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When New York's Courts Will Dismiss a Case for Being in the Wrong Forum

 

Just because you've been sued - or would like to sue someone - in New York, doesn't automatically mean that the case can stay there.

 

In fact, if New York is an improper forum for the case, New York's courts are obliged to dismiss the case, which in legal terms is called "forum non conveniens."

 

The reason for this rule should be fairly obvious: New York's courts (and taxpayer money) should not be burdened with cases that have little or nothing to do with New York, or as New York's Court of Appeals put it, New York courts "need not entertain causes of action lacking a substantial nexus with New York" (Martin v. Mieth, 35 NY2d 414, 418 [1974]).

 

In that vein, the doctrine of forum non conveniens, codified in Civil Practice Law and Rule 327(a), "permits a court to stay or dismiss such actions where it is determined that the action, although jurisdictionally sound, would be better adjudicated elsewhere" (Islamic Republic of Iran v. Pahlavi, 62 NY2d 474, 478-479 [1984], cert denied, 469 US 1108 [1985]).

 

The central focus of the forum non conveniens inquiry is to ensure that trial will be convenient, and will best serve the ends of justice (see Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 US 235 [1981]; Capital Currency Exch., N.V. v. National Westminster Bank PLC, 155 F3d 603 [2d Cir 1998], cert denied 526 US 1067 [1999]). If the balance of conveniences indicates that trial in plaintiff's chosen forum would be unnecessarily burdensome for the defendant or the court, then dismissal is proper (see id.).

 

On the other hand, the defendant, who is challenging the plaintiff's choice of forum, bears the burden of demonstrating that this choice is improper, and this burden "[I]s a difficult one to satisfy" (Bank Hapoalim (Switzerland) Ltd. v. Banca Intesa S.P.A., 26 AD3d 286 [1st Dept 2006]), because 'unless the balance is strongly in favor of the defendant, the plaintiff's choice of forum should rarely be disturbed'" (Anagnostou v. Stifel, 204 AD2d 61, 61 [1st Dept 1994] [citation omitted]); see also Sweeney v. Hertz Corp., 250 AD2d 385, 386 [1st Dept 1998] ["It is well settled that a plaintiff's choice of forum should not be disturbed absent a balance of factors strongly favoring the defendants"]).

 

Accordingly, the courts generally balance the following factors in determining a motion to dismiss the complaint on forum non conveniens grounds:

(1) the existence of an adequate alternative forum;

(2) the place of the underlying transaction;

(3) the residency of the parties;

(4) the potential hardship to the defendant in maintaining the action in New York;

(5) the location of documents and fact witnesses; and,

(6) the burden on New York's courts

 

New York's courts have also held, however, that the state of plaintiff's residence "is generally 'the most significant factor'" in determining a forum non conveniens motion (Sweeney v. Hertz Corp., 250 AD2d at 386 [citation omitted]).