224 F.3d 142 (2nd Cir. 2000), 97-7973, Guidi v Inter-Continental Hotels

Docket Nº:97-7973, 99-7623
Citation:224 F.3d 142
Party Name:Karen Guidi, individually and as Executrix of the Estate of Robert L. Guidi; Eve Hoffman, individually and as Executrix of the Estate of Coby M. Hoffman; Merrill Kramer; Lois Kramer, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Inter-Continental Hotels Corporation, a Delaware corporation; Inter-Continental Hotels Corporation, a corporation of the United Kingdom; Inte
Case Date:February 14, 2000
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
 
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Page 142

224 F.3d 142 (2nd Cir. 2000)

Karen Guidi, individually and as Executrix of the Estate of Robert L. Guidi; Eve Hoffman, individually and as Executrix of the Estate of Coby M. Hoffman; Merrill Kramer; Lois Kramer, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

Inter-Continental Hotels Corporation, a Delaware corporation; Inter-Continental Hotels Corporation, a corporation of the United Kingdom; Inter-Continental Hotels & Resorts Corporation; Semiramis Hotel Corp.; Saison Holdings; B.V.; Saison Corporation, Defendants-Appellees.

Nos. 97-7973, 99-7623

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

February 14, 2000

Argued: December 2, 1999.

Amended: August 16, 2000.

Page 143

Brian J. Shoot, New York, NY (Schneider, Kleinick, Weitz, Damashek & Shoot, of counsel), for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

Robert B. Wallace, Washington, DC (Harry P. Brett, Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, of counsel), for Defendants-Appellees.

Before OAKES, STRAUB, and KATZMANN, Circuit Judges.

AMENDED OPINION

OAKES, Senior Circuit Judge:

Karen Guidi, Eve Hoffman, Merrill Kramer, and Lois Kramer ("Plaintiffs") sued Inter-Continental Hotels Corporation and other defendants (collectively "IHC") on personal injury and wrongful death claims arising from a shooting in an Egyptian hotel managed by IHC. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Loretta A. Preska, Judge, dismissed Plaintiffs' action on the ground of forum non conveniens, concluding that Egypt was the better forum for their suit. Plaintiffs now appeal this dismissal, arguing that the District Court applied the wrong legal standard for determining the proper forum in this case and mistakenly relied on the existence of related litigation in favor of the Egyptian forum. Because we agree with Plaintiffs that the District Court erred in concluding that their action should be heard in Egypt, we reverse.

BACKGROUND

In October 1993, Robert Guidi, Coby Hoffman, and Merrill Kramer were in Egypt on business. While eating dinner in the restaurant of the Semiramis Inter-Continental Hotel, which at the time was managed by IHC, all three men were shot by an Egyptian gunman named Farahat

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who had entered the hotel without triggering the suspicions of hotel security. In addition to the three Americans, Farahat shot a Syrian lawyer, a French lawyer, and an Italian judge. Of his six victims, four died, including Robert Guidi and Coby Hoffman.

Immediately after the shooting, Farahat surrendered to hotel security and the Egyptian police. His claimed motivation for the shootings was religious extremism directed against foreigners. In the criminal prosecution that followed, Farahat was adjudged insane and committed to a government hospital in January 1994. He escaped from the hospital in September 1997 and the same day, with the help of at least one other person, killed ten more people in an attack on a tour bus.

Plaintiffs filed suit against IHC on October 20, 1995, joining the wrongful death claims of Guidi's and Hoffman's widows with the personal injury claims of Kramer and his wife. At the time of suit, Mrs. Guidi and Mrs. Hoffman were residents of New Jersey and the Kramers resided in Maryland. Because IHC is a Delaware company with its principal place of business in New York City and diversity existed between the parties, Plaintiffs elected to bring their action in the Southern District of New York. On July 7, 1996, IHC moved for dismissal on the ground of forum non conveniens, arguing that information critical to its defense could be obtained only in Egypt, that the cost of defending itself in New York would be prohibitive, that it would be unable to implead Egyptian third parties, and that an Egyptian court would better be able to apply Egyptian tort law. Plaintiffs opposed IHC's motion on several fronts, including that American plaintiffs should not be compelled to sue an American defendant in a foreign country and that Plaintiffs were emotionally unable to travel to Egypt for a trial.

In January 1997, IHC submitted supplemental information to the District Court which indicated that the families of the Italian judge and the French lawyer, whom Farahat had killed in the same incident that gave rise to this case, had commenced wrongful death actions in the Egyptian courts.

On July 17, 1997, the District Court granted IHC's motion to dismiss.1 Applying the forum non conveniens balancing test outlined by the Supreme Court in Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 91 L.Ed. 1055, 67 S.Ct. 839 (1947), the court found that with respect to the private interests of the litigants, the balance slightly favored the Egyptian forum because a viewing of the premises would be possible there and because IHC would be able to implead the Egyptian government as a third party. Turning to the public interest factors presented by the case, the court found that (1) the Southern District of New York has an overburdened docket; (2) Egypt has a greater interest in the litigation than New York because it is committed to protecting its tourist industry; (3) an Egyptian court would be more familiar with Egyptian law and have a greater interest in its application; and (4) most significantly, there were two related lawsuits pending in Egypt at the time of dismissal. The court concluded that these public interest factors decisively favored the Egyptian forum, and dismissed the case on that basis.

In November 1997, Plaintiffs filed for relief from the district court's dismissal under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(6), providing evidence of increasing terrorist activity against tourists in Egypt since the time of the dismissal. Plaintiffs' evidence included the escape and...

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