Court of Appeals Reverses Dismissal on Forum Non Conveniens Grounds Where Defendants Claimed no Connection to India but Also maintained that India was an Alternative Forum for the Dispute

The World in U.S. Courts: Summer and Fall 2016 - Personal Jurisdiction/Forum Non Conveniens/ Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act (FSIA)

Deb v. Sirva, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, August 11, 2016

Plaintiff Deb hired Allied Lemuir, an Indian moving company, to ship his belongings from Calcutta, India to St. John’s, Canada.  His belongings never arrived, and he then sued two American companies, SIRVA and Allied Van Lines, in the United States.  Plaintiff alleged that Allied Lemuir was operating a joint venture with the defendants in India. 

The Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s dismissal of the case on forum non conveniens grounds, finding that the defendants failed to prove that India and Canada were available alternate forums.  Specifically, the Court of Appeals observed that the defendants had both relied on the terms of their joint venture agreement to claim no relation to the operative events in India, and at the same time maintained that they could be subject to an Indian court’s jurisdiction.  The Court of Appeals concluded that the defendants couldn’t “have it both ways.”

The Court emphasized that dismissal on forum non conveniens grounds is a remedy to be exercised “sparingly” and requires holding defendants to a “heavy burden.”  In this case, the defendants’ naked assertion that they could be subject to suit in India failed to satisfy any burden, let alone a heavy one.

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