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AMERICAN HOME ASSUR. CO. v. INSURANCE CORP. OF IRE

October 22, 1984

AMERICAN HOME ASSURANCE COMPANY and BIRMINGHAM FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY OF PENNSYLVANIA, Plaintiffs, against THE INSURANCE CORPORATION OF IRELAND LIMITED, those certain UNDERWRITERS AT LLOYDS subscribing to reinsurance agreements evidenced by Cover Note Nos. BIB 1210/82 and LI 113, RTC LIMITED, and BLOODSTOCK INTERNATIONAL (BERMUDA) LTD., Defendants; THE INSURANCE CORPORATION OF IRELAND LIMITED, Third-Party Plaintiff, against RHULEN AGENCY, INC., SOMERSET BROKING LIMITED, LEADENHALL LIMITED, PETER JAMES MEREDEW and JOHN RICHARD CRAWFORD HARRIS, Third-Party Defendants; RHULEN AGENCY, INC., Fourth-Party Plaintiff, against PAUL NAPOLITAN, INC., Fourth-Party Defendant; FRONTIER INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff, against INSURANCE COMPANY OF IRELAND, LTD, EQUINE AND LIVESTOCK INSURANCE COMPANY, LTD., BRIAN D. SUTTON, BLOODSTOCK INTERNATIONAL (BERMUDA), LTD., PETER J. MEREDEW, JOHN HARRIS, RTC LIMITED and RHULEN AGENCY, INC., Defendants; THE MONARCH INSURANCE COMPANY OF OHIO, Plaintiff, against THE INSURANCE CORPORATION OF IRELAND, LTD., and FRELINGHUYSEN LIVESTOCK MANAGERS, INC., Defendants; PUBLIC SERVICE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff, against THE INSURANCE CORPORATION OF IRELAND, LTD., Defendant; THE INSURANCE CORPORATION OF IRELAND, LTD., Third-Party Plaintiff, against PETER JAMES MEREDEW, JOHN RICHARD CRAWFORD HARRIS, RHULEN AGENCY, INC., SOMERSET BROKING LIMITED, LEADENHALL INTERNATIONAL LIMITED, RTC LIMITED, and BLOODSTOCK INTERNATIONAL (BERMUDA) LIMITED, Third-Party Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: CARTER

CARTER, District Judge

This consolidated action involves American and foreign parties in an international reinsurance transaction. The plaintiffs are United States insurance companies, doing business in New York City, suing for reimbursement of claims paid to, inter alia, insureds in the United States.

 Primary defendants include reinsurers: The Insurance Corporation of Ireland Limited ("ICI"), certain Underwriters at Lloyds ("Underwriters"), both doing business in New York City; agents RTC Limited ("RTC") and Bloodstock International (Bermuda) Limited (BIBL), whose contacts with New York have not yet been ascertained but which transacted a Binding Agreement Authority ("binding agreement") with reinsurers allowing them to transact cover notes *fn1" between certain plaintiffs and reinsurers. There are, in addition, a number of other defendants in the separately filed actions, but they are not parties to the motions being decided in this opinion.

 The complaint, in 83 Civ. 9181, is typical of the allegations in the companion cases. Plaintiffs allege breach of contract against all primary defendants, negligence, misrepresentation, and breach of warranty of authority against RTC and BIBL. Defendatn ICI has impleaded Rhulen Agency, Inc. ("Rhulen"); Somerset Broking Limited ("Somerset"); Leadenhall International Limited ("Leadenhall"); and Peter James Meredew ("Meredew") and John Richard Crawford Harris ("Harris") as individuals. *fn2" The third party action alleges that third party defendants acted fraudulently as agents of American Home Assurance Co. ("AHA") in consummating the disputed reinsurance agreement between AHA and reinsurers.

 Rhulen, a New York corporation and AHA's agent, has brought a fourth party action against Paul Napolitan, Inc. ("Napolitan"), another reinsurance broker and also a New York corporation. That action alleges Napolitan's responsibility for any liability that attaches to Rhulen.

 Motions were made by two of the primary defendants, RTC, a British corporation, and BIBL, a Bermuda corporation, to dismiss the action against them in part on grounds of forum non conveniens. In the alternative they seek to stay this action pending the outcome of litigation filed in the United Kingdom.Plaintiffs are not parties to the United Kingdom action.

 Motions similar to the aforementioned defendants' motions were made by third party defendants Leadenhall, a British corporation; Somerset, a Bermuda corporation; and Harris, an individual resident in either Bermuda or the United Kingdom. *fn3"

 Plaintiffs, AHA and Birmingham Fire Insurance Company of Pennsylvania, corporations organized and existing under the laws of New York and Pennsylvania, respectively, with both having their principal places of business in New York City, have moved to enjoin the parties from proceeding with the United Kingdom actions.

 I

 The central purpose of any forum non conveniens4 inquiry is to ensure that the situs of the trial is convenient. Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 256, 70 L. Ed. 2d 419, 102 S. Ct. 252 (1981); Ayers v. Arabian American Oil Co., 571 F. Supp. 707, 708 (S.D.N.Y. 1983) (Carter, J.).

 In making that determination, courts are to consider the private and public interest factors elucidated by the Supreme Court in the leading forum non conveniens case, Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 508-509, 91 L. Ed. 1055, 67 S. Ct. 839 (1947).

 We begin the analysis with the important private interest of plaintiffs' choice of forum.There is a strong presumption in favor of a citizen or resident plaintiff's choice of forum unless other private and public interest factors involved clearly point to trial in the alternate forum. Reyno, supra, 454 U.S. at 255 (emphasis added). The complaint of an American citizen should not be dismissed on forum non conveniens grounds unless trial in a United States court would be unjust, oppressive, or vexatious and not merely inconvenient to the defendant. Koster v. Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Co., 330 U.S. 518, 524, 91 L. Ed. 1067, 67 S. Ct. 828 (1947); Leasco Data Processing Equipment Corp. v. Maxwell, 468 F.2d 1326, 1344 (2d Cir. 1972); Thomson v. Palmieri, 355 F.2d 64, 66 (2d Cir. 1966); Ionescu v. E.F. Hutton & Co. (France) S.A., 465 F. Supp. 139, 145 (S.D.N.Y. 1979) (Pollack, J.).

 Here, plaintiffs are United States corporations, all doing business in New York, all have their principal place of business in the Southern District of New York, and AHA, Frontier Insurance Company, and Public Service Mutual Insurance Company are organized under the laws of this state. Movants do not allege any "unjust, oppressive, or vexatious" grounds for their claim of forum non conveniens. All primary parties are corporate entities involved in international reinsurance practice and all but RTC and BIBL are present in New York. Trial in New York would therefore be at least as convenient to the primary parties as trial in the United Kingdom. See Top Form Mills v. Sociedad Nationale Ind., Etc., 428 F. Supp. 1237 (S.D.N.Y. 1977) (Gagliardi, J.); Odita v. Elder Dempster Lines, Ltd., 286 F. Supp. 547 (S.D.N.Y. 1968) (Herlands, J.).

 Other private interest factors named in Gilbert weigh in favor of retention of jurisdiction. All documentary evidence is now present in the United States and arrangements have been made to depose all foreign witnesses. Allegations by movants concerning greater access in Britain to documents, witnesses and evidence concerning London market practices, therefore, appear unfounded but, even if true, do not amount to the "extreme circumstances" and "material injustice" needed to overcome the strong private interest of plaintiffs' choice of a domestic forum. Leasco Data Processing Equipment Corp. v. Maxwell, supra, 468 ...


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