Legal Memorandum: Forum Selection in a Wrongful Death Action

Issue: With regard to filing a wrongful death action in Minnesota, would a Minnesota court decline to exercise jurisdiction under the forum non conveniens doctrine?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Wrongful death action; Forum selection clause; Forum non conveniens doctrine
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 379 N.W.2d 508; 289 N.W.2d 43; 609 F. Supp. 1129
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 04/01/2001

The doctrine of forum non conveniens is typically applied to cases in which the plaintiffs are foreign nationals suing Minnesota or foreign corporations in Minnesota courts.  See, e.g., Fraizer v. St. Jude Med., Inc., 609 F. Supp. 1129 (D. Minn. 1985) (Danish plaintiff; case dismissed on the ground of forum non conveniens); Bergquist v. Medtronic, Inc., 379 N.W.2d 508 (Minn. 1986) (Swedish plaintiffs; case dismissed on forum non conveniens grounds).  Minnesota courts are extremely reluctant to invoke the doctrine to deny Minnesota residents access to a Minnesota forum.  See, e.g., Hague v. Allstate Ins. Co., 289 N.W.2d 43 (Minn. 1978) (holding that district court was well within its discretion in refusing to dismiss an action brought by a Minnesota resident against a non-resident defendant who did business in Minnesota, even though the plaintiff had moved to Minnesota just before commencing suit in her action for her husband’s wrongful death in an accident that occurred outside Minnesota), aff’d, 449 U.S. 302 (1981).

Minnesota forum non conveniens law establishes a strong presumption in favor of the plaintiff’s choice of forum.  Bergquist, 379 N.W.2d at 511.  To rebut the presumption, a defendant must show that a series of public and private interest factors weigh heavily in favor of an alternative forum.  Those factors include:  (1) the relative ease of access to sources of proof; (2) the availability of compulsory process for the attendance of willing witnesses; (3) the cost of obtaining attendance of […]

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