Brief Fact Summary. In July 1976 a small commercial aircraft crashed in Scotland, killing the pilot and five passengers instantly. The aircraft was manufactured in Pennsylvania by Piper Aircraft Co., and the propellers were manufactured in Ohio by Hartzell Propeller, Inc. The aircraft was registered in Great Britain, owned by Air Navigation and Trading Co., Ltd. (Air Navigation), and operated by McDonald Aviation, Ltd. (McDonald).
Synopsis of Rule of Law. When an alternative forum has jurisdiction to hear a case, and when trial in the chosen forum would establish oppressiveness and vexation to a defendant out of 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 for forum non conveniens. Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert.
By this statute, district courts were given more discretion to transfer than they had to dismiss on grounds of forum non conveniens.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Did the federal district court err in dismissing the action on the ground of forum non conveniens?
Held. No. The proper standard for determining whether an action will be dismissed for forum non conveniens was established in Gulf Oil v. Gilbert. Since the decision of the district court complies with the standard established in Gulf Oil v. Gilbert, the decision of the court of appeals shall be reversed. The court of appeals improperly considered the difference in substantive law between the two forums, when making its decision regarding forum non conveniens.
Discussion. The court used the private vs. public balancing factor test established in Gulf Oil v. Gilbert. In Piper, the court noted that although, with regard to private interests, the evidence regarding design and manufacture of the plane was present in the United States, however in regard to the public interests, all of the witnesses concerning the maintenance of the aircraft, training of the pilot, investigation of the accident were located in Great Britain, all of the witnesses concerning damages were located in Scotland, the real parties in interest and the decedents were citizens of Scotland. Therefore, the public interests, i.e., the overwhelming majority of the connections were to Scotland, not the United St