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Law School Case Brief

Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno - 454 U.S. 235, 102 S. Ct. 252 (1981)

Rule:

 

Dismissal on grounds of forum non conveniens may be granted even though the law applicable in the alternative forum is less favorable to the plaintiff's chance of recovery. The possibility of an unfavorable change of law should not, by itself, bar dismissal.

 

 

 

 

Facts:

The Respondent’s decedents died in an aircraft in the Scottish Highlands. All the decedents were Scottish residents, as were their heirs. As the decedents' personal representative, respondent filed suit against petitioner in the United States because petitioner manufactured the aircraft in Pennsylvania and the law was more favorable to their case. Petitioner wanted to litigate the tort action in Scotland. A district court dismissed the action, but the lower appellate court reversed the district court's decision. 

Issue:

Does the possibility of an unfavorable change of the law in plaintiff’s home forum bar dismissal under forum non convenient (Transfer to a More Convenient Forum)?

Answer:

No, the possibility of an unfavorable change in the law should not, by itself, bar dismissal. 

Conclusion:

The possibility of an unfavorable change in the law in Scotland should not, by itself, bar dismissal. The court held that plaintiffs may not defeat a motion to dismiss on the ground of forum non conveniens merely by showing that the substantive law that would be applied in the alternative forum is less favorable to the plaintiffs than that of the chosen forum, since the possibility of a change in substantive law should ordinarily not be given conclusive or even substantial weight in the forum non conveniens inquiry. In this case the proper forum was Scotland given that fewer evidentiary problems would be posed if the trial were held in Scotland; the inability to implead potential third party defendants clearly supported holding the trial in Scotland; and public interest favored trial in Scotland, the accident having occurred in its air space, all the decedents being Scottish, and apart from the manufacturers, all potential plaintiffs and defendants being either Scottish or English.

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