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What It Takes to Win a Forum Non Conveniens Motion in Florida

Just because you file your lawsuit here doesn’t necessarily mean that your case will be resolved here, even if the Florida courts have jurisdiction. A battle between some Spanish-language movie channels produced an opinion recently issued by the Third District Court of Appeal that re-affirms that Florida courts follow the federal standard for granting motions that allow actions to proceed somewhere else. In the case of the movie channels, the appeals court here in Miami concluded that a court in Mexico was better equipped to take on and resolve the case than Florida was. The ruling is a reminder of the many procedural hurdles you may face in your commercial litigation dispute, which is why it pays to have experienced Florida commercial litigation counsel on your side.

At one time, a few decades ago, it was easier to bring a civil case in Florida than it is today. However, the Florida Supreme Court became concerned that the Sunshine State was becoming the “courthouse for the world.” With that concern in mind, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in 1996 that adopted the federal standard for forum non conveniens.

Forum non conveniens, which is Latin that translates into “forum not agreeing,” is a motion a party to a lawsuit may make in order to argue that another court, or forum, is in a better position to handle the case. Under the federal standard for forum non conveniens, a court must look at four things:  whether another forum exists that is both sufficient and has jurisdiction, the private interest factors of each side, whether “the relevant public interests” point in favor of another court, and whether or not the plaintiffs can bring suit in the alternative forum.

In the dispute between the movie channels, the trial court concluded (and the Third DCA agreed) that Mexico had jurisdiction and was an “available and adequate” forum for the case, the private interest factors were roughly equal, the public interest factors weighed in favor of letting the case go forward in Mexico, and the plaintiffs could bring their case in Mexico without any real undue inconvenience or prejudice.

The defendants, who were arguing in favor of litigating in Mexico, won the day because they had the stronger array of evidence. They had a Mexican legal expert who testified that Mexico, where a parallel legal action was already underway, “will provide an adequate alternative forum for the causes of action asserted in the operative complaint.” The plaintiffs had no expert witness who contradicted the testimony of the defendants’ legal expert.

The defendants won because they had the stronger expert evidence. Whether it is the nature of an auto accident, the amount of lost profits under a contract, or the availability or adequacy of another legal forum for hearing a case, many contests are won by the side who is able to bring forward the more compelling evidence, whether it is fact evidence or expert opinion evidence.

Whether you are seeking to litigate your commercial dispute in Florida or arguing to a Florida judge that the case should proceed elsewhere, rely upon the help of skilled Florida litigators. The experienced South Florida contract litigation attorneys at Stok Folk + Kon have been helping businesses protect their interests for many years and are ready to help with your case.

Contact us online or by calling (305) 935-4440 to schedule your consultation and find out how this firm can help you protect your interests.

More blog posts:

Two Little Words: How Even a Single Word Pair Can Make All the Difference in Your Florida Forum Selection Clause, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, Nov. 10, 2017

Forum Selection Clauses and Their Impact on Your Commercial Contracts, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, March 24, 2017