MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
(Ruling on Defendants' Renewed Taiwan Forum Non Conveniens Motion)
Earlier this year the court dismissed the tort claims of the Taiwanese residents in this multidistrict litigation*fn1 on the ground that they were barred by limitations. In re Factor VIII or IX Concentrate Blood Prods. Liab. Litig., No. 93 C 7452, 2009 WL 804018 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 26, 2009). The plaintiffs have appealed that decision, and the Court of Appeals has stayed the appeal pending this court's decision on the Defendants' Renewed Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs from Taiwan on Grounds of Forum Non Conveniens. That motion is the subject of this opinion.
The tort claims we dismissed as barred by limitations were plaintiffs' negligence claims and their claims that defendants fraudulently induced them to settle the negligence claims. We held that these tort claims are barred by the limitations laws of both Taiwan and California.
Plaintiffs have a remaining claim for breach of contract that is not barred by limitations. This is the claim that defendants address in their renewed forum non conveniens motion. The claim is that, as part of the 1998 settlement agreement, the defendants agreed to pay each plaintiff the sum of $60,000 plus whatever sums might be required to make their total payments equal to those received by other persons who settled their claims with the defendants. The parties refer to this provision for the additional payments as the "scale-up" provision of the settlement agreement. Plaintiffs claim that the defendants have breached this scale-up provision by refusing to pay them additional monies necessary to make their payments equal to those received by other claimants.
The parties disagree about the meaning of the scale-up provision. Plaintiffs allege that the other "claimants" whose payments are to be compared to theirs are any claimants with whom the defendants have settled, anywhere in the world. Defendants say the provision refers only to other Taiwanese claimants with whom they might settle. Some court will have to decide this dispute, and the choice of that forum is the subject of the defendants' present motion.
Defendants contend, for several reasons, that Taiwan is a more convenient forum than either of the transferor courts in California. We will address their arguments in due course, but first we will deal with a threshold question raised by the plaintiffs. They contend that we have already denied the defendants' forum non conveniens motion and that the present "renewed" motion is an inappropriate request for reconsideration. (Taiwanese Pls.' Opp'n to Defs.' Renewed Mot. to Dismiss Pls. from Taiwan on Grounds of Forum Non Conveniens at 8-9.) Plaintiffs misapprehend the nature of our denial of defendants' initial forum non conveniens motion, In re Factor VIII or IX Concentrate Blood Products Liability Litigation, 595 F. Supp. 2d 855 (N.D. Ill. 2009) (hereinafter referred to as Chang). It is true that we denied the motion, but not on the merits. As far as the merits were concerned, we indicated that they weighed in favor of the defendants and that, "were it not for a practical consideration we [would] discuss in the next section of [the] opinion, we would grant the motion to dismiss." Id. at 874. The "practical consideration" was that the threshold question in the case was limitations, and, were the case to be refiled in Taiwan, the Taiwanese court would give priority to the limitations question, applying the same law that would be applied by the California courts. Therefore, we stated,
We believe it would be pointless, and that it would impose a needless expense upon the plaintiffs, for us to grant the motion to dismiss, forcing them to refile in Taiwan. The cases should remain in California, where defendants can present the same motion they would present in Taiwan. Should the California courts, or either of them, decide that the claims are not time-barred, the California court could then consider whether a forum non conveniens dismissal would be appropriate. Our denial of defendants' motion at this time is, of course, without prejudice to their renewing it in California should it become appropriate to do so.
Thereafter, instead of agreeing to a suggestion of remand to the transferor courts in California, the parties agreed that we should decide the limitations motion. We then dismissed the tort claims on limitations grounds, and defendants filed their renewed forum non conveniens motion. The motion is clearly appropriate. We turn, then, to the parties' arguments regarding the merits of the renewed motion. Much of what we will say incorporates the analysis we made in Chang.
Plaintiff Chen-Chen Huang
The plaintiff Chen-Chen Huang is different from the other plaintiffs in that she was not a party to the settlement agreement. She asserts only the same negligence claim that we dismissed in Chang. Our conclusion that the negligence claim is more conveniently litigated in Taiwan than California, for the reasons asserted in Chang, 595 F. Supp. 2d at 873, remains unchanged. We will therefore grant the motion of ...