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While the long-term practical effect of Sinochem on the American doctrine of forum non conveniens remains to be seen, the Federal Courts of Appeals are beginning to shape the landscape in the first six months since the Court’s decision.

The most significant forum non conveniens decision since Sinochem was recently handed-down by the Seventh Circuit. In Gullone v. Bayer Corp., 484 F.3d 951 (7th Cir. 2007), a group of U.K.-based plaintiffs were among those that sued defendant drug companies for allegedly being exposed to the HIV or Hepatitis C virus during blood transfusions. Judge Diane Wood, writing for a unanimous panel, reviewed the current state of the forum non conveniens doctrine in U.S. courts, and affirmed a district court’s dismissal of U.K plaintiffs on forum non conveneins grounds in favor of an English forum:

More Reflections on Sinochem

This post is written by Greg Castanias and Victoria Dorfman, attorneys with the law firm of Jones Day in Washington, D.C. who represented Sinochem before the Supreme Court.  It originally appeared on Opinio Juris last week, and is cross-posted with their generous permission.   The decision, briefs and other reflections on Sinochem also previously appeared on this site.


We’re grateful to have the opportunity to give you some preliminary views on the Sinochem decision issued last week—Sinochem International Co., Ltd. v. Malaysia International Shipping Corp., 127 S. Ct. 1184 (2007). Since we are lawyers, after all, we need to start with a disclaimer: These are our views alone—not those of our law firm, our partners, or our other colleagues; and not those of our client in this case (indeed, not those of any of our clients, past, present, or future).

The U.S. Supreme Court decided an important dispute involving the jurisdictional rules that apply in U.S. federal courts. In Sinochem Int'l Co., Ltd. v. Malaysia International Shipping Corp., No. 06-102, Justice Ginsburg, writing for a unanimous court, held that "a district court has discretion to respond at once to a defendant’s forum non conveniens plea, and need not take up first any other threshold objection," such as subject-matter jurisdiction over the dispute or personal jurisdiction over the parties. 

Forum Non Conveniens in US Courts

On May 1, 2009, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued a noteworthy opinion in the consolidated cases of Abad v. Bayer Corp. and Pastor v. Bridgestone/Firestone. These consolidated appeals raise interesting issues regarding the application of the forum non conveniens doctrine in US courts.

In the Abad case, Argentinian plaintiffs filed products liability actions against American manufacturers for injuries sustained in Argentina.  Plaintiffs alleged that they (a group of hemophiliacs or their decedents) were infected with the AIDS virus because the defendant manufacturers of the clotting factor that hemophiliacs take to minimize bleeding failed to eliminate the virus from the donors’ blood from which the clotting factor was made.  The Pastor case was a wrongful-death suit growing out of a fatal auto accident in Argentina with a car equipped with tires manufactured by Bridgestone/Firestone.  In both cases, defendants moved the district court for dismissal under forum non conveniens and the district court dismissed the case in favor of the courts in Argentina.  On appeal, the Seventh Circuit, with Judge Richard Posner writing, applied the abuse of discretion standard and thus affirmed.

Forum Non Conveniens and Jurisdiction Clauses in Ontario

The Court of Appeal for Ontario has released Red Seal Tours Inc. v. Occidental Hotels Management B.V. (available here).  The decision is of note for three reasons.

  • The court reverses the motions judge’s decision not to grant a stay of proceedings.  When these sort of conflicting decisions happen on the same facts, it can raise concerns about the way these motions prolong preliminary disputes in litigation.
  • The court treats a contract that did not contain a jurisdiction clause as “part and parcel” of a series of related contracts that did contain such a clause (in favour of Aruba).  The motions judge gave no effect to the clause, but the appeal court gives it central and crucial weight.

Recently, the latest issue of the German legal journal Praxis des Internationalen Privat- und Verfahrensrecht (“IPRax“) has been published.

I.) Annotation on Color Drack

The issue contains inter alia an annotation by Peter Mankowski (Hamburg) on the ECJ’s judgment in Color Drack GmbH./.Lexx International Vertriebs GmbH of 3 May 2007 where the Court had to deal with the question of jurisdiction in cases where there are several places of delivery within a single Member State.

Nikiforos Sifakis has written an article in the latest issue (Vol. 13, Issue 2, 2007) of the Journal of International Maritime Law (current issue’s contents not yet on the website) entitled, “Anti-Suit Injunctions in the European Union: A Necessary Mechanism in Resolving Jurisdictional Conflicts?” (J.I.M.L. 2007, 13(2), 100-111). A small abstract is available:

Discusses the use of anti-suit injunctions in the EU. Considers the categories of cases in which anti-suit injunctions are granted in the UK, including exclusive court jurisdiction clauses, arbitration agreements and no choice of forum cases. Reviews the attitude of the European Court of Justice to anti-suit injunctions. Examines the reasons for antipathy towards anti-suit injunctions in Europe. Comments on the US system of anti-suit injunctions. Proposes a reform of Council Regulation 44/2001.

On Tuesday, January 9, the Supreme Court heard argument in Sinochem v. Malaysia Int'l Shipping, regarding the doctrine of forum non conveniens in U.S. Courts.  The case was previewed on this site here, and the argument transcript can be found here.  It provides an interesting dialogue among members of the Court regarding the efficacy and operation of the doctrine in U.S. federal courts.

For the first time since Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno in 1982, the United States Supreme Court will hear a case concerning the scope and applicability of the forum non conveniens doctrine when parallel proceedings are contemplated in a foreign court.  In granting the petition for a writ of certiorari in Sinochem Int'l Co., Ltd. v. Malaysia International Shipping Corp., No. 06-102, the Supreme Court agreed to decide "[w]hether a district court must first conclusively establish jurisdiction before dismissing a suit on the ground of forum non conveniens?" This question has divided the Unites States Courts of Appeals for nearly a decade, with the D.C. and Second Circuits holding that jurisdiction is not a prerequisite for a forum non conveniens dismissal, and the Ninth, Fifth, Seventh and Third Circuits holding the opposite.  The decision, which should be forthcoming in the Spring of 2007, has potential importance to all non-U.S. companies who are sued in the courts of the United States for matters having little or no connection to the U.S. The Justices selected the Sinochem matter as one of the nine cases that it granted review to on September 26 (out of 1,900 petitions that had been stacked up on the Court's docket over its Summer recess).  The case will be argued before the Justices in January 2007.