7th Circuit: Defendants didn’t prove dismissal for forum non conveniens

August 12, 2016

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered an Indianapolis federal court to take another look at a case involving a Canadian resident who sued moving companies for destroying his property he attempted to move from India to St. John’s, Canada.

Ashoke Deb contracted with Indian moving company Allied Lemuir to move his belongs from Calcutta to Canada. After signing a contract, Allied Lemuir sought more money to ship his belongings, but Deb refused. While dealing with Allied Lemuir, he contracted with the United States companies of SIRVA and Allied Van Lines to obtain his belongings. Deb learned more than three years later that Allied Lemuir had sold his property to pay the additional amounts it demanded from Deb regarding demurrage, fumigation, renewal of customs charges and sea freight.

Deb then sued SIRVA and Allied Van Lines in Indiana state court, but the case was moved to federal court. The companies, Delaware corporations, have corporate offices in Indiana.

SIRVA and Allied Van Lines filed a motion to dismiss based on the grounds of forum non conveniens, which the federal court granted in June 2014. Judge Tanya Walton Pratt held that both Indiana and Canada offered appropriate alternative forums for the action.

But this was incorrect, the 7th Circuit held in Ashoke Deb v. Sirva Inc., et al.,14-2484.

“Combing the principles we discussed … that the district court may look beyond the bare allegations of the complaint where the defendants dispute facts related to venue, and that defendants bear the heavy burden of showing an alternate forum — we look to see whether the district court placed the burden on the defendants to demonstrate that an alternative forum was available, and whether the defendants met that burden,” Judge Ilana Rovner wrote.

“We conclude that the district court did not hold the defendants to the burden, nor did the defendants meet it. To the contrary, to the extent the defendants offered any evidence or argument at all, it was evidence that they would not, in fact, be subject to jurisdiction in India.”

The only way Deb could sue the companies in India is if they had something to do with the wrongdoing in India, but while making the argument that India has jurisdiction, the defendants refuse to acknowledge an actual legal affiliation with Allied Lemuir, Rovner pointed out.

With regard to the possibility that Canada offered a possible forum, Rovner noted the parties never briefed the issue of the Canadian court as an alternative forum and instead cited the Colorado River Doctrine, which allows courts to conserve judicial resources by not taking jurisdiction when there is a parallel proceeding elsewhere. But the district court didn’t engage in a Colorado River abstention analysis or a similar forum non conveniens analysis about Canada similar to that of India.


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