Wrongful Death Claim Dismissed Based on Forum Non Conveniens
Wilson Elser was retained by several multinational corporations that own and operate resorts throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the resorts concessionaires, in a double wrongful death suit. The case, which was filed in Florida, arose when two women from Texas died while parasailing on vacation in Mexico. Survivors of these two women were seeking economic, non-economic and punitive damages.
Attorneys from Wilson Elser’s Miami office and the firm’s national General Liability & Casualty and Latin America practices represented the defendants.
Wilson Elser was hired after a $71 million judgment had been entered against the defendants in federal court. Two days before the judgment was to be finalized, Wilson Elser successfully argued that it should be set aside due to improper service of process – the plaintiff had served the Mexican entities through an unauthorized agent - and lack of personal jurisdiction.
After the court set aside the judgment and dismissed the initial case, the plaintiffs refiled a wrongful death lawsuit, against the Florida-based supplier of the resorts’ concessionaires and the Mexican resorts. Wilson Elser filed a motion to dismiss this new case against the Florida supplier based on forum non conveniens, arguing that Mexico was a more appropriate forum for this suit as that was where the accident occurred.
The trial court agreed that Florida’s interest in the case was minimal, and despite the U.S. plaintiffs’ interest in bringing suit in the United States, the circumstances of it favored adjudication in Mexico. As such, the court dismissed the re-filed suit on the basis of forum non conveniens.
This court’s ruling drastically diminished potential exposure that the defendants’ might have faced if the case was tried in Florida, as well as the difficulties associated with defending the lawsuit in this forum. The decision also supports other like defense strategies for cases filed in the U.S. that should be venued in the jurisdiction in which the underlying event occurred.