Civil Procedure—Forum Non Conveniens
Parra v. Continental Tire, Inc., 222 Ariz. 212, 213 P.3d 361 (App., Div. I, July 28, 2009) (J. Johnsen)
FORUM NON CONVENIENS NOT PERMISSIBLE AS GROUND FOR DISMISSAL WHERE PLAINTIFFS WERE MEXICAN NATIONALS AND ACCIDENT OCCURRED IN MEXICO BUT WHERE PRODUCT WAS MANUFACTURED, SOLD AND MAINTAINED IN ARIZONA
Plaintiffs, Mexican Nationals, had a single vehicle rollover accident in their Ford Expedition in Sonora Mexico when the tread separated on one of their tires manufactured defendant Continental. Serious injuries and a death followed. Plaintiffs sued the tire manufacturer and the dealer in Arizona that sold and maintained the vehicle.
Defendants moved to dismiss claiming Mexico was the preferred forum. The trial court granted the motion particularly persuaded by the defendants' agreement to submit themselves to jurisdiction in a Mexican court and to waive the statute of limitations.
The Court of Appeals reversed noting that great deference is to be given to the forum selected by the plaintiff. In analyzing a motion for dismissal based upon forum non conveniens the court should weigh the private and public interests in litigating the case in plaintiffs chosen forum. Here although some witnesses were in Mexico, the Hague Convention allows for them to be deposed. More importantly the most important witnesses concerning the design, manufacture and maintenance of the tires and vehicle as well as expert testimony were all in the United States and available in an Arizona court.
Public considerations also militate in favor of Arizona as the forum. The tire at issue was sold in Arizona to an Arizona resident, the accident killed a U.S. citizen and injured a Mexican citizen residing in Arizona. The fact the accident occurred in Mexico is an irrelevant happenstance. Here Arizona has a significant interest in applying Arizona law to the matter in an Arizona court.