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3rd Circuit Affirms Dismissal on Forum Non Conveniens Grounds

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD | Last updated on

We haven't heard the term forum non conveniens since our days as a 1L in Civil Procedure, but the Third Circuit recently wrote a precedential opinion devoted to that one issue.

Factual Background

A claim that originated as an action between companies, through successive motions and allegations, actually boiled down to an action between two parties: Vadim Shulman and Akiva Sapir. Though both reside in Israel, because some of the business transactions touch on U.S. soil, Shulman sued Sapir in federal district court in Pennsylvania.

One of the motions before the court was a motion to dismiss based on forum non conveniens grounds, mentioning Israel as an appropriate alternative forum. The district court judge referred the matter to a Magistrate Judge, asking for a Report and Recommendation ("Report"). According to the report, the judge recommended the proper action would be dismissal on grounds of forum non conveniens, recommending Israel as the appropriate forum.

The district court adopted the Magistrate Judge's findings and granted the motion to dismiss, with the understanding that a new claim would be filed in Israel. Shulman appealed.

Forum Non Conveniens

On appeal, the Third Circuit reviewed the four-factor test for determining whether dismissing a case on grounds of forum non conveniens is proper. The court noted at the outset that the parties did not contest one of the factors -- the availability of an alternative adequate forum, in this case Israel -- and did not discuss it any further. The factors that remained were: deference given to plaintiff's choice of forum, and the balance of private and public interests.

The Third Circuit found that although a plaintiff's choice of forum should be given deference, the ultimate issue is one of convenience. Since plaintiff did not carry his burden of establishing that the United States was a more convenient forum, this factor weighed against him.

Next, the court balanced the public and private interests in litigating the claims in the United States and found that the interests actually weighed in favor of adjudicating the claims in Israel.

Revisiting Civ Pro 1

The Third Circuit gave us a refresher course on forum non conveniens, and reminded attorneys to really consider convenience when choosing a forum for litigation -- especially where international parties are concerned.

But for us, the big take-away was that attorneys need to distinguish between actual holdings and dicta when trying to make persuasive arguments. If you want to convince the court, you'll need more than dicta to stand on.

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