The World in U.S. Courts: Spring 2017 - Personal Jurisdiction/Forum Non Conveniens
The plaintiff is representative of the estate of a man who died in the Bahamas when the left landing gear of the aircraft he was servicing at Bahamas airport collapsed on him. He sued Execujet Services, LLC and Aerologistics II, LLC and related defendants for negligence and related claims arising from allegedly defective maintenance on the airplane. Execujet is a Texas company having its principal place of business in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Aerologistics, also a Texas company, has its principal place of business in Washington State. The individual defendants were US citizens. Execujet and Aerologistics moved to dismiss the case under the doctrine of forum non conveniens.
The District Court in Miami observed that motions to dismiss under forum non conveniens first require the court to consider whether an adequate alternative forum exists that has jurisdiction over the case. Then the court must ask whether “private interest” factors overcome the strong presumption in favor of a resident plaintiff’s choice of forum. If private interest factors are indeterminate, the court will then consider “public interest” factors. Finally, the court must determine that plaintiffs can reinstate their suit in the alternate forum without undue inconvenience or prejudice.
The District Court ruled that the defendant had demonstrated that a dismissal was appropriate, despite the strong presumption in favor of the plaintiff’s chosen forum. In so ruling, its principal findings were: (1) the Bahamian courts were a viable alternate forum, (2) the critical witnesses and documentary evidence in the case were located in the Bahamas and thus outside the subpoena power of the court, (3) because the defendants could not implead a potential Bahamian third party, they would suffer material injustice if forced to defend the action in Florida, (4) the Bahamas has a substantial interest in adjudicating disputes arising in its territory and concerning the safety of aircraft maintenance at its airport, (5) the lawsuit was only remotely connected to Florida, and (6) Bahamian law would likely apply.