Eleventh Circuit Holds Forum Non Conveniens Requires Consideration of Both Private and Public Interest Factors

The Eleventh Circuit held this week that district courts must consider both private and public interest factors when contemplating dismissal for forum non conveniens, a doctrine relevant when “a foreign forum is better suited to adjudicate the dispute.” Fresh Results, LLC v. ASF Holland, B.V., 2019 WL 1758863 (11th Cir. Apr. 22, 2019). Private factors are those pertaining to the litigants, for instance, the relative ease of access to sources of proof. Public factors concern the interests of the two potential fora, including the administrative difficulties associated with court congestion.

Plaintiff Fresh Results coordinated bulk shipments of blueberries from the United States to Defendant ASF Holland, a Dutch company. When shipments arrived, ASF Holland inspected the blueberries and generated reports that determined the final sale price. Fresh Results claimed ASF Holland falsified reports to deflate the sales price and accordingly filed suit in the Southern District of Florida. ASF Holland thereafter moved to dismiss for forum non conveniens, arguing that the dispute should be heard in the Netherlands.

A defendant seeking dismissal for forum non conveniens must establish that “(1) an adequate alternative forum is available, (2) the public and private factors weigh in favor of dismissal, and (3) the plaintiff can reinstate his suit in the alternative forum without undue inconvenience or prejudice.” Concerning the second prong balancing test, the district court concluded that relevant private interest factors favored dismissal. Over the plaintiff’s objection, the court dismissed the case for forum non conveniens without considering any public interest factors, reasoning that those factors were irrelevant given that the private factors were not in “equipoise.”

On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit rejected the suggestion that district courts weighing dismissal for forum non conveniens may ignore public interest factors solely because private interest factors favor one forum over the other. The court expressly disavowed dicta from prior opinions in conflict with this rule, vacated the dismissal of the complaint, and remanded for the district court to consider all relevant private and public factors.

Posted by John Sharpe.

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