South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Forum Rules of International Treaty, Not National Law Will Govern Forum for Litigation Based on Treaty
Description Appeals court held that under the Warsaw Convention, passengers injured in an international flight had the right to choose a number of forums to litigate their claims against the airline. The airline could not invoke the forum non conveniens rule that may apply had the suit been under U.S. law.
Topic International Law
Key Words International Air Travel; Forum Non Conveniens, Warsaw Convention
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts A number of passengers on a United Airlines flight from Tokyo to Honolulu were injured during severe turbulence over the ocean. Passengers sued United to recover damages under the Warsaw Convention, a treaty governing the international carriage of passengers, baggage and cargo. United moved to dismiss for forum non conveniens, arguing that the case should not be heard in federal court in California but in Japan where most of the plaintiffs were from. The district court dismissed the suit; the plaintiffs appealed.

Reversed. The Warsaw Convention sets forth four forums in which an action must be brought and grants the plaintiff the option to choose among those jurisdictions. The U.S. is one of those jurisdictions. Hence, the federal court is precluded from dismissing the suit against the airline on the ground of forum non conveniens in favor of forum in Japan. The forum rules of the Convention will settle forum determination, not the forum rules of the nations' courts involved in such cases.

Citation Hosaka v. United Airlines, Inc., 305 F.3d 989 (9th Cir., 2002)

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