757 F.2d 1215 (11th Cir. 1985), 83-5655, Sibaja v. Dow Chemical Co.

Docket Nº:83-5655.
Citation:757 F.2d 1215
Party Name:Saul Munoz SIBAJA, Rafaela Arrieta Porra, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. DOW CHEMICAL COMPANY, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:April 16, 1985
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
 
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Page 1215

757 F.2d 1215 (11th Cir. 1985)

Saul Munoz SIBAJA, Rafaela Arrieta Porra, et al.,

Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

DOW CHEMICAL COMPANY, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 83-5655.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

April 16, 1985

Page 1216

Russell W. Budd, Frederick M. Baron & Associates, Jane Saginaw, Dallas, Tex., Robles & Robles, Miami, Fla., for plaintiffs-appellants.

Henry Burnett, Fowler, White, Burnett, Hurley, Banick & Strickroot, P.A., Miami, Fla., Fowler, White, Burnett, Hurley, Banick & Strickroot, P.A., Thomas F. Martin, Miami, Fla., R. Burton Ballanfant, Litigation Section, Shell Oil Co., Legal Dept., Houston, Tex., for Shell Oil.

Corlett, Killian, Hardeman, McIntosh & Levi, Michael B. Buckley, Leanne J. Frank, Miami, Fla., for Dow Chemical.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Before TJOFLAT and VANCE, Circuit Judges, and ATKINS [*], District Judge.

PER CURIAM:

The district court dismissed this diversity case under the doctrine of forum non conveniens. The plaintiffs appeal, claiming that the Erie 1 doctrine required the court to apply the state forum non conveniens rule which would have precluded the dismissal. We affirm.

I.

The plaintiffs are fifty-eight Costa Rican agricultural workers. They claim to have been sterilized as a result of their exposure in Costa Rica to pesticides manufactured by either Dow Chemical Company or Shell Oil Company. In May 1983, they sued these companies in Florida state court, seeking damages under product liability theories of negligence, strict liability in tort and implied warranty. The Florida court had personal jurisdiction over the defendants because they were qualified to transact business in the State of Florida. Fla.Stat. Sec. 48.091 (1983). 2

The defendants removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1332(a)(2) (1982), and, thereafter, moved to dismiss the action on the ground of forum non conveniens. They argued that the plaintiffs should prosecute their claims in the courts of Costa Rica: the plaintiffs are Costa Rican citizens; they were injured in Costa Rica; and substantially all of the evidence and witnesses are in Costa Rica.

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Furthermore, Florida's choice of law rule would require the district court to apply the substantive law of Costa Rica.

The plaintiffs, in response, argued that the Erie doctrine requires a federal district court, sitting in a diversity case, to apply the state forum non conveniens rule rather than the federal rule. Florida precludes the dismissal of an action under the doctrine, where one of the parties is a resident, Seaboard Coastline Railroad v. Swain, 362 So.2d 17, 18 (Fla.1978); Houston v. Caldwell, 359 So.2d 858, 861 (Fla.1978); Waite v. Summit Leasing & Capital International Corp., 441 So.2d 185, 185 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1983); 3 therefore, the plaintiffs continued, the district court transgressed the Erie rule in dismissing the action.

The district court, after weighing the traditional forum non conveniens factors, 4 concluded that the convenience of the parties, the witnesses and the court, and the interests of justice, dictated that the case be dismissed, and it granted the defendants' motion. 5 In appealing, the plaintiffs do not dispute the district court's interpretation of the doctrine, as it has been applied in the federal courts, and they do not dispute the court's weighing of the relevant factors. They also do not dispute that this case presents a paradigm for the

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invocation of the doctrine. Their argument is, purely, that Erie requires the application of the state rule because this is a diversity case.

II.

The doctrine of forum non conveniens authorizes a trial court to decline to exercise its jurisdiction, even though the court has venue, where it appears that the convenience of the parties and the court, and the interests of justice indicate that the action should be tried in another forum. The doctrine derives from the court's inherent power, under article III of the Constitution, to control the administration of the litigation before it and to prevent its process from becoming an instrument of abuse, injustice and oppression. As the Supreme Court observed nearly 100 years ago, "the equitable powers of courts of law over their own process, to prevent abuses, oppression...

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