Federal District Court in Massachusetts Holds that Jurisdiction Outside the United States is More Convenient Forum for Boating Accident Case

One of the first considerations in a personal injury lawsuit in Massachusetts, such as a negligence claim arising from a Cape Cod boating accident, is the forum in which the plaintiff’s claim will be filed. Often, there is but a single possibility for the filing of such a case, so the inquiry is a relatively simple one.

However, some situations lend themselves to the possibility of jurisdiction in more than one court – a state court or a federal court, perhaps. Sometimes, two states may arguably both have jurisdiction over a given case.

Rarely – but sometimes – two different nations may have jurisdiction of a particular lawsuit. In such a situation, it is up to the court system to decide which nation’s court will provide the more convenient forum based on the situation at hand.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiffs were a husband and wife who filed suit against the defendant boat owner in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, seeking financial compensation for injuries that they allegedly sustained when the defendant’s vessel, which was being piloted at the time by the defendant’s gardener, collided with the plaintiffs’ boat. Although all of the parties were American citizens (the plaintiffs were from New York, and the defendant was from Massachusetts), the accident in question took place in Greece.

In response to the plaintiffs’ suit asserting claims for personal injury by negligence under general maritime law, loss of consortium, and property damage, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ case on the ground of forum non conveniens. The plaintiffs filed a cross-motion for discovery.

The Appellate Court’s Decision

The federal district court granted the defendant’s motion for a forum non conveniens dismissal of the plaintiff’s cause of action, conditioned upon the defendant’s submission to the jurisdiction of the Greek court system, the defendant’s waiver of any statute of limitations defense (and the Greek courts’ acceptance of such waiver), and the defendant’s agreement to satisfy any judgment that might be rendered against him by the courts of Greece. The plaintiffs’ cross motion for discovery was, accordingly, denied.

Although the court began its analysis with the presumption that a plaintiff’s choice of forum should rarely be disturbed, the court ultimately concluded that the defendant had borne his burden of showing both that an adequate alternative forum existed and that considerations of convenience and judicial efficiency strongly favored litigating the claim in the alternative forum. In so holding, the court considered both private and public interest factors, including access to sources of proof, securing witnesses, the possibility of viewing the premises, docket congestion, and ease of access to proceedings. The fact that most of the key fact witnesses resided in Greece and only a Greek court had the power to compel the witnesses weighed heavily in favor of the matter being determined in Greece, according to the court.

Injury Attorney Reviewing New Cases in Cape Cod

Statistically speaking, one is much more likely to be involved in a car or truck accident than a boating accident. However, accidents can and do happen on the water, especially when boaters behave negligently or recklessly. If you’ve been hurt in a Cape Cod boating accident and need legal advice about your case, call the Law Offices of John C. Manoog III at 888-262-6664 and ask for an appointment to come in and discuss your case. We handle cases in Hyannis, Plymouth, and other areas of Cape Cod.

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