Representatives Of Those Killed In A Plane Crash In Venezuela Ask U.S. Supreme Court To Review Their Case

Representatives Of Those Killed In A Plane Crash In Venezuela Ask U.S. Supreme Court To Review Their Case

On Oct. 2, 2013, the representatives of 102 individuals who perished in the plane crash of West Caribbean Airways Flight 708 in 2005 filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court (SYLVIA BAPTE, individually and as personal representative of the Estate of Christiane Bapte, deceased, et al v. WEST CARIBBEAN AIRWAYS, et al., No. 13-429, U.S. Sup.). The case was initially filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida as In re W. Caribbean Airways, S.A., 619 F. Supp. 2d 1299 (S.D. Fla. 2007). Respondents were several corporations and an individual involved with the airline and several of the corporate respondents were based in Florida.  

The district court ordered more briefing but eventually dismissed petitioners’ claims on the basis of forum non conveniens. Petitioners argued that the dismissal of their claims was improper because they were required to then file in Martinique, a Department of France, because the passengers had been residents of Martinique, but that France had previously determined that it was not a proper forum and therefore they had no recourse for their Montreal Convention causes of action. Petitioners argued that they were entitled to relief from the forum non conveniens order pursuant to USCS Fed Rules Civ Proc R 60, specifically Rule 60(b)(6). The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in Galbert v. West Caribbean Airways, 715 F.3d 1290 (11th Cir. Fla. 2013), denied the appeal after determining that the facts did not present “sufficiently extraordinary” circumstances that warranted Rule 60(b)(b) relief, and petitioners filed the petition for a writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court.  

In their petition for a writ of certiorari, petitioners argued that the district court abused its discretion in dismissing the cause of action because petitioners did not then have a forum in which to litigate. Petitioners also asserted that the district court abused its discretion in claiming that the claims could have been brought in Martinique, when in fact the French courts had previously determined that they did not have jurisdiction over the case. And finally, petitioners alleged that there was no waiver regarding the French courts and French law because the law in question had not been in place when the action was initially filed. Therefore, petitioners contended that their causes of action were improperly dismissed. 

The response to the petition for a writ of certiorari is due Nov. 6, 2013.