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MALAYSIA INT'L SHIPPING CORP. BERHAD v. SINOCHEM INT'L CO.

April 13, 2004.

MALAYSIA INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING CORPORATION BERHAD Menara Dayaburni, Jalan Hishamuddin 50712, Kuala Lumpur MALAYSIA Plaintiff,
v.
SINOCHEM INTERNATIONAL CO. LTD. 18, 19 F, Jinmao Tower No. 88 Century Boulevard Pudong New Area Shanghai CHINA Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FRANKLIN VAN ANTWERPEN, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This Court entered an Order on March 1, 2004, dismissing this matter on grounds of forum non conveniens. Plaintiff Malaysia International Shipping Corporation (MISC) has filed the instant Motion for Reconsideration, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) and Local Rule 7.1(g), alleging that this Court erroneously weighed private and public factors inherent in a forum non conveniens analysis, thus committing manifest errors of law and fact. For the reasons stated below, we disagree, and will deny said motion.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

  Our Order granting Defendant Sinochem International Co. Ltd.'s (Sinochem) Motion to Dismiss, filed March 1, 2004, sufficiently details the facts of this case. However, we will briefly outline the pertinent facts. Defendant entered into a contract with a U.S. company for the sale of steel coils, pursuant to which a valid bill of lading, showing that the cargo had been loaded on or before April 30, 2003, had to be issued before the seller could receive payment. The purchase contract called for any disputes arising out of the contract to be arbitrated under Chinese law.

  In Philadelphia, the steel coils were loaded on a vessel, of which Plaintiff MISC was the managing owner, and shipped to China. A bill of lading acknowledging receipt of the cargo, dated April 30, 2003, was issued in Philadelphia. The contract of carriage accompanying the bill of lading called for the application of the Hague Rules, which implicates the Carriage of Goods at Sea Act (COGSA) under U.S. law. The bill of lading also incorporated a charter party,*fn1 the terms of which currently are undisclosed, but which, according to evidence submitted previously, appear to implicate U.S. law.*fn2

  Upon arrival at the Chinese port in June 2003, Plaintiff's vessel carrying Defendant's cargo was arrested by order of the Guangzhou Admiralty Court, pursuant to a petition filed by Defendant for preservation of a maritime claim. This claim was based on an allegation that Plaintiff had fraudulently backdated the bill of lading (i.e., dated the bill of lading April 30, 2003, when it actually did not load the shipment until May). As required by the Chinese court's order, Plaintiff paid the US $9,000,000 security bond to obtain release of its vessel, and Defendant filed a complaint in Chinese Admiralty Court, on July 2, 2003.

  The Chinese court has since rejected Plaintiff's jurisdictional objections to Defendant's Complaint, which Plaintiff appealed to China's court of appeal.*fn3 China's High Court, in a final judgment, affirmed the lower court's decision that this matter falls under Chinese jurisdiction.

  On June 23, 2003, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court, alleging that Defendant's accusation of fraud constituted "negligent misrepresentation [to the Chinese Admiralty Court] of [Plaintiffs] vessel's fitness and suitability to load its cargo." (See Am. Compl. ΒΆΒΆ 30, 34.) On March 1, 2004, this Court issued an Order granting Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and dismissing this matter for forum non conveniens without prejudice to Plaintiff's right to proceed in the appropriate Chinese court. Plaintiff now files the instant Motion for Reconsideration, claiming that we erred in our forum non conveniens analysis. We disagree. Plaintiff has failed to either identify a change in controlling law, introduce new evidence warranting reconsideration, or identify any manifest error of law or fact. Its disagreement with our weighing of the evidence does not satisfy the high standard for granting a Motion for Reconsideration.

 II. ANALYSIS

  Motions for reconsideration under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) are intended "to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence." Harsco. Corp. v. Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906, 909 (3d Cir. 1985). They are not available to provide unhappy parties an additional opportunity to sway the court, and "may not be used by litigants to `rehash' the same arguments and facts previously presented to the court." Stepanuk v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., No. 92-6095, 1993 WL 166748, at *2 (E.D. Pa. May 14, 1993).

  As such, the applicable standard in this district is a rather stringent one, generally allowing a motion for reconsideration only on one of three grounds:
(1) there has been an intervening change in controlling law;
(2) new evidence, which was not previously available, has become available; or
(3) it is necessary to correct a clear error of law or to prevent manifest injustice.
Klee v. Lehigh Valley Hospital, No. 97-4642, 1998 WL 966011, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 30, 1998), aff'd, 203 F.3d 817 (3d Cir. 1999). Plaintiff has neither alleged a change in controlling law nor the existence of new evidence. Thus, its motion can survive only if it can demonstrate a clear legal error or a manifest injustice by this Court in our previous order granting Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.

  Plaintiff appears to raise three grounds for reconsideration regarding our analysis of forum non conveniens: (1) our analysis of public and private interest factors inadequately considered "all of the American witnesses and the import of their testimony"; (2) we erred in our determination of the most convenient forum; and (3) we failed to sufficiently consider American interests. (Pl's Br. at 2.) Having neglected to follow its own statement that it be "mindful of the need to . . . not merely [] reargue matters dealt with previously," Plaintiff has failed to establish any of these grounds. See id

  First, Plaintiff argues that we inadequately weighed private interest factors because "the witnesses in the US far outnumber the Sinochem representatives in the Chinese Admiralty Court," id., and that, despite the fact that China has retained jurisdiction, we should weigh the existence of a parallel suit in Chinese court in favor of Plaintiff. As we found in our prior opinion, the private interest factors that Plaintiff claims compel us to maintain jurisdiction (ease of access to sources of proof and the availability of compulsory process for unwilling witnesses) do not weigh in favor of trying this matter here.

  Preliminarily, with respect to access to witnesses, while Plaintiff provides additional detail in the instant motion of the identities and backgrounds of the witnesses it anticipates calling at trial, we cannot credit that information as grounds for reconsideration because it was available at the time Plaintiff responded to the Motion to Dismiss. It is well established that "[w]here evidence is not newly discovered, a party may not submit that evidence in support of a motion for reconsideration." Harsco, 779 F.2d at 909; see also e.g. Delong Corp. v. Raymond Int'l Inc., 622 F.2d 1135, 1140, overruled on other grounds by Croker v. Boeing Co. (Vertol Division), 662 F.2d 975 ...


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