Piper Aircraft Co v. Reyno
SCOTUS - 1981
- P was executrix of the estates of 5 people killed in a plane crash in Scotland. P brought suit in US against D (manufacturer of plane and parts) since liability law is better in the US for P than Scottish law.
- Suit was filed in state court and then removed to federal court. Suit was then removed from CDCA to MDPA district court.
- D moved to dismiss the action on the ground of forum non conveniens.
- District Court granted D's motion to dismiss, forum non conveniens valid.
- 3rd Cir COA reversed and remanded, forum non conveniens not valid.
- SCOTUS reversed, granted D's motion to dismiss, forum non conveniens valid.
- What kind of analysis should a court do to determine if a motion to dismiss based upon forum non conveniens should be granted?
- Should the possible change in substantive law be given weight in a forum non conveniens action?
- In determining if a motion to dismiss based upon forum non conveniens should be granted, a court should analyze the facts through Gilbert.
- A plaintiff's choice of forum should only be disturbed if an alternative forum has jurisdiction and the chosen forum would "establish oppressiveness and vexation to a D out of all proportion to the P's convenience" or if the chosen forum is "inappropriate because of considerations affecting the court's own administrative and legal problems."
- The court should weigh the "private interest factors" and "public interest factors" of a chosen forum.
- A court should not give much weight to the possibility of a change in substantive law in a forum non conveniens action.
- An alternative forum existed in Scotland.
- Witnesses are in Scotland.
- Scotland has an interest in the case.
- P is a representative of foreign citizens and residents seeking a forum in the US because of the more liberal rules concerning products liability law.
- If upheld, all sorts of litigation would flow into the US.
- Gilbert addressed the fact that US courts should not usually have to apply foreign law. Applying foreign law is confusing for courts and juries. "The need to apply foreign law points towards dismissal."
- Because the central purpose of any forum non conveniens inquiry is to ensure that the trial is convenient, a foreign P's choice deserves less deference.
- The forum non conveniens determination is committed to the sound discretion of the trial court; it may be reversed only when there has been a clear abuse of discretion.
- None given.
- Difference in law is not a bar on forum non-conveniens.
- This opinion was based in part on not wanting to impose "Americana" on the rest of the world.