SW Legal studies in Business

In Diversity Action, Federal Rules of Forum Non Conveniens May Hold
Description In litigation filed by residents of California and Washington in Florida state court against an Italian company with a Florida office, diversity moves the case to federal court, which applies federal procedural law concerning forum non conveniens to determine where the trial will be held, using Florida substantive law to determine the merits of the case.
Topic Court Procedure
Key Words Forum non conveniens; Erie doctrine
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Six plaintiffs were injured in an accident in Vietnam. Two plaintiffs were from California; four were from Washington. At the time of the accident, they were on a cruise that started in Singapore on a ship owned by Costa, an Italian corporation. Costa markets trips out of its Miami office, which books thousands of customers each year. The injured parties paid Costa to arrange the van tour when the ship docked in Vietnam, so they contend the van was under Costa's control, and it was responsible for the negligent van driver who caused the accident. Sued in state court in Miami, Costa moved for dismissal based on forum non conveniens, which the state courts agreed with. The matter then moved to federal court, which dismissed the case. The plaintiffs appealed.
Decision

Reversed. Forum non conveniens is an ancient common law doctrine that permits courts to decline jurisdiction over a case, even if personal jurisdiction and venue are proper, when there is a more convenient forum for the case to be litigated. Under the Erie doctrine, a federal court in a diversity case applies state substantive law and federal procedural law. In this case, federal procedure controls because of the diversity of the parties involved, so the suit will be heard in federal court, but Florida law will govern the substance of the dispute.

Citation Esfeld v. Costa Crociere, S.P.A, 289 F.3d 1300 (11th Cir., 2002)

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