Legal Memorandum: Doctrine of Forum Non Conveniens in WI

Issue: Under Wisconsin law, when will the doctrine of forum non conveniens require proceedings be held outside the jurisdiction, even in a foreign country such as Italy?

Area of Law: International Law & Global Trade, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Forum non conveniens doctrine; Forum-selection clause; Choice of forum
Jurisdiction: Federal, Wisconsin
Cited Cases: 108 F.3d 799; 454 U.S. 235; 981 F.2d 1345; 916 F.2d 372; 916 F.2d 1239
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 05/01/2000

           There is a presumption against invocation of the forum non conveniens doctrine, and a defendant has a heavy burden to establish that the doctrine should be applied.  See Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 508 (1947) (“unless the balance is strongly in favor of the defendant, the plaintiff’s choice of forum should rarely be disturbed”); Kamel v. Hill-Rom Co., 108 F.3d 799, 803 (7th Cir. 1997) (“Ordinarily, the trial court should not supplant the plaintiff’s choice of forum.”).  In addition, “[c]ourts routinely give less weight to a foreign plaintiff’s choice of forum.  Citizens or residents deserve somewhat more deference.”  Macedo v. Boeing, 693 F.2d 683, 688 (7th Cir. 1982).

The case of Wilson v. Humphreys (Cayman) Ltd., 916 F.2d 1239 (7th Cir. 1990), might be quite helpful.  A resident of Indiana was injured at the defendant’s hotel in the Cayman Islands.  She brought suit in Indiana (in federal court, by virtue of diversity jurisdiction), and defendant moved to dismiss based on forum non conveniens.  The district court declined, and was upheld by the Seventh Circuit.  The Seventh Circuit noted that “[g]reat weight must be given the [plaintiffs’] choice of forum.”  Id. at 1246.  It further noted “the hardships that [plaintiffs] would encounter in litigating a case at such a great distance from their home” if forced to litigate in the Cayman Islands.  Id. at 1247. 

In addition, the court noted approvingly that, in reaching the same result in a similar […]

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