Thursday, June 8, 2017

No Presumptions of Convenience for Foreign Plaintiffs

Fox Factory, Inc. v. Superior Court, No. H043648 (D6 Apr. 27, 2017)

Plaintiff is a Canadian who was hurt in a mountain biking accident in British Columbia. He filed two lawsuits over his accident. In one, filed in Santa Clara County, he sued a bunch of U.S. manufacturers if the components of his bike, including Fox, a California company that made the forks. The other case was filed in Canada and brought against a Canadian bike shop and a bunch of John Does, who appear to be the companies sued in the California action. 

Fox didn’t find out about the Canadian litigation for almost two years. Indeed, it claims Plaintiff actively hid it, including by misspelling his name on the Canadian complaint (and thus stymieing any record searches) and giving false interrogatory responses about participation in other litigation. After it found out (and after the other defendants had gotten out of the case on SJ) Fox moved to stay or dismiss for forum nonconveniens, arguing that because the plaintiff is Canadian, the accident occurred in Canada, and all of the witnesses were located there (and thus not subject to process in California) it was unfair to make it litigate in California. But the superior court denied the motion, finding that, although Canada was a suitable forum, the balancing of interests didn’t merit a stay or dismissal. According to the trial court, the factors merited a stay or dismissal only when they showed that California was a “seriously inconvenient” forum. 

Fox took a writ.

As the Court of appeal explains, the “seriously inconvenient” standard applies when a California plaintiff chooses California as the forum. Under those circumstances, the plaintiff’s choice is entitled to great weight, so defendant has to make a pretty strong showing to obtain a stay or dismissal. But Plaintiff here isn’t a Californian. As the California Supreme Court has explained, a non-California plaintiff’s choice of a California forum is not entitled to a similar presumption of convenience, because the state’s interest in providing a forum is significantly diminished. Stangvik v. Shiley Inc., 54 Cal. 3d 744, 751 (1991). 

Consequently, the trial court applied an incorrect standard. The Court of Appeal grants the writ and orders the trial court to reexamine the motion without affording plaintiff a presumption of convenience. 

Writ granted.

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