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Quirke v. JLG Industries, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 19, 2019

KEVIN QUIRKE, Plaintiff,
JLG INDUSTRIES, INC., a corporation Defendant.



         Before the court is a motion to dismiss the complaint based on forum non conveniens filed by Defendant JLG Industries Inc. (“JLG”). (Doc. 16.) For the reasons that follow, the court will deny the motion.

         I. Background

         On April 25, 2019, Plaintiff Kevin Quirke (“Quirke”) initiated this action by filing a complaint in the Western District of Pennsylvania asserting claims for strict products liability, negligence, and breach of warranty. (Doc. 1.) According to the complaint, in March 2018, Quirke was operating a model 860SJ Boom Lift (the “boom lift”) while working on the premises of his employer, Sunbelt Rentals of Canada in Toronto, Canada, when the boom suddenly retracted. (See Id. at ¶¶ 6, 7 10.) The sudden retraction allegedly caused the platform on which Quirke was standing to rapidly descend about forty feet before coming to an abrupt stop, causing Quirke to strike the platform and its railings. (Id. at ¶ 11.) As a result, Quirke sustained severe injuries including, among other things, a fractured ankle, a fractured jawbone, a deep laceration in his neck tissue, and nerve and spinal injuries. (Id. at ¶ 13.)

         Quirke alleges that the retraction in the boom and his injuries resulted from JLG's improper installation and assembly of the boom lift's cable system. According to Quirke, the improper assembly caused a “crisscross routing of the cables resulting in the extended cables rubbing against each other, ” (Doc. 1, ¶ 10) which caused, in turn, the cables to degrade and deteriorate over the boom lift's relatively short time in service. (Id. at ¶¶ 10-12.) JLG avers in its defense that some prior user of the boom lift may have disengaged a “broken cable” indicator light in the boom lift's settings that would have alerted Quirke that the boom lift was not in usable condition. (Doc. 17, p. 13 n.1.)

         Quirke is an Irish citizen. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 1.) JLG is a Pennsylvania corporation. (Id. at ¶ 2.) The boom lift is alleged to have been manufactured and assembled by JLG in McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania sometime between March 2014 and March 2018 before its sale to Quirke's employer. (Id. at ¶¶ 8-9; Doc. 16, ¶ 7.)

         On June 19, 2019, JLG filed a motion to dismiss the complaint based on forum non conveniens and alternatively to transfer venue to the Middle District of Pennsylvania. (Doc. 8.) On June 17, 2019, the Western District of Pennsylvania partially granted JLG's motion and ordered that the case be transferred to the Middle District of Pennsylvania. (Doc. 13.) In doing so, the Western District “defer[red] any ruling on the requested dismissal on the basis of forum non-conveniens to the transferee court.” (Id. at p. 4.) On July 30, 2019, JLG filed its present motion to dismiss based on forum non conveniens. (Doc. 16.) The matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

         II. Standard of Review

         Forum non conveniens is a doctrine empowering a court with legal jurisdiction over a dispute to dismiss a case when “the chosen forum would either oppress a defendant out of all proportion to plaintiff's convenience or cause the court administrative and legal problems.” Trotter v. 7R Holdings LLC, 873 F.3d 435, 439 (3d Cir. 2017) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). In deciding a motion to dismiss based on forum non conveniens, “a district court must first determine whether an adequate alternate forum can entertain the case.” Eurofins Pharma U.S. Holdings v. BioAlliance Pharma SA, 623 F.3d 147, 160 (3d Cir. 2010) (citation and brackets omitted). This requirement “[o]rdinarily…will be satisfied when the defendant is ‘amenable to process' in the other jurisdiction.” Acuna-Atalaya v. Newmont Mining Corp., 765 Fed.Appx. 811, 815 (3d Cir. 2019) (quoting Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 254 n.22 (1981)).

         Such motions “may be granted even though the law applicable in the alternative forum is less favorable to the plaintiff's chance of recovery.” Piper Aircraft Co., 454 U.S. at 250 (citations omitted). However, “in the rare circumstance…where the remedy offered by the other forum is clearly unsatisfactory, the other forum may not be an adequate alternative, ” such as where “the remedy provided by the alternative forum is so clearly inadequate or unsatisfactory that it is no remedy at all.” Acuna-Atalaya, 765 Fed.Appx. at 815 (quoting Piper Aircraft Co., 454 U.S. at 254).

         If an adequate alternative forum does exist, “the district court must determine next the appropriate amount of deference to be given the plaintiff's choice of forum” and must then “balance the relevant public and private interest factors.” Eurofins Pharma U.S. Holdings, 623 F.3d at 160 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). The private interest factors include access to sources of proof; availability of compulsory process for the attendance of unwilling witnesses; the cost of obtaining attendance of willing witnesses; the possibility of view of premises, if view would be appropriate to the action; and all other practical problems that make trial of a case easy, expeditious and inexpensive. Trotter, 873 F.3d at 442. The public interest factors include the possibility of turning courts into congested centers; the likelihood that the case will burden a jury composed of people with no relation to the litigation; the probability that the case will touch the affairs of many persons in the community; and the chances that the court will be at home with the law that must govern the case. Id.

         “In articulating these factors, the Supreme Court repeatedly emphasized the district court's discretion in selecting and reviewing factors.” Id. The relevant balancing test requires a qualitative analysis. Lacey v. Cessna Aircraft Co., 932 F.2d 170, 186 (3d Cir. 1991). The burden is on the movant to show that an adequate alternative forum exists and that the private and public interest factors “weigh heavily in favor of dismissal.” Id. at 180.

         III. Discussion

         A. JLG has demonstrated that an adequate ...

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