Judge Martinez Reversed On Forum Non Banana Boat Death

Now that’s a headline I thought I’d never write.

Actually, it’s a very unfortunate case involving a tourist who died riding a Banana Boat in the Bahamas which Judge Martinez dismissed on forum non grounds.

The original opinion is here.

In a thorough opinion by Middle District of Georgia Judge Hugh Lawson, sitting by designation, the Eleventh Circuit identified a number of serious errors in the district court opinion, including a fundamental one relating to the scope of the relevant inquiry:

The district court considered the Southern District of Florida to be the relevant forum for purposes of the forum non conveniens test. In weighing the private interests, the district court looked only at the contacts between the case and the Southern District. Limiting its consideration to just one judicial district was improper. “[T]he relevant forum for purposes of the federal [forum non conveniens] analysis is the United States as a whole.” Aldana, 578 F.3d at 1293; Esfeld v. Costa Crociere, S.P.A., 289 F.3d 1300, 1303 (11th Cir. 2002) (“[F]ederal courts, in the forum non conveniens context, do not focus on the connection between the case and a particular state, but rather on the connection of the case to the United States as a whole.”) The district court should have analyzed the forum non conveniens question by looking at all contacts between the case and the whole United States. This would include consideration of the plaintiff’s witnesses who are located in Florida, including the eyewitnesses and the damages witnesses, as well as the documentary evidence located in Florida, including documents and records relating to damages. While the district court stated that it was unaware of any witnesses or evidence located in the Southern District of Florida, whether the witnesses and documents are located in the Southern District as opposed to the Middle District is irrelevant in a federal forum non conveniens analysis. It was error for the district court to consider only the contacts that the case had with the Southern District of Florida.

I reviewed the original opinion and don’t see any discussion of whether or not the inquiry should be limited to the SD FL or the United States as a whole (and no reference to the controlling Aldana opinion).

Congrats to Gabrielle D’Alemberte for a huge victory and a nice way to end the year (ok, you too Joel but I hope you don’t mind if I don’t put up your picture).

Gabby’s blog is here btw.