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Patricia v. Boeing Co.

September 28, 2010

YEMELI TCHOFFO PATRICIA, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE BOEING COMPANY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Samuel Der-yeghiayan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the court on Defendants' motion to dismiss. For the reasons stated below, we grant the motion to dismiss.

BACKGROUND

On May 5, 2007, a Kenya Airways passenger aircraft (Aircraft) crashed shortly after taking off from Douala, Cameroon (Crash). All 114 individuals (Decedents) aboard were killed in the Crash. None of the Decedents were residents or citizens of the United States. Of the 114 Decedents, 37 of them were citizens of Cameroon. Defendant The Boeing Company (Boeing), Defendant GE Corp., Defendant GE Aviation, Defendant Smiths Aerospace, Defendant Thales Group, Defendant Rockwell Collins Co., Defendant Parker Hannifin Co., Defendant Triumph Group, Inc., and Defendant Triumph Actuation Systems-Valencia, Inc. were allegedly involved in the design and/or manufacture of the Aircraft or its components. The surviving family members of the Decedents brought the instant actions against Defendants seeking damages for negligent design and manufacture of the Aircraft and its components. Plaintiffs also seek to hold Boeing liable for the negligent destruction of evidence. Plaintiffs have brought the instant three actions in state court (case numbers 09 C 3709 (Pettitt Action), 09 C 3722 (Claisse Action), and 09 C 3728 (Patricia Action)). Defendants removed the actions to federal court. On May 28, 2010, the Claisse Action and Patricia Action were reassigned to the undersigned judge since the Pettitt Action, Claisse Action, and Patricia Action are all related.

On September 8, 2009, in the Patricia Action, consisting of eighteen Plaintiffs, nine Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their claims pursuant to a joint stipulation. On November 5, 2009, four more Plaintiffs in the Patricia Action voluntarily dismissed their claims pursuant to a joint stipulation, thus leaving five Plaintiffs. On September 15, 2010, Plaintiffs in the Pettitt Action dismissed the action based upon stipulation pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(ii), which provides for a dismissal without a court order. Pettitt Action having been dismissed, Defendants now move to dismiss all claims in the Claisse Action and the remaining Plaintiffs' claims in the Patricia Action. This decision is equally applicable to the Pettitt Action and to all Plaintiffs who have voluntarily dismissed their claims in the Patricia Action.

DISCUSSION

Defendants argue that the court should dismiss the claims in the Claisse Action and Patricia Action based on forum non conveniens. Defendants contend that a dismissal of the actions will leave Plaintiffs with an opportunity to re-file their claims in a Cameroon court. Under the principle of forum non conveniens, "a trial court may dismiss a suit over which it would normally have jurisdiction if it best serves the convenience of the parties and the ends of justice." Kamel v. Hill-Rom Co., Inc., 108 F.3d 799, 802 (7th Cir. 1997); Abad v. Bayer Corp., 563 F.3d 663, 665 (7th Cir. 2009)(stating that the doctrine of forum non conveniens "allows a court to dismiss a suit if there are strong reasons for believing it should be litigated in the courts of another, normally a foreign, jurisdiction"); Stroitelstvo Bulgaria Ltd. v. Bulgarian-American Enterprise Fund, 589 F.3d 417, 421 (7th Cir. 2009)(stating that "[t]he common law doctrine of forum non conveniens allows a federal district court to dismiss a suit over which it would normally have jurisdiction in order to best serve the convenience of the parties and the ends of justice"). A determination of whether to dismiss an action based on forum non conveniens "is consigned to the trial court's sound discretion." Kamel, 108 F.3d at 802.

The first step in making a forum non conveniens determination is to assess whether there is an available and adequate alternative forum. Id. If there is an available and adequate alternative forum, the court can dismiss an action if "a trial in the chosen forum would result in vexation and oppression to the defendant which would far outweigh the plaintiff's convenience or when the chosen forum would generate administrative and legal entanglements for the trial court..." Id. In making a forum non conveniens determination a court must consider and balance "all relevant public and private interest factors...." Id.

I. Available and Adequate Alternative Forum

Defendants contend that a Cameroon court provides an available and adequate alternative forum for the Claisse Action and Patricia Action.

An alternative forum is deemed to be an available forum "if all parties are amenable to process and are within the forum's jurisdiction." Id. An alternative forum is deemed to be an adequate forum if "the parties will not be deprived of all remedies or treated unfairly." Id.

A. Available Alternative Forum

It is undisputed that the Crash occurred in Cameroon. Defendants have shown that a Cameroon court would have jurisdiction over the issues in this case. In addition, Defendants contend that they have all agreed to submit to the jurisdiction of a Cameroon court. (3728 Mem. 10). Defendants also agree to the tolling of the statute of limitations for 120 days after the dismissal of the instant action to allow Plaintiffs time to ...


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