Citation. 454 U.S. 235 (1981)
Brief Fact Summary.
Respondents sued Petitioners after an aircraft crash in Scotland. Petitioners’ argued the case should be dismissed because Scotland was the proper forum, even though Scottish law would be less favorable for Respondents.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
Unfavorable law in an otherwise more appropriate forum is not determinative or given significant weight when deciding forum non conveniens.
Scottish residents died in an aircraft crash in Scotland. The decedents of the victims brought a wrongful death suit through their attorney’s secretary and administer of the decedents’ estates, Gaynell Reyno (Respondent), in California. Respondent sued the U.S. aircraft and propeller manufacturers, Piper and Hartzell (Petitioners). Petitioners moved to dismiss the case on grounds of forum non conveniens and litigate the case in Scotland instead. Respondent argued dismissal would be unfair because Scottish law did not recognize strict liability or wrongful death suits brought by nonrelatives.
May plaintiffs defeat a motion to dismiss on grounds of forum non conveniens because the alternative forum has a less favorable law for the plaintiffs?
No, unfavorable law is not determinative when deciding forum non conveniens. The decision of the Court of Appeals is reversed.
Justice Stevens argued that the case should be remanded to determine whether Pennsylvania was not a convenient forum.
Justice White joined Parts I and II of the opinion, but did not think the Court needed to address the issue of the plaintiff’s choice in forum.
After ruling that unfavorable law was not a substantial factor in forum non conveniens, the Court found the trial court had properly balanced all factors affecting convenience of forum, including access to witnesses and evidence, efficiency and inexpensiveness, local interest in case, and avoidance of conflicting laws and jury confusion. These factors favored litigation in Scotland because the crash occurred in Scotland, most of the evidence was located in Scotland, and the victims and their decedents lived in Scotland.