A lot of legal jargon sounds as foreign as it is. In the case of “forum non-conveniens,” however, the meaning is much like it sounds. A tactical strategy to avoid litigation, the concept of forum non-conveniens allows defendants to argue that the case against them should be dismissed because the court—or “forum”—where the suit was brought is inconvenient for them.
In the past, big companies defending suits against accident victims have gotten cases dismissed on the ground of forum non-conveniens. The results can be alarming and unfair. Lacking the same resources as the typical corporation, the average accident victim—perhaps still recovering from her injuries—is often unable to bring the case in the court the company says is convenient for them. For example, for obvious reasons, a Florida resident taking on a chain retailer probably would not want to bring her case in Alaska.
In a decision earlier this month, a Florida appellate court denied a large health care company’s attempt to squash a lawsuit through forum non-conveniens. A man had sued the company several years earlier, claiming that the company’s allegedly defective medical device had injured him.
In its opinion, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision to deny the forum non-conveniens claim. The lower court had reasoned that applying the Florida test for forum non-conveniens, the company’s claim failed.
The test for forum non-conveniens in Florida is well established, as the court explained. In deciding whether to apply forum non-conveniens to dismiss a case, Florida must consider four factors.
First, is there another court where the case could be brought? Of course, if there is no other court where the case could be brought, then the case should continue in the current court. Second, how are the parties in the lawsuit affected by the forum choice? For example, will each party be able to access key evidence if the case is continued in the current court? In making this assessment, the court must give considerable weight to the plaintiff’s preferences. Third, if the parties’ interests appear to be in equal balance, then the court must also consider the forum choice from the public perspective. In other words, does it make sense for the court to consider the case at hand? In theory, since courts are publicly funded, they should use their resources to hear cases affecting local people. Finally, if a case is dismissed based on forum non-conveniens, will the person bringing the suit actually be able to bring her case somewhere else? For example, if it would be too late to file the case elsewhere, then the court should not dismiss the case, even if the other factors weigh in favor of dismissal.
When taking on a larger company with significant assets, accident victims are well served to choose a law firm with experience in defending against forum non-conveniens claims. Otherwise, they may effectively lose their case not on the merits, but for the simple reason that the case must now be brought in a court inconvenient for them.
Consult a Florida Personal Injury Lawyer Today
If you or a loved one has suffered an accident in Florida, you may be owed financial compensation that can help you recover physically and emotionally from your injuries. The experienced Miami personal injury attorneys at Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada are standing by to help people like you get the compensation you deserve. Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada lawyers take on even the most challenging of cases are committed to getting the best results on behalf of their clients. Call us at 877-448-8585 to schedule a free, no-strings-attached consultation with a lawyer today.