Deference to the Plaintiff in Forum Non Conveniens Cases

By Brett J. Workman

Abstract

Plaintiffs bring transnational suits in the United States for various reasons. In response, a defendant might move to dismiss for forum non conveniens, arguing that a court in a foreign country is a more appropriate forum in which to proceed. When considering such a motion, a court scrutinizes the plaintiff’s original choice of forum. The decisions resulting from forum non conveniens motions can at times appear inconsistent and unpredictable. The plaintiff’s choice receives the greatest deference when the decision to file in the chosen forum is motivated by legitimate reasons. Bona fide connections to the forum strengthen the amount of deference. Such deference dissipates, however, if a plaintiff lacks such connections.

This Note analyzes several cases in an effort to understand why, based on each case’s unique circumstances, the plaintiff’s choice of forum received a particular level of deference. This Note then produces a synthesized list of factors that alter the level of deference a plaintiff’s choice of forum receives under forum non conveniens analysis. An understanding of these factors provides increased predictability as to when a plaintiff’s choice of forum might receive heightened deference under this common law doctrine.