Chirag et al v. MT Marida Marguerite Schifffahrts et al
ORDER granting 50 Motion to Dismiss. Signed by Judge Stefan R. Underhill on 11/15/2013. (Freuden, S.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
BAHRI CHIRAG, et al.,
No. 3:12cv00879 (SRU)
MT MARIDA MARGUERITE
SCHIFFAHRTS, et al.,
RULING ON DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO DISMISS ON
FORUM NON CONVENIENS GROUNDS
This case arises from an unfortunate international incident, which has no real connection
to this country or this court. In May 2010, Somali pirates hijacked a tanker in the Gulf of Aden,
somewhere off the coast of Yemen. The tanker, the MT Marida Marguerite Schiffahrts (“Marida
Marguerite”), was a German owned and operated, Marshall Islands-flagged vessel with a crew
that included sailors from India, Bangladesh, and Ukraine. The pirates, seeking ransom, held the
crew hostage at sea for eight months. During this prolonged period of captivity, the sailors were
subjected to severe physical and mental abuse, including torture.
The plaintiffs, Bahri Chirag and Dangwal Sandeep, are two members of Marida
Marguerite’s crew. After they were freed and repatriated to India, they filed this suit against
their employer, as well as defendants Marida Tankers, Inc. (“MTI”) and Heidmar, Inc., under a
variety of tort and regulatory compliance theories, all of which “arise under the Jones Act, and
the General Maritime Law of the United States.”1 See Am. Compl. ¶ 6 (doc. # 47). Defendant
Despite the statement in paragraph 6 of the Amended Complaint that the complaint arises under the Jones Act and
General Maritime Law, Count One alleges negligence per se in violation of the Maritime Transportation Security
Act of 2002 (“MTSA”), 46 U.S.C. § 70101 et seq. The relevant provisions of the MTSA, however, are concerned
with the security of U.S. ports and nothing in the text or legislative history of the relevant provisions indicates that
they are meant to cover a foreign-owned vessel sailing from a foreign port encountering difficulties in foreign
waters. Pub. L. 107-295, 116 Stat. 2064, codified at 46 U.S.C. § 70101 et seq. It is a “longstanding principle of
MTI is a Marshall Islands company that operates a “vessel pool,” which included Marida
Marguerite. Defendant Heidmar is a global company headquartered in Norwalk, Connecticut
that manages vessel pools including, the plaintiffs allege, MTI.
Defendant MTI has moved to dismiss on the grounds of forum non conveniens (doc.
#50), asserting that this lawsuit has no material connection to the United States and that it should
be litigated in an alternate forum. Shortly after this motion was filed, I dismissed Marida
Marguerite for lack of personal jurisdiction. See Dismissal Order (doc. # 65). For the reasons
set forth below, I conclude that the relevant factors clearly favor adjudication of this dispute in
Germany, where all necessary defendants will be amenable to process. Therefore, MTI’s motion
to dismiss is granted.
A. Forum Non Conveniens in Jones Act Cases
Both parties assert that I must determine whether the Jones Act and/or General Maritime
Law govern this case before applying the doctrine of forum non conveniens. Def. Am Br. 3 (doc.
# 53); Pls.’ Am. Br. 4 (doc. # 74). MTI contends that I must first conduct a choice-of-law
analysis and, if that analysis counsels the application of foreign law, I must then apply the
doctrine of forum non conveniens. Def. Am. Br. 3 (citing Akofin v. Jumbo Nav., N.V., 481 F.
Supp. 2d 310 (S.D.N.Y. 2001)). Plaintiffs, citing Antypas v. Cia. Maritima San Basilio, S.A.,
541 F.2d 307, 310 (2d Cir. 1976), claim that that I lack discretion to dismiss on forum non
conveniens grounds at all if the Jones Act applies. Pls.’ Am. Br. 4. Antypas, however, did not
American law that legislation of Congress, unless a contrary intent appears, is meant to apply only within the
territorial jurisdiction of the United States.” Morrison v. Nat'l Australia Bank Ltd., 130 S. Ct. 2869, 2877 (2010)
(quoting EEOC v. Arabian Am. Oil Co., 499 U.S. 244, 248 (1991) (internal quotations and citations omitted)).
Applying this presumption against extraterritoriality, it is clear that the MTSA does not cover the conduct at issue in
involve a forum non conveniens dismissal and the dictum it contains to that effect was squarely
rejected three decades ago. Cruz v. Maritime Co. of Philippines, 702 F.2d 47, 48 (2d Cir. 1983).
In Cruz, the Second Circuit held that “when the Jones Act is applicable . . . the district
court must exercise its power to adjudicate, absent some exceptional circumstances such as . . .
the equitable principle of forum non conveniens.” 702 F.2d at 48. Additionally, “maritime
choice of law principles are not involved in a forum non conveniens analysis,” so it is
unnecessary to decide whether U.S. or foreign law applies before dismissing in favor of an
alternate forum. Id. Thus, Cruz clearly establishes that I may dismiss due to forum non
conveniens whether or not the Jones Act applies, and without first deciding if this case warrants
the application of U.S. law. Cruz, 702 F.2d at 48; see also Alcoa S.S. Co., Inc. v. M/V Nordic
Regent, 654 F.2d 147, 153 (2d Cir. 1980) (en banc) (“There is neither reason nor authority for
creating an exception to the general forum non conveniens standard established in Gilbert simply
because the case invokes the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the court.”); Karvelis v.
Constellation Lines SA, 608 F. Supp. 966, 971-72 (S.D.N.Y. 1985), aff'd, 806 F.2d 49 (2d Cir.
1986) (“It is within the court's discretion to decline jurisdiction despite Jones Act
applicability.”); Ioannides v. Marika Mar. Corp., 928 F. Supp. 374, 377 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) (“The
principles articulated in Gulf Oil Co. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501 (1947), govern defendants' forum
non conveniens motion notwithstanding that this is a maritime case in which a Jones Act claim is
asserted.” (citing Cruz and Alcoa)).
Cruz is consistent with Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235 (1981), which held that
“[t]he possibility of a change in substantive law should ordinarily not be given conclusive or
even substantial weight in the forum non conveniens inquiry.” Id. at 247; see also Gazis v. John
S. Latsis (USA) Inc., 729 F. Supp. 979, 985-86 (S.D.N.Y. 1990); Damigos v. Flanders Compania
Naviera, S.A. Panama, 716 F. Supp. 104, 108-09 (S.D.N.Y. 1989). It also accords with the
Supreme Court’s more recent decision in Sinochem International Co. Ltd. v. Malaysia
International Shipping Corp., 549 U.S. 422 (2007), which held that lower courts need not permit
discovery or expend valuable resources deciding threshold issues where the forum non
conveniens analysis counsels dismissal. Id. at 432 (“A forum non conveniens dismissal . . . is a
determination that the merits should be adjudicated elsewhere. . . . A district court therefore may
dispose of an action by a forum non conveniens dismissal, bypassing questions of subject-matter
and personal jurisdiction, when considerations of convenience, fairness, and judicial economy so
warrant.” (internal citations omitted)). Consequently, despite plaintiffs’ declarations to the
contrary, I may proceed with the forum non conveniens analysis without first determining choice
of law or related issues that would be significant if this case were litigated here on the merits.2
Two such issues are whether defendant Heidmar is a proper party before this court and whether either defendant
may be considered a Jones Act employer. First, the defendants assert that, since June 2009 and at all times relevant
to this complaint, MTI was managed by non-party WOMAR, a Singaporean company that is party to a Heidmar
joint venture. See Jain Decl. (doc. # 51). Prior to then, MTI was managed by Heidmar U.K., a branch of Heidmar.
Id. Defendants contend both that WOMAR is separate and distinct from Heidmar and that neither WOMAR nor
Heidmar U.K. has ever been connected to Heidmar’s U.S. headquarters. Id. Plaintiffs assert that WOMAR and
Heidmar U.K. are part of Heidmar and that both have clear connections to Heidmar’s Connecticut offices. Pls.’ Am.
Second, the defendants assert that the Jones Act does not apply because the plaintiffs’ employer is no
longer party to this lawsuit. “There is no question that the Jones Act applies only between employees and their
employer, and the Supreme Court made explicit in Cosmopolitan Shipping Co. v. McAllister, 337 U.S. 783 (1949),
that only one person, be it an individual or a corporation, could be sued as the employer.” Mahramas v. Am. Export
Isbrandsten Lines, Inc., 475 F.2d 165, 170 (2d Cir. 1973). Plaintiffs, however, assert that the “borrowed servant”
doctrine might permit application of Jones Act against MTI or Heidmar. See Pls.’ Supp. Br. (doc. #78). The
borrowed servant doctrine allows a plaintiff to sue multiple potential employers under the Jones Act in cases where
the identity of the true employer is ambiguous. Only one employer ultimately may be held liable, but the borrowed
servant doctrine requires the fact finder to decide which of the defendants that is. Although there is no evidence that
anyone other than Marida Marguerite employed the plaintiffs in this case, the plaintiffs argue that additional
discovery might demonstrate that MTI or Heidmar actually had control over the employment relationship and/or that
their work was intended to directly benefit one of these companies. Pls.’ Supp. Br. 4-5.
The logic of Sinochem applies with full force in this case, which has tenuous connections to the United
States at best, see Dismissal Order (doc. # 65), and strong connections to another forum or forums. Permitting
discovery to determine whether Heidmar U.S. was sufficiently connected with MTI and whether Heidmar or MTI
might be plaintiffs’ Jones Act employer would involve an unnecessary expenditure of time and resources. In light of
the analysis below, determination of the forum non conveniens issue in this case would not be affected by the results
B. The Forum Non Conveniens Analysis
“The doctrine of forum non conveniens permits a court to dismiss a claim even if the
court is a permissible venue with proper jurisdiction.” PT United Can Co. v. Crown Cork & Seal
Co., Inc., 138 F.3d 65, 73 (2d Cir. 1998). The defendant bears the burden of demonstrating why
the plaintiffs’ choice of forum should be disturbed. Karvelis, 608 F. Supp. at 971-72.
District courts enjoy broad discretion to determine “where litigation will be most
convenient” and where it “will serve the ends of justice.” PT United Can, 138 F.3d at 73. The
Second Circuit, however, has “outlined a three-step process to guide the exercise of that
discretion.” Norex Petroleum Ltd. v. Access Indus., Inc., 416 F.3d 146, 153 (2d Cir. 2005)
(citing Iragorri v. United Tech. Corp., 274 F.3d 65, 73-74 (2d Cir. 2001) (en banc)). First, I
must decide the level of deference to afford the plaintiffs’ choice of forum. Id. Second, I must
determine whether an available and adequate alternative forum exists in which the case may be
heard. Id.; Piper, 454 U.S. at 254 n.2. Third, I must balance the private and public interest
factors identified by the Supreme Court in Gulf Oil Co. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501 (1947), which
are “implicated in the choice of forum.” Id.
The private interest factors include: (1) the relative ease of access to sources of proof; (2)
access to witnesses, including the cost of attendance and availability of compulsory process; (3)
where the evidence is located, including “possibility of view of premises, if view would be
appropriate to the action”; (4) enforceability of a potential judgment; and (5) “all other practical
problems that make trial of a case easy, expeditious and inexpensive.” Gilbert, 330 U.S. at 508.
The public interest factors include: (1) the administrative burden on the court of litigating
a case whose center of gravity lays elsewhere; (2) the burden on the court of “untangl[ing]
problems in conflict of laws” and making determinations about foreign law; (3) the burden on
the jury of deciding an essentially foreign case; and (4) the “local interest in having localized
controversies decided at home.” Id. at 508-09.
i. Deference to the Plaintiff’s Choice of Forum
Ordinarily, there is a strong presumption in favor of the plaintiff's choice of forum.
Gilbert, 330 U.S. at 508-09; see also Calavo Growers of California v. Generali Belgium, 632
F.2d 963, 966-68 (2d Cir. 1980). This presumption typically applies with less force when a
foreign plaintiff chooses a U.S. forum, because “it ‘is much less reasonable’ to presume that the
choice was made for convenience” and more likely that the plaintiff is engaged in forum
shopping. Iragorri, 274 F.3d at 71 (quoting Piper, 454 U.S. at 256).
Rather than approach the issue categorically, Iragorri prescribes a “sliding scale” of
deference, instructing courts to consider the totality of the circumstances supporting a plaintiff’s
choice of forum. Norex, 416 F.3d at 154. “[T]he greater the plaintiff's or the lawsuit's bona fide
connection to the United States and to the forum of choice and the more it appears that
considerations of convenience favor the conduct of the lawsuit in the United States, the more
difficult it will be for the defendant to gain dismissal for forum non conveniens.” Iragorri, 274
F.3d at 72. Conversely, “the more it appears that the plaintiff's choice of a U.S. forum was
motivated by forum-shopping . . . the less deference the plaintiff's choice commands.” Id.
Factors demonstrating that a forum choice is genuinely motivated by convenience
include: “(1) the convenience of the plaintiff's residence in relation to the chosen forum, (2) the
availability of witnesses or evidence to the forum district, (3) the defendant's amenability to suit
in the forum district, (4) the availability of appropriate legal assistance, and (5) other reasons
relating to convenience or expense.” Norex, 416 F.3d at 155 (citing Iragorri, 274 F.3d at 72).
Factors pointing toward forum shopping include “(1) attempts to win a tactical advantage
resulting from local laws that favor the plaintiff's case, (2) the habitual generosity of juries in the
United States or in the forum district, (3) the plaintiff's popularity or the defendant's unpopularity
in the region, or (4) the inconvenience and expense to the defendant resulting from litigation in
that forum.” Id. A district court need not specifically address all of these factors, but should
consider those that appear relevant in the case. See id.
Applying the Iragorri factors, it is abundantly clear that the plaintiffs’ choice of forum
should receive less deference in this case. First and foremost, the plaintiffs are nationals and
residents of India.3 Second, a critical defendant in this case, Marida Marguerite, is not amenable
to process in this forum. See Dismissal Order (doc. # 65). Third, as discussed in much greater
detail below, the bulk of the witnesses and evidence in this case are likely to be found outside of
the United States. The only Iragorri factor pointing toward “genuine convenience” is the
plaintiffs’ ability to obtain appropriate legal assistance in this forum.
Plaintiffs admit that they chose to bring this lawsuit in the United States because they are
“destitute” and our courts, unlike those of many other nations, permit contingency-fee
arrangements. Pls.’ Am. Br. 13. This, however, cuts both ways, because the fact that plaintiffs
seek to take advantage of generous U.S. laws and procedure arguably indicates forum shopping.
See, e.g., Banculescu v. Compania Sud Americana De Vapores, SA, No. 11 CIV. 2681(ALC),
2012 WL 5909696, at * 7 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 26, 2012) (finding that “an inference that forum
shopping motivated” the plaintiff's choice forum was “not far-fetched,” because the plaintiff
“may have been motivated to choose New York to take advantage of federal laws.”).
Plaintiffs assert that they should not be treated as foreign plaintiffs because as “Jones Act seamen” they are “wards
of the Admiralty Courts.” Pls.’ Am. Br. 13. The Jones Act cases that have applied Iragorri, however, make no such
distinction between a regular foreign plaintiff and a “Jones Act seaman,” and I decline to do so as well. Banculescu
v. Compania Sud Americana De Vapores, SA, No. 11 CIV. 2681(ALC), 2012 WL 5909696, at * 4 (S.D.N.Y. Nov.
26, 2012); Varnelo ex rel. Estate of Varnelo v. Eastwind Transp., Ltd., No. 02 CIV. 2084 KMW AJP, 2004 WL
103428, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 23, 2004).
Considering that the other factors weigh heavily against the convenience of this forum, the
totality of the circumstances analysis demonstrates that the plaintiffs’ choice of forum should be
afforded little deference in this case.
ii. Availability and Adequacy of an Alternate Forum
MTI identifies several alternate forums with connections to this litigation: the Marshall
Islands, where it is headquartered; Singapore, where its agent WOMAR is based; India, where
the plaintiffs and most of Marida Marguerite’s crew reside; and Germany, where Marida
Marguerite is located. Def. Am. Br. 11.4 It proposes Germany as an available alternate forum,
and expressly stipulates to jurisdiction there. Def. Am. Br. 10. Plaintiffs object, arguing that
Germany is neither available nor adequate. Pls.’ Am. Br. 15-16. That argument fails, however,
because the alternate forum requirement is a low bar to clear. See Piper, 454 U.S. at 254
(explaining that courts should not be concerned unless “the remedy provided by the alternative
forum is so clearly inadequate or unsatisfactory that it is no remedy at all”).
An alternate forum ordinarily is available and adequate if the defendants are amenable to
process there and it permits litigation of the subject matter of the dispute. Pollux Holding Ltd. v.
Chase Manhattan Bank, 329 F.3d 64, 75 (2d Cir. 2003). The necessary defendants are amenable
to process in Germany. Marida Marguerite, the defendant with the strongest connections to this
litigation, is a German-based limited partnership. MTI expressly stipulates to jurisdiction in
Germany. Def. Am. Br. 10. Plaintiffs object that defendant Heidmar will not be amenable to
process in Germany, but plaintiffs cannot establish that simply by reciting the company’s office
locations. Regardless, Heidmar is only connected to this litigation because a Heidmar affiliate
was acting as MTI’s general agent at the relevant time – either Heidmar U.K. or WOMAR, a
There is also the United Kingdom, where Heidmar U.K., MTI’s former agent is located and where the contract
between Marida Marguerite and Heidmar was signed. Def. Am. Br. 6; Pls.’ Supp. Br. Ex. 1.
Singapore-based Heidmar joint venture, depending on whether plaintiffs correctly assume that
Heidmar and WOMAR are one and the same. As a Connecticut-headquartered multinational
company, Heidmar appears to be nothing more than a tool to anchor this claim in the U.S. courts.
Even if Heidmar refused to stipulate to jurisdiction in Germany and otherwise would not be
amenable to process there, this lawsuit could proceed against the necessary defendants. And the
dangers of “piecemeal” litigation that plaintiffs warn against are much more pronounced if this
suit proceeds in U.S. court without Marida Marguerite than if it proceeds elsewhere without
Plaintiffs also claim that Germany is an inadequate forum because they cannot pursue
their Jones Act claim there and the statute of limitations has run on their claim. Pls.’ Am. Br. 1516. Neither argument is supported by the law. First, “a plaintiff’s hope to gain the benefits of the
Jones Act is not a strong factor weighing against dismissal.” Damigos, 716 F. Supp. at 108-09.
A district court should not consider differences in remedy between forums unless “the remedy
provided by the alternative forum is so clearly inadequate or unsatisfactory that it is no remedy at
all.” Piper, 454 U.S. at 254. Although plaintiffs seek a remedy under the Jones Act, their
underlying allegations sound in negligence. Numerous district courts within this Circuit have
confirmed that German courts are available to adjudicate negligence claims and that they can do
so adequately. See Banculescu, 2012 WL 5909696, at * 7 (citing Opert v. Schmid, 535 F. Supp.
591 (S.D.N.Y. 1982); NCA Holding Corp. v. Norddeutsche Landesbank Girozentrale, No. 96
Civ. 9321, 1999 WL 39539 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 28, 1999) (finding German courts to be an adequate
alternative forum); Jauss v. Lehman Bros., Inc., No. 94 Civ. 2921, 1995 WL 4023 (S.D.N.Y. Jan.
5, 1995) (same); Fagan v. Deutsche Bundesbank, 438 F. Supp. 2d 376, 382 (S.D.N.Y. 2006)
(same); Mackley v. Gruner & Jahr. A.G. & Co., No. 93 Civ. 6521, 1995 WL 417069, at *1
(S.D.N.Y. July 13, 1995) (although pain and suffering awards are lower, Germany provides
adequate forum for negligence claim)).
Second, plaintiffs have neglected to read the relevant provisions of the German Civil
Code, or Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (“BGB”). Plaintiffs cite BGB section 195, which contains a
three-year standard statute of limitations, but ignore BGB section 199(1), which clearly states
that the limitations period does not commence until the end of the calendar year in which the
injury occurred. Plaintiffs were captured in May 2010 and released between December 2010 and
January 2011, so they have at least until the end of 2013 to file this lawsuit in German court.5
Thus, it is clear that Germany is an available and adequate alternative forum, because the
necessary defendants are amenable to process and German courts can provide a meaningful
remedy. See Piper, 454 U.S. at 254-55.
iii. Private Interest Factors
The trial of this case is unlikely to be “easy, expeditious and inexpensive” wherever it
occurs. See Gilbert, 330 U.S. at 508. Witnesses and evidence are likely to be located all over
the globe. The incident in which the plaintiffs were injured occurred at sea, off the coast of
Yemen. Plaintiffs’ physical injuries were caused by Somali pirates. The crew consisted of
nineteen Indians, two Bangladeshis, and one Ukrainian. Def. Reply 9 (doc. # 76). The ship
owner and operator, Marida Marguerite, has its base of operations in Germany and negotiations
for the plaintiffs’ release and repatriation were conducted from that base of operations. Jain
Decl. ¶ 20 (doc. # 51). Individuals with knowledge of those events and related documentary
evidence, therefore, presumably are located in Germany.
BGB section 199(2) also provides: “Claims for damages based on injury to life, body, health or liberty,
notwithstanding the manner in which they arose and notwithstanding knowledge or a grossly negligent lack of
knowledge, are statute-barred thirty years from the date on which the act, breach of duty or other event that caused
the damage occurred.” Thus, depending on how they plead their complaint, it appears that plaintiffs might have
thirty years to commence this litigation in Germany.
Finally, the charter agreement between MTI and Marida Marguerite, which delineates the
degree and scope of the former’s control over the latter, is a contract between a Marshall Islands
company and a German limited partnership. See Pls.’ Supp. Br. 5, 8 (doc. # 78). It was signed
in London and is governed by English law. See id. Ex. 1. Aside from the use of Heidmar’s
headquarters as a “care of” address, see Pls.’ Am. Br. Ex. 3, which is unsurprising given that
Heidmar is the parent of MTI’s former agent, Heidmar U.K., and its current agent, WOMAR, is
a Heidmar joint venture, nothing indicates that MTI manages Marida Marguerite out of the
United States. The ship is not presently located within U.S. jurisdiction and has not even made a
port call in the United States since 2009, well before the incidents alleged in the complaint
occurred. See Jain Decl. ¶ 18; Pls.’ Am. Br. Ex. 3.
One thing is clear, however: little, if any, evidence is likely to be found in the United
States and few, if any, witnesses will be located here. The fact that a large, multinational
commercial tanker operator that has some relationship with MTI is headquartered in Connecticut
does not make it likely that documents relevant to this lawsuit will be located here. Plaintiffs’
employment contracts were entered into in India, the Charter agreement between Marida
Marguerite and MTI was executed in London, and Heidmar’s relationship with MTI was first
with its U.K. affiliate and then with its Singapore-based joint venture. Similarly, the fact that
one or more of the pirates may be imprisoned in Virginia, Pls.’ Am. Br. 19-20 and Exs. 7-10,
does not transform this into a case where key witnesses are likely to be found in the United
States. The plaintiffs themselves deemed it a “ridiculous notion” that they would attempt to call
the pirates as witnesses, and even if they intended to do so, the plaintiffs maintain that several of
the hijacking pirates are in Ireland. See Pls.’ Br. 19 (doc. #73).
Instead, the private interest factors point to India, the country of nationality of most of
the crew members (including the plaintiffs), the Marshall Islands, where MTI is located,
Singapore, where its current agent is located and, most strongly, to Germany, where Marida
Marguerite has its offices and employees, and where much of the relevant evidence is likely to
iv. Public Interest Factors
The public interest factors also point toward dismissal. This forum has no real interest in
the subject matter of the dispute, which is a negligence action brought by Indian plaintiffs against
a German defendant, a Marshall Islands defendant, and a U.S. defendant that additional
discovery likely would reveal is not a proper party to this action. See Gilbert, 330 U.S. at 50809. Moreover, this case will place a heavy administrative burden on this court and present a
difficult task for the jury, because the heart of the dispute is essentially foreign. See id.
The United States’ general interest in applying its laws is not “a determinative factor to be
considered in weighing convenience.” Capital Currency Exch., N.V. v. Nat’l Westminster Bank
PLC, 155 F.3d 603, 611 (2d Cir. 1998). It certainly does not outweigh the countervailing
concerns here, where U.S. law is not even likely to apply. Although I need not make a choiceof-law determination, a cursory analysis indicates that this litigation’s contacts with the United
States are not “substantial” enough to justify the application of American law. Bartholomew v.
Universe Tankships, Inc., 263 F.2d 437, 440-41 (2d Cir. 1959).6 The wrongful acts occurred in
the Gulf of Aden. The plaintiffs are nationals and residents of India. Marida Marguerite, despite
any connections to MTI and/or Heidmar, is a Marshall Islands-flagged ship run by a German
The maritime choice-of-law test is set forth in Lauritzen v. Larsen, 345 U.S. 571, 581-93 (1953), and Hellenic
Lines Ltd. v. Rhoditis, 398 U.S. 306, 308-09 (1970). The Lauritzen and Rhoditis factors are: (1) the place the
wrongful act; (2) the law of the ship’s flag; (3) the domicile of the injured party; (4) the domicile of the shipowner;
(5) the place of the contract; (6) the inaccessibility of the foreign forum; (7) the law of the forum; and (8) the
shipowner’s base of operations. Lauritzen, 345 U.S. at 583-91; Rhoditis, 398 U.S. at 308-09.
limited partnership with its base of operations in Germany. The agreement between Marida
Marguerite and MTI is governed by U.K. law and nothing indicates that the ship is managed out
of the United States or that it has any real relationship with this country. Thus, it seems both
highly unlikely that U.S. law would apply and very likely that this case would involve
“untangl[ing] problems in conflict of laws” and making determinations about foreign law. Id. at
508-09.7 As a result, it is clear that the Gilbert public interest factors, like the private interest
factors, counsel dismissal.
For the foregoing reasons, I conclude that litigation in this forum would be inconvenient
and that this case should be tried in alternate forum. Accordingly, Defendants’ Motion to
Dismiss on Forum Non Conveniens Grounds (doc. #50) is GRANTED.
SO ORDERED, this 15th day of November 2013, at Bridgeport, Connecticut.
/s/ Stefan R. Underhill
Stefan R. Underhill
United States District Judge
In their Supplemental Memorandum of Law (doc. # 78), plaintiffs purport to make a motion for leave to amend
their complaint to add a cause of action for negligence, pursuant to General Maritime Law. Pls.’ Supp. Br. 10.
Their proposed maritime tort-law claim would be exactly the same as their current Jones Act-negligence claim, but
would act as a substitute for that claim in case I ruled that the Jones Act does not apply on these facts. Permitting
plaintiffs to amend their complaint, however, would have no effect on my decision today. Maritime choice-of-law
rules are identical in Jones Act and General Maritime Law cases. See De Espana v. Am. Bureau of Shipping, Inc.,
691 F.3d 461, 467 (2d Cir. 2012); Koupetoris v. Konkar Intrepid Corp., 402 F. Supp. 951, 954 (S.D.N.Y. 1975),
aff’d, 535 F.2d 1392 (2d Cir. 1976). Moreover, the forum non conveniens analysis is no different in a General
Maritime Law case than it is in any other case, including those brought pursuant to the Jones Act. See Alcoa, 654
F.2d at 153; Cruz, 702 F.2d at 47-48 (citing Alcoa). Therefore, it is unnecessary to consider plaintiffs’ motion for
leave amend before dismissing this case on forum non conveniens grounds.
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