter the state law to be applied does not dispose of the question of whether the proposed transfer can be justified when measured against the relevant criteria of convenience and fairness. Though the answer to this question does not follow automatically from the determination that the transferred actions will carry with them the transferor's laws, that determination nevertheless may make the transfer more—or less—practical and desirable. The matters to be weighed in assessing convenience and fairness are pervasively shaped by the contours of the applicable laws. The legal rules obviously govern what facts will be relevant and irrelevant, what witnesses may be heard, what evidence will be most vital, and so on. Not only do the rules thus affect the convenience of a given place of trial but they also bear on considerations such as judicial familiarity with the governing laws and the relative ease and practicality of trying the cases in the alternative forums.
In the present case the District Court held that the requested transfer could and should be granted regardless of whether the laws of the transferor State or of the transferee State were to be applied. 204 F. Supp., at 433-436. The court based its ruling on a general finding that transfer to Massachusetts would be sufficiently convenient and fair under the laws of either Pennsylvania or Massachusetts. We do not attempt to review this general conclusion or to reassess the discretion that was exercised. We do conclude, however, that the District Court in assuming that the transferee court would be free to determine which State's laws were to be applied, overlooked or did not adequately consider several criteria or factors the relevance of which is made more apparent when it is recognized that even after transfer the laws of the transferor State will continue to apply.
It is apparent that the desirability of transfer might be significantly affected if Pennsylvania courts decided that, in actions such as the present, they would recognize the cause of action based on the Massachusetts Death Act but would not apply that statute's culpability principle and damage limitation. In regard to this possibility it is relevant to note that the District Court in transferring these actions generally assumed that transfer to Massachusetts would facilitate the consolidation of these cases with those now pending in the Massachusetts District Court and that, as a result, transfer would be accompanied by the full benefits of consolidation and uniformity of result. 204 F. Supp., at 431-432. Since, however, Pennsylvania laws would govern the trial of the transferred cases, insofar as those laws may be significantly different from the laws governing the cases already pending in Massachusetts, the feasibility of consolidation and the benefits therefrom may be substantially altered. Moreover, if the transferred actions would not be subject to the Massachusetts culpability and damage limitation provisions, then the plaintiffs might find a relatively greater need for compensatory damage witnesses to testify with regard to the economic losses suffered by individuals. It is possible that such a difference in damage rules could make the plaintiffs relatively more dependent upon witnesses more conveniently located for a trial in Pennsylvania. In addition, it has long been recognized that: "There is an appropriateness . . . in having the trial of a diversity case in a forum that is at home with the state law that must govern the case, rather than having a court in some other forum untangle problems in conflict of laws, and in law foreign to itself." Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 509. Thus, to the extent that Pennsylvania laws are difficult or unclear and might not defer to Massachusetts laws, it may be advantageous to retain the actions in Pennsylvania where the judges possess a more ready familiarity with the local laws.
If, on the other hand, Pennsylvania courts would apply the Massachusetts Death Act in its entirety, these same factors might well weigh quite differently. Consolidation of the transferred cases with those now pending in Massachusetts might be freed from any potential difficulties and rendered more desirable. The plaintiffs' need for witnesses residing in Pennsylvania might be significantly reduced. And, of course, the trial would be held in the State in which the causes of action arose and in which the federal judges are more familiar with the governing laws.
In pointing to these considerations, we are fully aware that the District Court concluded that the relevant Pennsylvania law was unsettled, that its determination involved difficult questions, and that in the near future Pennsylvania courts might provide guidance.49 We think that this uncertainty, however, should itself have been considered as a factor bearing on the desirability of transfer. Section 1404 (a) provides for transfer to a more convenient forum, not to a forum likely to prove equally convenient or inconvenient. We do not suggest that elements of uncertainty in transferor state law would alone justify a denial of transfer; but we do think that the uncertainty is one factor, among others, to be considered in assessing the desirability of transfer.
We have not singled out the above criteria for the purpose of suggesting either that they are of controlling importance or that the criteria actually relied upon by the District Court were improper. We have concluded, however, that the District Court ignored certain considerations which might well have been more clearly appraised and might have been considered controlling had not that court assumed that even after transfer to Massachusetts the transferee District Court would be free to decide that the law of its State might apply. It is appropriate, therefore, to reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and to remand to the District Court to reconsider the motion to transfer.
Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit is reversed and the cause remanded to the District Court for further proceedings in conformity with this opinion.
Reversed and remanded.
MR. JUSTICE BLACK concurs in the reversal substantially for the reasons set forth in the opinion of the Court, but he believes that, under the circumstances shown in the opinion, this Court should now hold it was error to order these actions transferred to the District of Massachusetts.