November 13, 2012 Articles

Testing Limits of the Adequate Alternative Forum in Aviation

By Deborah Elsasser

Forum non conveniens is a well-established doctrine that permits a court to decline to entertain a case on the basis that an alternative forum is a more convenient location for the dispute. In Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501 (1947), the Supreme Court set forth a number of “private interest factors” (among them, relative ease of access to sources of proof and availability of witnesses) and “public interest factors” (administrative difficulties caused by foreign litigation in the local court, imposition of jury duty on local citizens, local interest in the controversy, law governing the case) that must be weighed by the court in determining whether dismissal is proper.

The Supreme Court further refined the analysis in Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235 (1981), requiring the court to determine that an adequate alternative forum exists for the litigation of the plaintiff’s claims. An adequate alternative forum exists where the defendant is amenable to process in the jurisdiction and the forum provides an adequate remedy to the prevailing party. Id. at 254. Only if an alternative forum is available are the private and public interest factors set forth in Gilbert weighed by the court. Id. at 258.

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