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De Melo v. Lederle Labs., Div. of Am. Cyanamid Corp. - 801 F.2d 1058 (8th Cir. 1986)

Rule:

Under the doctrine of forum non conveniens, federal district courts have inherent power to resist the imposition of jurisdiction even where authorized by statute if the litigation can more appropriately be conducted in a foreign tribunal. Initially, the district court must find that there exists an adequate alternative forum for the litigation; the court must then balance factors relative to the convenience of the litigants, referred to as the private interests, and factors relative to the convenience of the forum, referred to as the public interests, to determine which available forum is most appropriate for trial and resolution. The district court's decision to dismiss an action on the grounds of forum non conveniens may be reversed only if it is found to be an abuse of discretion. Where the court has considered all relevant public and private interest factors, and where its balancing of these factors is reasonable, its decision deserves substantial deference.

Facts:

Lederle Laboratories, a division of American Cyanamid Corporation, developed and manufactured the drug given to the Brazilian Cleonilde Nunes de Melon in Brazil. The drug caused Nunes de Melon to go blind. The English version of the drug warnings included such a warning; however, the insert included in Brazil only warned of temporary blindness. Thereafter, Nunes de Melon filed an action in district court, seeking recovery under theories of strict liability, negligence, failure to warn, breach of express and implied warranties, and fraudulent concealment. The district court granted Lederle's motion to dismiss on the ground of forum non conveniens, suggesting that Brazil was the more appropriate forum. 

Issue:

In a products liability action filed in US federal court by a person from Brazil against a US drug manufacturer, should the complaint be dismissed on the ground of forum non conveniens?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The United States Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of Brazilian Nunes de Melon’s products liability action. The Court held that Brazil was an adequate alternative forum for the action. Under Brazilian law, the Brazilian could recover lost wages, indirect losses, and twice the amount of her medical expenses. According to the Court, these damages, whatever they amounted to, were not so paltry as to render the available remedy illusory. Further, although Brazil was less favorable forum for Nunes de Melon, it was not inadequate. Brazil had a paramount interest in regulating the quality and distribution of drugs through Brazilian products liability law, and Brazilian law likely governed the litigation.

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