suits of this nature to relatives of the decedents fall within this general principle however. Such a restriction would likely be for the purpose of insuring that suits are brought by persons interested in the action so that competence of counsel and administration of a suit are in the hands of those parties with the ultimate interest.
We therefore return to our previously enunciated conclusion that the law of California would not be applied under the choice of law rules of California as that state has no interest in having its laws apply. Plaintiff admits this fact. Furthermore, we believe that Pennsylvania also has no governmental interest in having its wrongful death laws apply. For the protection of the real parties in interest in this suit we believe that the application of Scottish law would further the purpose of the laws of Scotland with respect to the restrictions on proper plaintiffs. We believe that the California courts would therefore apply the law of Scotland to this suit.
There exists a conflict among the three forums in the law of products liability. Scotland only recognizes negligence as a basis for liability while the two states apply the rule of strict liability. California has no interests in having its products liability law apply and thus under the California choice of law rules it would not apply its own law. See, Bernhard v. Harrah's Club, 16 Cal.3d 313, 128 Cal.Rptr. 215, 546 P.2d 719 (1976); Reich v. Purcell, 67 Cal.2d 551, 63 Cal.Rptr. 31, 432 P.2d 727 (1967). Our choice is thus between Scottish law and the law of Pennsylvania.
The law of Scotland in not recognizing strict liability is more limited in terms of liability than Pennsylvania. Generally, such a restriction provides an indication that the law seeks to limit the liability of its resident manufacturers to those cases where negligence can be shown; that only culpable conduct will result in liability. If the only purpose of the requirement of proof of negligence is to aid manufacturers in Scotland, then we may assume that the purpose of the law will not be furthered by applying it to American manufacturers.
Pennsylvania's interests in recognizing strict liability is foremost in ensuring that citizens will be compensated for injuries resulting from defective products. There does exist in the imposition of strict liability on manufacturers an element of deterrence. While the element of compensating injured residents outweighs the deterrence factor, at least some slight interest on the part of the state of Pennsylvania would be furthered if the law of Pennsylvania were applied to Defendant Piper. No Pennsylvania governmental interest, however, would be promoted by the application of Pennsylvania law to Defendant Hartzell. Since none of the decedents nor their relatives were Pennsylvania citizens, Pennsylvania's interest in compensating its injured citizens is of little weight. While the interest of Pennsylvania in applying its laws is indeed slight, neither of the other forums has any apparent interest in applying their laws and we therefore assume that California courts would apply Pennsylvania law under the choice of law rules of California.
In summary, under the California choice of law rules, it appears the law of Scotland would be applied to Defendant Piper with respect to the wrongful death laws. Under this interpretation, Plaintiff would not be a proper litigant. Second, the strict liability law of Pennsylvania would likely apply to Defendant Piper and not the negligence law of Scotland.
Next, we will briefly review the law that should apply to Defendant Hartzell under Pennsylvania choice of law rules. As Plaintiff accurately points out in her brief, the courts of Pennsylvania follow the significant contacts approach. In Griffith v. United Airlines, 416 Pa. 1, 203 A.2d 796 (1964), the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania adopted the rule of the Restatement Second of Conflicts of Laws, section 145, which states that in a tort action, the rights and liabilities of the parties are determined by the local law which has the most significant relationship to the occurrence or to the parties. "To determine which law has the most significant relationship, the court is instructed to consider: the place where the injury occurred; the place where the conduct causing the injury occurred; the domicile, residence, place of incorporation, or the place of business of the parties; and the place where the relationship between the parties is centered." Lewis v. Chemetron Corporation, 448 F. Supp. 211, 212 (W.D.Pa.1978); Zurzola v. General Motors Corporation, 503 F.2d 403 (3d Cir. 1974); Samuelson v. Susen, 576 F.2d 546 (3d Cir. 1978). Any analysis of the relevant contacts in the instant suit leads to the inevitable conclusion that the courts of Pennsylvania would apply the law of Scotland to this action.
To reiterate some of the crucial aspects of the contacts, we begin with the fact of the accident in Scotland. The conduct giving rise to the injury occurred in one of three places, Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Scotland. The real parties in interest are domiciled in Scotland, are residents of Scotland, while the Defendants are located in Ohio and Pennsylvania. We will not outline the contact in any more detail as we find the weight of the contacts with Scotland to be overwhelming. We hold that the law of Scotland would apply in the instant action to Defendant Hartzell.
We will now once again turn our attention to the public interest factors of Gulf Oil. As Gulf Oil recognized an extremely important factor in the balance of interests is the fact that foreign law will govern all or part of a case. 330 U.S. at 508, 67 S. Ct. 839; See also, Farmanfarmaian v. Gulf Oil Corporation, 437 F. Supp. 910, 924 (S.D.N.Y.1977); Domingo v. States Marine Lines, 340 F. Supp. 811, 816 (S.D.N.Y.1972); Michell v. General Motors Corporation, 439 F. Supp. 24, 27 (N.D.Ohio 1977); DelRio v. Ballenger Corporation, 391 F. Supp. 1002, 1004 (D.S.C.1975); Fitzgerald v. Westland Marine Corporation, 369 F.2d 499, 502 (2d Cir. 1966); McCarthy v. Canadian National Railways, 322 F. Supp. 1197 (D.Mass.1971). We have determined that Scottish law will govern part of this case. We, of course, are not familiar with the law of Scotland and would have to rely on experts from that country. See, Fitzgerald v. Texaco, Inc., 521 F.2d 448 (2d Cir. 1975). Clearly, it would be better for all parties for this case to proceed in a court in Scotland that is at home with the law of that country. This case is further complicated by the fact that different laws would apply to different parties. The result of this would no doubt cause hopeless confusion and would likely lead to inconsistent or an inequitable result if a trial were held here. Dismissal of this action avoids unnecessary problems of conflict of laws and the application of foreign law.
Another factor that Gulf Oil suggests that we consider is the unfairness of burdening citizens in this forum with jury duty when this forum has little connection with the controversy. The only connection with this forum is that the plane was manufactured in this district years before this accident. Trial of this case would take weeks and we do find that it would be an unfair burden to impose this on the citizens in this community. Also, it would be a huge burden on this court in terms of both time and the costs involved. Our court is too congested for us to try an action that belongs in a foreign forum. See, Gulf Oil at 508, 509, 67 S. Ct. 839; DelRio v. Ballenger Corporation, 391 F. Supp. 1002, 1005 (D.S.C.1975); Michell v. General Motors Corporation, 439 F. Supp. 24, 28 (N.D.Ohio 1977); Domingo v. States Marine Lines, 340 F. Supp. 811, 816 (S.D.N.Y.1972); Dahl v. United Technologies Corporation, 472 F. Supp. 696, 701 (D.Del.1979).
If we attempted to try this action in this forum the administrative and legal difficulties would be extreme. The legal problems include determining the serious and complex conflict of law questions, which this memorandum has only touched on. Likewise, the large numbers of witnesses that would be needed from Scotland, the British Isles, Ohio, and California would likely cause administrative difficulties. The physical evidence is in Scotland or the British Isles. We also note that Scotland has a large interest in the outcome of this litigation as it occurred in its airspace. The case thus may shed light on considerations which affect the safety of its citizens. See, Fitzgerald v. Texaco, Inc., 521 F.2d 448 (2d Cir. 1975). All of these matters lead us to conclude that the public interest would be better served by a trial in Scotland.
That the law of Scotland is not as helpful to the real parties in interest is not a weighty consideration. We must determine which forum is proper because of convenience and the interests of justice and the decision cannot be correctly made if the amount of a plaintiff's likely award is given undue weight. Generally, the cases that have been dismissed on the ground of Forum non conveniens all involve situations where a party enters a forum with the hope of seeking more liberal rules of recovery. If the foreign law that ought to govern a case does not protect its citizens as fully as the law of the dismissing forum, that is a matter to be dealt with in the foreign forum. See e.g., Michell v. General Motors Corporation, 439 F. Supp. 24, 27 (N.D.Ohio 1977); Texaco Trinidad v. Astro Exito Navegacion S. A., 437 F. Supp. 331, 333-34 (S.D.N.Y.1977); Fitzgerald v. Texaco, Inc., 521 F.2d 448, 453 (2d Cir. 1975).
The Plaintiff by brief and at oral argument asserted that the Defendants should be estopped from seeking dismissal of this action on Forum non conveniens grounds. No cases are cited in support of that proposition and we believe that is a sufficient indicator of the merit of that argument. Plaintiff argues that since the case has been transferred once before and for the reasons stated by Defendants in their briefs that they should now be estopped from arguing that the Middle District is not a proper forum. A reading of the briefs filed by Plaintiff in response to the transfer motion, in accordance with this argument, would lead us to conclude that Plaintiff should be estopped from raising this argument. The papers filed concerning the motion to transfer are, of course, irrelevant to the question we have decided. They were filed early on in this proceeding before many of the important facts of this case were uncovered. Also, Defendants should not be punished for their failure to file a motion to dismiss for Forum non conveniens first, instead of the motion to transfer. If they would have filed such a motion we feel sure that the California district court would have likewise dismissed this action.
The action will be dismissed on the conditions that the Defendants waive any defense that they might have relating to any statute of limitations that did not exist prior to the initiation of this suit and that they abide by their stipulation to submit to the jurisdiction of the Scottish courts.
© 1992-2004 VersusLaw Inc.