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In a case brought in the United States against American defendants by a foreign plaintiff where a motion for forum non conveniens has been filed, in contrast to the strong presumption in favor of a domestic plaintiff's forum choice, the foreign plaintiff's choice deserves less deference.
The thirteen plaintiffs are aspiring professional baseball players who live in the Dominican Republic. When they were between sixteen and twenty years old, they were recruited by Luis Rosa, the Giants' former Latin America scout. At Rosa's instigation, each player signed a seven-year minor league contract with the Giants. Although the contracts initially provided that all the plaintiffs would play baseball for the San Pedro Giants in the Dominican Republic, the contracts could be assigned, and the players transferred, to minor or major league teams in the United States. Underscoring this potential for transfer, many of the contracts contained addenda stating salaries in Bellingham, Washington, Scottsdale, Arizona, and Shreveport, Louisiana. Playing for the San Francisco Giants or some other United States team was the plaintiffs' common goal. All thirteen plaintiffs claim that Rosa expressly conditioned their continued employment and/or reassignment to United States teams upon their submitting to his sexual advances, and that Rosa appropriated part of their earnings or signing bonuses for his own use. They also allege that the Giants' management knew or had reason to know of Rosa's misconduct. In April 1998, plaintiffs initiated this suit against the Giants, Rosa and Hiatt. In June 1997, plaintiffs had brought substantially similar allegations to the attention of authorities in the Dominican Republic. As a result of their complaints, a combined criminal and civil suit against the Giants and Rosa is now pending in the Dominican Republic. Noting the pendency of this "parallel" proceeding, the defendants moved in June 1998 to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint on the alternative grounds of forum non conveniens and abstention. The district court granted the defendants' motion on the ground of forum non conveniens. Plaintiffs timely appealed.
Was the dismissal on the ground of forum non conveniens proper?
The court held that plaintiffs' chosen forum had a substantial relation to the action, not only as defendants' home forum, but also because the offered contracts caused plaintiffs to legitimately expect that they might be able to play professional baseball in the forum. There were no co-defendants or third-party defendants who could not be made to appear in the chosen forum. There was no showing that access to proof would be easier in plaintiffs' home forum. The doctrine of forum non conveniens did not compel plaintiffs to choose the optimal forum for their action.