Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235 (1981)
A plane that was owned by UK companies, registered in Great Britain and manufactured in USA Pennsylvania and Ohio was crashed in Scotland. All the passengers and crew on the plan were of Scottish descendants.
The representative of Scotland citizens filed a wrongful-death litigation case in the state court of California. British authorities investigated the case. The respondent of the case filed suit for negligence and strict liability in USA court for the reason that Scottish law does not support liability and few other conditions that were not supported hence was not favorable for the respondent to carry out the case. The case was transferred from Federal District court in California to United States District Court of Pennsylvania. On grounds of forum non conveniens the case was dismissed concluding the Scotland was the right forum for the case.
A motion to dismiss the case on the basis of forum non conveniens cannot be defeated by the plaintiffs on invalid or weak reasons. For example the reason that the law in the foreign forum is less favorable for the plaintiffs as compared to the current forum is not a valid reason to dismiss the motion.
The decision to dismiss on the basis of forum non conveniens can only be reversed if the court has abused its decision. However, District Court under Gilbert analysis did not abuse its discretion because all the public and private interests factors were balanced and it was held that trial will be conducted in Scotland. All the private factors were in favor of trial in Scotland.
That is, if trail will be held in Scotland there will no problems except few minor things may cause trouble but the major part of evidence is located in Scotland. Though the plaintiffs’ will be unable to implead Scottish defendants, the estate of pilot, owner of plane and charter company maintained trial in Scotland. All the public factors were also in favor of trial in Scotland. Because the accident took place in Scotland, all the decedents were Scottish and all the parties involved in the case were either Scottish or English.
As there are already established laws and punishments to produce a defective products, any more trials regarding defective products will not be produce any major results or significant change. All manufacturers are already prevented from producing such defective products. Hence in view of public factors, District Court judgment was very reasonable regarding its decision on grounds of forum non conveneins.
Del Monte Fresh Produce Company v. Dole Food Company, Inc., 136 F. Supp. 2d 1271 (S.D. Fla. 2001)
DBCP (dibromocholoropropane) a powerful pesticide was banned in United States for its adverse affects on human health and diseases resulting from it. Even after its ban fruit companies like Dole Food Company sold it to foreign companies and used this in growth of different fruits. The case was filed on the basis that exposure to DBCP caused many damaging affects on humans and foreign countries where it was used many injuries and heath hazards were reported. All the foreign company sufferers were plaintiffs.
Some common ailments that can result from consumption of this deadly pesticide are atrophy of testicles, liver damage, sterility, cancer and miscarriages etc. Dole alleged that two companies were involved in manufacture and export of DBCP in the plaintiff’s country. These were Israel based, namely “Dead Sea Bromine Company” and “Bromine Compounds Limited” that were charged of manufacturing DBCP. The case was dismissed on the basis of forum non conveniens.
Dole had the charge to dismiss the case on forum non conveniens ground if the case was brought to that court by the plaintiffs. Plaintiffs main claim was to defendants to pay for the damages done by the use of their manufactured product DBCP. Several injuries were sustained by the manufacturing, sale and use this pesticide.
Plaintiffs were not interested in interference of foreign government and their activities. They did not claim about their involvement in the case or defendants action according to foreign law. As it was filed by plaintiffs it did not require any action or rule of international to be evaluated. Dole argued that as this case involves economies of foreign countries as well, the federal jurisdiction must be asserted.
Several foreign national allege the damages done by these multination companies by the use of such dangerous chemicals in their homeland. Dole argued that if any damage done to banana industry will be done by the US courts then it will damage their vital economy sector. It also argued that plaintiffs’ state law claims are not valid as it is important to have a federal jurisdiction as it involves foreign implications and must be conducted in federal district.
In any case where a US based company is involved in damages done to other citizens of a foreign country by the use of toxic chemicals then it must be put to trial and case must be executed in federal court. However, it was of concern that for cases that involve foreign policy are better to be executed in federal courts than State courts.
Membreno v. Costa Crociere S.p.A., 425 F. 3d 932 (11th Cir. 2005)
Membreno worked in Costa Crociere Ship Company where he got his wrist injured. He claimed that he never got attention from the ship doctor and no medical treatment was provided. He left the company and later started work on another Costa Victoria and later received treatment in United States. He filed case against Costa Crociere.
Membreno was a citizen of Honduran. He worked as an oiler on the two ships of Cruise Ships Catering & Service International, N.V. (CSCS). The ships were owned and operated by Costa rociere, S.P.A, an Italian corporation. A US based Carnival Corporation in Miami, Florida owned and run this Costa Company through an intermediary company in Italy. However, Costa doesn’t have any office in USA or any employees there.
On 12th June, he joined Costa Atlantica in Helsinki Finland. Membreno contended while he was at work on the ship the smokestack door suddenly closed and his wrist was injured. He alleges that he did not receive any medical treatment even though he instantly reported the matter to the doctor and his supervisor.
After his five year contract on ship ended he flew back to Honduras. In March 2001 he started work in Costa Victoria. His wrist injury still kept bothering him during his new work. For first time he received his medical treatment on 14th September, 2001 at Barcelona in Spain. He then traveled back to Honduras for further medical treatment. He was diagnosed with Kienbock’s disease. Dr. Francisco Murrillo who diagnosed him also recommended surgery. He then sought opinion from Dr. Jay Dennis in Miami instead of Dr. Jorge Osejo of Honduras. He also had physical therapy when he came back to Honduras.
However, the last two defendants were dismissed from the court. The other defendants Costa and CSCS sought dismissal on the basis of forum non conveniens. The case was dismissed by the district court stating that US law does not apply to Membreno’s suit. The case was dismissed on 23rd November, 2004.
The first thing in determining the forum non conveniens is to see whether the United States law applies to the present case. The eight factors were set forth to determine whether US law applies to this case, factors were
- the place of unjust act
- the flag of ship
- domicile of the victim
- domicile of the defenders
- the place of contract between the parties
- foreign forum and its suitability
- the foreign forum’s law
- the base of shipowner’s operation.
SME Racks, Inc., v. Sistemas Mecanicos Para Electronica, S.A., 382 F. 3d 1097 (11th Cir. 2004)
Castro met Sistemas Mecanicos at an exhibition where Sistemas was promoting its products. Both had a meeting and decided to have a business contract between them. Their negotiation started in Las Vegas which was later followed by further meetings at Castro’s Miami office And Sistemas Office in Spain. Both had a deal that Sistemas Mecanicos will ship its food products to Castro’s company in Miami. Sistemas started exporting its products to Miami, Florida. However, Castro detected defective food products and asked for a replacement. However, in spite of the fact that replacement was made Castro was not satisfied and he again reported defective food items. Castro filed a case against Sistemas Mecanicos Para Electronica, S.A.
Sistemas Mecanicos motioned for the dismissal of the case on grounds of forum de conveniens. District court decided in favor of dismissal on the basis of forum non coveniens.
The decision of dismissal on the basis of forum non conveniens was based on all the factors interests of the plaintiff’s and defendants. The balance is judged on the basis of equipoise and other public interests that favor trial to be carried out in Spain courts. The forum non coneveniens ground was made on the basis of convenience of both parties.
The district court balancing of private interests were not equal and not favoring the plaintiffs. Their decision was based on the fact that the alternative forum that would be a Spanish court could provide sufficient base for executing the trial. Keeping in view that witnesses and evidence were present in Florida and Spain as well, hence the private convenience factors were near equipoise or almost at equipoise. Therefore, court decided to dismiss in favor of Sestemas claim on the basis of forum non conveniens grounds.
The decision of the court deserves high respect on the grounds that all private and public interest factors were well balanced and it can only be reversed if there is any clear evidence of abuse of discretion. In Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 257 (1981) court decided that the court itself abuses it decision only when the relevant factors are not balanced.
When a motion is made to dismiss the case on ground of forum non conveniens, it must be made while considering all the relevant private and public factors. When the balance between the factors is found against the plaintiffs’ choice of forum then court judges the factors of private interests to be at or near equipoise, then it judges the factors of public interests are in favor of carry out trial in a foreign forum.
- Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235 (1981)
- Del Monte Fresh Produce Company v. Dole Food Company, Inc., 136 F. Supp. 2d 1271 (S.D. Fla. 2001) http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/ca9/newopinions.nsf/7D13495F1D2DDF1C88256A5C0075D68F/$file/9916524.pdf?openelement
- Membreno v. Costa Crociere S.p.A., 425 F. 3d 932 (11th Cir. 2005) http://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/ops/200416732.pdf
- SME Racks, Inc., v. Sistemas Mecanicos Para Electronica, S.A., 382 F. 3d 1097 (11th Cir. 2004) http://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/ops/200312572.pdf