Gonzalez v. Chrysler Corp.

301 F.3d 377 (5th Cir. 2002)



The forum non conveniens inquiry consists of four considerations. First, the district court must assess whether an alternative forum is available. An alternative forum is available if the entire case and all parties can come within the jurisdiction of that forum. Second, the district court must decide if the alternative forum is adequate. An alternative forum is adequate if the parties will not be deprived of all remedies or treated unfairly, even though they may not enjoy the same benefits as they might receive in an American court. If the district court decides that an alternative forum is both available and adequate, it next must weigh various private interest factors. If consideration of those private interest factors counsels against dismissal, the district court moves to the fourth consideration in the analysis. At that stage, the district court must weigh numerous public interest factors. If those factors weigh in the moving party's favor, the district court may dismiss the case.


On May 21, 1996, the wife of the plaintiff was involved in a collision with another moving vehicle while driving the Chrysler LHS in Atizapan de Zaragoza, Mexico. The accident triggered the passenger-side air bag. The force of the air bag's deployment instantaneously killed Gonzalez's three-year-old son, Pablo. Gonzalez chose to file his suit in Texas. Texas, however, has a tenuous connection to the underlying dispute. Neither the car nor the air bag module was designed or manufactured in Texas. The accident took place in Mexico, involved Mexican citizens, and only Mexican citizens witnessed the accident. Moreover, Gonzalez purchased the Chrysler LHS in Mexico (although he shopped for the car in Houston, Texas). Because of these factors, the district court granted the defendants' identical motions for dismissal on the ground of forum non conveniens. Gonzalez now appeals.


Is the limitation imposed by Mexican law on the award of damages render Mexico an inadequate alternative forum for resolving a tort suit brought by a Mexican citizen against a United States manufacturer?




The appellate court held that the failure of Mexican law to allow for strict liability on the facts of the case did not render Mexico an inadequate forum. The court saw no warrant for it, a United States court, to replace the policy preference of the Mexican government with its own view of what was a good policy for the citizens of Mexico. Thus, the district court did not err when it found that the cap on damages did not render the remedy available in the Mexican forum clearly unsatisfactory. The forum non conveniens adequacy inquiry did not include an evaluation of whether it made economic sense for the parents to file the lawsuit in Mexico. The district court's finding that almost all of the private and public interest factors pointed away from Texas and toward Mexico as the appropriate forum was not an abuse of discretion since the accident took place in Mexico and the parents purchased the car in Mexico.

Click here to view the full text case and earn your Daily Research Points.