Plaintiff, a Greek seamen, was injured when he fell into the water while attempting to board a vessel located off the shore of Delaware. Plaintiff brought claims against the vessel in rem and related shipping interests under the Jones Act and the General Maritime Law. All named defendants had Greek origins: the vessel sailed under the Greek flag, and other defendants were either Greek Corporations or had their principal place of business in Greece. The plaintiff/seaman's employment contract contained a forum selection and choice of law clause, naming Greece as the exclusive forum and Greek Law as controlling. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the Jones Act and general maritime law were inapplicable because Greek law governed the action. Defendants requested the Court decline its jurisdiction based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens and the Supreme Court decision Canada Malting Co. Ltd v. Patterson Steamships, Ltd., 285 U.S. 413 (1932). Plaintiff brought a Motion to Compel Discovery, arguing that the discovery he sought was necessary to respond to the defendant's motion to dismiss.
Whether the court should grant a motion to dismiss, based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens in an admiralty case, when the plaintiff asserts that discovery is necessary to respond to the defendant's motion to dismiss?
The court granted the plaintiff's motion to compel discovery and denied the defendants' motion to dismiss with leave to renew. The court reasoned that although American courts have declined to exercise jurisdiction over cases in which American law does not apply, a full evaluation of the parties' contacts was necessary to determine whether American law applied to the case. Thus, the court concluded that a full evaluation of the parties' contacts could not be undertaken without further discovery.
A court will compel discovery to determine whether a defendant has sufficient contacts with the United States before it will dismiss the case for forum non conveniens even though the plaintiff's contract contains a foreign law and forum clause.
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