708 F.2d 1406 (9th Cir. 1983), 82-4267, Cheng v. Boeing Co.

Docket Nº:82-4267, 82-4283, 82-4284 and 82-4288 to 82-4302.
Citation:708 F.2d 1406
Party Name:Nina CHENG, Individually and as personal representative of the Estate of Thomas T.O. Cheng, Deceased, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. The BOEING COMPANY, et al., Defendants-Appellees. Shunsaku HARADA and Masa Harada, in their individual capacities and as Heirs at Law and Legal Successors of Akiko Harada, Deceased, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v
Case Date:June 20, 1983
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
 
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Page 1406

708 F.2d 1406 (9th Cir. 1983)

Nina CHENG, Individually and as personal representative of

the Estate of Thomas T.O. Cheng, Deceased, et al.,

Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

The BOEING COMPANY, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

Shunsaku HARADA and Masa Harada, in their individual

capacities and as Heirs at Law and Legal

Successors of Akiko Harada, Deceased, et

al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

The BOEING COMPANY, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

LUI SU NAI-CHAO, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

The BOEING COMPANY, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

Nos. 82-4267, 82-4283, 82-4284 and 82-4288 to 82-4302.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

June 20, 1983

Argued and Submitted April 12, 1983.

Page 1407

Paul H. Due, Due, Dodson, deGravelles, Baton Rouge, La., Arthur S. Katayama, Los Angeles, Cal., for plaintiffs-appellants.

Michael M. Marron, Marron, Reid & Sheehy, David W. Gordon, Bronson, Bronson & McKinnon, San Francisco, Cal., Frank A. Silane, Condon & Forsyth, Los Angeles, Cal., for defendants-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

Before MERRILL, SNEED, and FARRIS, Circuit Judges.

FARRIS, Circuit Judge:

The Cheng and Harada plaintiffs brought actions against Boeing, United Airlines, and Far Eastern Air Transport in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of

Page 1408

California on claims arising out of the crash of a commercial airliner in Taiwan in 1981. Defendants asserted that Taiwan was a more convenient forum and moved that plaintiffs' cause be dismissed on the ground of forum non conveniens. The district court granted defendants' motion. Plaintiffs appeal.

The crash involved a Boeing 737-200 operated by Far Eastern Air Transport. Boeing manufactured the plane in 1968 and United Airlines operated it within the United States until 1976, when it sold it to Far Eastern. From 1976 until the day of the crash, Far Eastern operated and serviced the aircraft. Far Eastern performed all maintenance in accordance with a program authorized by Boeing. At the time of the accident Boeing had trained 54 members of Far Eastern's maintenance staff.

The crash occurred on August 22, 1981, during an intra-Taiwan flight and killed all aboard. The airplane exploded shortly after take-off at 20,000 feet, scattering debris over a wide area of rugged terrain south of Taipei. The China Civil Aeronautics Authority, with the assistance of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, Boeing, and United, conducted a full-scale investigation of the accident. Much of the wreckage was taken to the United States for examination and testing but was later returned to Taiwan. It remains there, although Boeing retains some fragments.

Four days after the district court granted Boeing's motion to dismiss on grounds of forum non conveniens, the Taiwan Ministry of Communications announced the results of the investigation. The Authority found, inter alia, that there were no eyewitnesses to the accident, that there was no pilot or crew error, that there were no maintenance defects, that there were no adverse weather conditions at the time of the crash, and that the cause of the accident was the rupture under pressure of the body of the aircraft due to cracks in its structure caused by rust and corrosion. The Authority noted that the U.S. Federal Aviation Agency had documented 237 instances of similar cracks in 154 Boeing planes of the same type.

This appeal consolidates nineteen separate wrongful death actions filed by representatives of passengers killed in the accident. The passengers included citizens of Taiwan, Japan, Canada, and the United States. At the time Boeing's motion to dismiss was argued before the district court, most of the Cheng plaintiffs were Taiwanese. Among the plaintiffs, however, were seven Americans and four Taiwanese residents of the United States. Boeing and United have since settled with most of these eleven plaintiffs and, at this time, only a small number of plaintiffs who are either citizens or residents of the United States remain active in this litigation. The Harada plaintiffs are forty-six Japanese citizens, suing in behalf of eighteen Japanese decedents.

This litigation began when the Cheng plaintiffs filed three complaints in the Northern District of California naming Boeing and other American corporations as defendants. At the same time they sought to depose two Boeing employees. Boeing successfully moved to quash the notices of deposition and to stay discovery pending its filing of a motion to dismiss on the ground of forum non conveniens.

Boeing filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to transfer the case to the Western District of Washington. Ten days later the Harada plaintiffs filed fifteen actions, naming Boeing, United Airlines, and Far Eastern Air Transport as defendants. On that day the district court granted Boeing's motion to quash the notices of deposition and stayed all discovery.

On January 11, 1982, the Cheng plaintiffs amended...

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