WEEK 1 – VENUE; FORUM NON-CONVENIENS
– The doctrine of forum non conveniens allows a court discretionarily to decline existing authority to adjudicate if the
court is a seriously inappropriate forum and if a substantially more appropriate is available to the plaintiff (i.e. a different state).
The doctrine also exists for
federal courts, usually where the more appropriate forum is a foreign state, and if the transfer of venue to a more convenient federal forum is not an
The doctrine entails three important precepts:
Forum non conveniens may be invoked on the defendant’s motion or on the court’s own motion (thus, burden of proof does not rest on plaintiff).
In passing the motion, the court gives the plaintiff’s choice of forum great deference, especially when the plaintiff is a local, but the interests of both
the private parties and the public for and against litigating elsewhere also enter the balance (i.e. residence of parties, ease of access to evidence and
witnesses, ease of judicial enforcement, consideration of what law will apply, interests of the state, etc.).
Generally, a court will decline to hear the case
only in extreme situations.
If the court grants the motion, the remedy is ultimately dismissal, either outright, or conditional upon the defendant’s waiving of specified defenses
that would impede suit in the more appropriate forum.
Gulf Oil v. Gilbert –
: A Plaintiff’s choice of forum should rarely be disturbed.
However, when an alternative forum has jurisdiction to hear
the case, and when trial in the chosen forum would establish a burden on the defendant out of all proportion to the plaintiff’s convenience, or when the
chosen forum is inappropriate because of considerations affecting the court’s own administrative and legal problems, the court may, in the exercise of its
sound discretion, dismiss the case.
The strong presumption in favor of the plaintiff’s choice of forum applies with (far) less force when the plaintiff or real parties in interest are foreign
Piper v. Reyno –
A plaintiff may not defeat a motion to dismiss on the ground of forum non-conveniens merely by showing that the substantive law that
would be applied in the alternative forum is less favorable to the plaintiffs than that of the present forum.
However, if the remedy provided by the
alternative forum is so clearly inadequate or unsatisfactory that is it no remedy at all, the unfavorable change in law may be given substantial weight; and
the district court may conclude that dismissal would not be in the interests of justice.
Balancing factors in a forum non conveniens test:
Is there an adequate alternative forum (how does change in law factor in?)
Should deference be given to plaintiff’s choice (residence of the plaintiff)
Consideration of public and private interests