matter to proceed in this District would burden jurors with a
case that has, at best, a distant relation to or impact on their
community. The interest in protecting jurors from sitting on a
case with such remote relevance to their own community weighs
heavily in favor of dismissal. See Alfadda v. Fenn,
159 F.3d 41, 46 (2d Cir. 1998).
The Court further notes that there is a considerable interest
in avoiding difficulty with questions of conflicts of law and the
application of foreign law. While reluctance to apply foreign law
is a valid factor favoring dismissal, the application of foreign
law does not, in itself, justify dismissal. See Boosey & Hawkes
Music Publishers, Ltd. v. Walt Disney Co., 145 F.3d 481, 492 (2d
Cir. 1998). Here, there is a strong probability that Philippine
law would apply.
For example, plaintiff has argued in connection with her libel
claims that "the substantive law of the Philippines must apply"
because "the tort occurred there and/or the Philippines has the
most significant relationship to the occurrence and the parties."
Plaintiff's Opposition Memo at 14 (citation omitted); Tr. at 41.
In support of her libel claims in New York, plaintiff also relies
upon the understanding of a "reasonable reader in the
Philippines." Plaintiff's Opposition Memo at 16.
Another example is even more illustrative because it involves a
specific Philippine statute, the Philippine Blocking Statute
("Statute"). The Statute prohibits the removal from the
Philippines of documents and information belonging to Philippine
corporations engaged in "the pursuit of national economic
development programs of the government of the Philippines and/or
engaged in the development, promotion protection and export of
Philippine products." See Singson Supp. Decl., ¶ 4.
Predictably, plaintiff's and defendants' legal experts, the
purported authorities on Philippine law, sharply disagree on the
relevance and application of the Statute to the documents and
testimony relevant to this litigation.
Defendants argue that the Statute may prevent the production in
New York of records from the four Philippine corporations; that a
violation of the Statute is punishable by fine and/or
imprisonment; and that the Statute creates delays in discovery
involving lawsuits outside of the Philippines. See
Patajo-Kapunan Supp. Decl., ¶ 8; Tr. at 13, 17-18, 47. In
contrast, plaintiff maintains that this Statute does not apply to
these four corporations and does not prohibit the production of
documents in New York because these corporations have never
engaged in the types of business covered by the Statute and were
formed for private investment purposes, such as investments in
real estate and the stock of public corporations, and the Statute
does not apply to private investments. See Declaration of
Erlinda K. Ilusorio, dated Jan. 29, 2000, ¶ 4; Singson Supp.
Decl., ¶¶ 4-6; Plaintiff's Surreply Memorandum in Opposition to
Motion to Dismiss at 2.
The Court finds that the Statute would, at a minimum,
complicate and delay discovery. However, if the action were to
continue in this District, and if the Statute were found to be
applicable to the four corporations relevant to this action, the
Statute could effectively make it impossible to obtain documents
and testimony for discovery and trial. See Transunion Corp.,
640 F. Supp. at 1217.
This Court lacks familiarity with Philippine law and believes
that the uncertain task of addressing questions of Philippine
substantive and procedural law is better left with the Philippine
courts. In reaching this conclusion, the Court is mindful of
Judge Friendly's observation:
[T]ry as we may to apply the foreign law as it comes
to us through the lips of the experts, there is an
inevitable hazard that, in those areas, perhaps
interstitial but far from inconsequential, where we
have no clear guides, our labors, moulded by our own
habits of mind as they
necessarily must be, may produce a result whose
conformity with that of the foreign court may be
greater in theory than it is in fact.
Conte v. Flota Mercante Del Estado,