Comity as Basis for Dismissal - Part 1 Chapter 16 - The Practice of International Litigation - 2nd Edition
Lawrence W. Newman has been a partner in the New York office of Baker & McKenzie since 1971, when, together with the late Professor Henry deVries, he founded the litigation department in that office. He is the author/editor of 4 works on international litigation/arbitration.
Michael Burrows, Formerly, Of Counsel, Baker & McKenzie, New York.
The availability of jury trials and the potential for large damage awards often draw plaintiffs with little or no connection to the United States to the courts of this country. Although a United States court may determine that it has subject matter jurisdiction over a dispute before it, and personal jurisdiction over the defendants, it may nonetheless dismiss the case, not only on the merits but also on one or more of such policy-based doctrines as comity of nations, forum non conveniens or the act of state doctrine, each of which serves to protect courts from adjudicating cases that should be more appropriately heard in forums outside the United States. In the recent decision in Sequihua v. Texaco, Inc., a federal district court did just that, holding that, although it had federal subject matter jurisdiction over the matter, the case should be dismissed based on the basis of the principles of comity of nations and forum non conveniens.
Sequihua v. Texaco
In Sequihua, plaintiffs, residents of Ecuador, filed an action against Texaco and several other defendants in a Texas state court asserting a variety of claims arising out of alleged contamination of the air, ground and water in Ecuador. In addition to monetary relief, plaintiffs sought a mandatory injunction requiring the defendants to cause an area of land (approximately one-third of the territory of Ecuador) to be returned to its former condition. Also, plaintiffs sought the creation of a “trust fund” to be administered by the court for the benefit of approximately 500,000 Ecuadorian citizens.
The defendants removed the case to the federal district court and thereafter sought to dismiss the complaint. Plaintiffs opposed removal on the ground that the district court lacked federal question jurisdiction.