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VARNELO v. EASTWIND TRANSPORT

United States District Court, Southern District of New York


February 3, 2003

ELGA VARNELO, AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF STANISLAV VARNELO, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
EASTWIND TRANSPORT, LTD., CHARM NAVIGATION, LTD., & MAYFLOWER SHIP MANAGEMENT CORP., DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Andrew J. Peck, United States Magistrate Judge

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

Plaintiff Helga Varnelo, as personal representative of the Estate of Stanislav Varnelo, deceased (the "decedent"),*fn1 brought this action against defendants Eastwind Transport, Ltd. ("Eastwind"), Charm Navigation, Ltd. ("Charm"), and Mayflower Ship Management Corp. ("Mayflower"), alleging that defendants, as owners or operators of the ship "Yellowstone," negligently caused Stanislav's death aboard ship while in Chinese territorial waters. (Dkt. No. 1: Compl. ¶¶ 2-18.) Eastwind has moved to dismiss on forum non conveniens ("FNC") grounds. (Dkt. No. 13.)

Stanislav Varnelo was, and Helga is, a Russian citizen residing in Kaliningrad, Russian Federation. Stanislav was hired in Kaliningrad. His accident took place aboard ship in Chinese waters. All of the relevant witnesses, including Stanislav's shipmates, are Russian nationals. While Eastwind and possibly the other defendants are located in New York, they all have stipulated to suit in Russia. Further, no evidence as to causation or damages appears to be located in New York. In short, it would be unfair to require New York's citizens to serve as jurors in an action so lacking a connection to this forum. By contrast, Russia has a strong interest in protecting its own seamen hired in Russia, and their Russian widows.

Accordingly, for the reasons set forth below, Eastwind's motion to dismiss on forum non conveniens grounds should be GRANTED.

FACTS

Stanislav Varnelo's Employment on the Yellowstone and the Accident that Caused His Death
Stanislav Varnelo was a Russian citizen residing in Kaliningrad, Russian Federation, and died at the age of 66. (Dkt. No. 14: Arralde 7/1/02 Aff. ¶ 2 & Exs. A & B.) His surviving wife, plaintiff Helga Varnelo, is now 65, a Russian citizen residing in Kaliningrad. (Arralde 7/1/02 Aff. ¶ 2 & Ex. A.)

Stanislav was employed as a "boatswain" or "bosun" aboard defendants' vessel Yellowstone. (Dkt. No. 1: Compl. ¶ 2; Dkt. No. 3: Answer ¶ 2; Dkt. No. 15: Lekkos 7/1/02 Aff. ¶ 4.) He was hired in Kaliningrad, Russian Federation, and employed pursuant to a "Service Agreement" dated March 3, 1999 between the ship's "crewing agent" ("Frost Crewing (Cyprus) Company" and "Reftransflot Crewing Ltd.") and Mayflower, the ship's "operator." (Dkt. No. 15: Lekkos 7/1/02 Aff. ¶ 4 & Ex. A; Compl. ¶ 12; Dkt. No. 34: Eastwind Resp. to Pl's Interrog. No. 1.)

It is undisputed that on October 17, 2001, Stanislav fell overboard and drowned while the Yellowstone was off the port of Shanghai, China. (Compl. ¶¶ 13-18; Dkt. No. 15: Lekkos 7/1/02 Aff. ¶ 7.) At the time of the accident, the ship's "pilot ladder" was being installed in order to take a Chinese river pilot aboard and proceed to Jiangjin, China. (Compl. ¶ 13; Lekkos 7/1/02 Aff. ¶ 7.)*fn2 Despite rescue efforts by the Yellowstone's crew and Chinese authorities, Stanislav's "body was never found." (Lekkos 7/1/02 Aff. ¶ 8.)*fn3

The parties, however, dispute the cause of the accident. Defendants assert that the accident was Stanislav's fault. (Dkt. No. 13: Eastwind Br. at 8; Dkt. No. 18: Eastwind Reply Br. at 5; Dkt. No. 19: Stearns 7/24/02 Aff. ¶ 6 (Stanislav may have fallen overboard "because of heart attack or other seizure or might even have jumped");*fn4 5/14/02 Stearns Letter to Judge Wood at 2.) The complaint, by contrast, asserts that (1) "[t]he vessel was unseaworthy in that the . . . pilot ladder was not safe for its intended use"; (2) defendants "were negligent in not securing the pilot ladder in a safe manner"; (3) defendants "violated applicable safety regulations"; (4) defendants "failed to warn Decedent of danger"; (5) "rescue equipment was inadequate and not readily available"; and (6) "rescue efforts were negligently directed and enforced." (Compl. ¶¶ 14-16.)

The Service Agreement, which was signed and accepted by Stanislav, provided for a base wage rate of $650 per month, and named plaintiff Helga Varnelo as Stanislav's beneficiary. (Dkt. No. 15: Lekkos 7/1/02 Aff. ¶¶ 4-5 & Exs. A-B.) The Service Agreement entitled Helga to a lump-sum payment of $49,000 for Stanislav's accidental death aboard ship. (Lekkos 7/1/02 Aff. ¶ 5 & Ex. A § 12; Dkt. No. 17: Edelman 7/15/02 Aff. Ex. 1: Kargopolov 6/6/02 Aff. ¶¶ 5-6.)

The complaint alleged claims under the Jones Act, 28 U.S.C. § 688 et seq., the Death On the High Seas Act ("DOHSA"), 46 U.S.C. § 761 et seq., and "the General Maritime Law of the United States, and other applicable law." (Compl. ¶ 1.) Claimed damages include: (1) $1 million for Helga's "personal losses as a dependent wife; loss of Decedent's support; loss of his society and other losses available under applicable laws"; and (2) $350,000 for "Decedent's pain and suffering prior to his death." (Compl. ¶¶ 19, 22-23.)

Jurisdictional Allegations Concerning Defendants

The Yellowstone is registered in Liberia (Dkt. No. 15: Lekkos 7/1/02 Aff. ¶ 6; Dkt. No. 34: Eastwind Resp. to Pl's Interrog. No. 6) and at the time of Stanislav's death was owned by Charm, a Liberian company (Dkt. No. 17: Edelman 7/15/02 Aff. Ex. 2: Pavlakis Aff. ¶ 3). Mayflower, the "operator" of the ship (and Stanislav's employer), is a Liberian company with offices in Piraeus, Greece. (Dkt. No. 17: Edelman 7/15/02 Aff. Ex. 2: Pavlakis Aff. ¶ 3.) Eastwind is incorporated in Liberia with its principal place of business in this District. (Pavlakis Aff. ¶¶ 5-20; Edelman 7/15/02 Aff. Ex. 6 at 2; Eastwind Resp. to Pl's Interrog. No. 6.) Of the three defendants, only Eastwind concedes that it is subject to personal jurisdiction in this District. (See Dkt. No. 3: Answer ¶ 25.)

One of Helga's attorneys submitted a rambling, 17-page affidavit, asserting that: (1) the Yellowstone, though nominally owned by Charm with a Liberian "flag of convenience," is actually owned, controlled, and operated by Eastwind, headquartered in this District; (2) Mayflower is owned and controlled by Eastwind; (3) the ship was actually operated by Eastwind in New York, not Mayflower in Greece; and (4) the ship's "crewing agents" in Russia were owned, controlled, and operated by Eastwind. (Dkt. No. 17: Edelman 7/15/02 Aff. Ex. 2: Pavlakis Aff. ¶¶ 3-27; see also Dkt. No. 1: Compl. ¶¶ 3-12.) Defendants' answer denies, "upon information and belief," plaintiff's jurisdictional allegations. (Answer ¶¶ 3-12.)*fn5 Relevant Witnesses

According to Eastwind, all relevant evidence and witnesses are located in Russia "and perhaps China" (Dkt. No. 13: Eastwind Br. at 9-10), and "it is believed no witness who is available in New York has any knowledge concerning causation or damages" (Dkt. No. 31: Arralde 12/2/02 Aff. ¶ 13).

Eastwind asserts that the key liability witnesses are located in Russia: the Yellowstone was "manned exclusively by Russian nationals" at the time of Stanislav's death. (Dkt. No. 15: Lekkos 7/1/02 Aff. ¶ 6 & Ex. C; see Dkt. No. 31: Arralde 12/2/02 Aff. ¶ 7; Dkt. No. 13: Eastwind Br. at 10.) Of the crewmembers, Eastwind specifically names as potential witnesses the captain ("master" Vasily Larionov), the first mate ("chief officer" Andrey Bogdanov), and three "able-bodied seamen" — Miron Nuke, Sergey Gankevich, and Dmitriy Naronovich. (Arralde 12/2/02 Aff. ¶¶ 6-7; Dkt. No. 18: Eastwind Reply Br. at 8.)*fn6 Larionov, Nuke, and Gankevich are currently working aboard ships operated by Mayflower, while Bogdonov and Naronovich are not. (Arralde 12/2/02 Aff. Ex. B: Lekkos 11/29/02 Aff. ¶¶ 4, 7.)*fn7 Eastwind asserts, moreover, that "[w]hen seamen are not aboard ship, Mayflower cannot require them to make an appearance in connection with a case because once their contract has terminated, Mayflower has no power to require the seamen [to] do anything." (Id. ¶ 3.) Further, Eastwind asserts that the ships on which Larionov, Nuke, and Gankevich currently work are "bulk carriers and are not in a regular liner service," so that each voyage has "different ports of call" (id. ¶ 4) — presumably meaning that the ships do not predictably port in New York.

Eastwind also contends that in order to assess Helga's damages, the jury would need to hear testimony from Russian witnesses regarding Stanislav's "health, state of mind or the sums he spent for personal consumption or instead contributed to his wife's support." (Dkt. No. 18: Eastwind Reply Br. at 5; see also Dkt. No. 31: Arralde 12/2/02 Aff. ¶ 9.) However, other than plaintiff Helga, the only damages witness that Eastwind identifies is "A. Kozlov," formerly a representative of Yellowstone's crewing agent. (Arralde 12/2/02 Aff. ¶¶ 2, 8-9 & Ex. A.)

According to Eastwind, other relevant witnesses reside in or near Piraeus, Greece, including Captain Lekkos of Mayflower and Mayflower ship inspectors. (Dkt. No. 31: Arralde 12/2/02 Aff. Ex. B: Lekkos 11/29/02 Aff. ¶¶ 1, 6.) Eastwind does not specifically identify any witnesses located in China, although presumably testimony from the crewmembers of the Chinese search and rescue mission would be relevant to Helga's allegation (Dkt. No. 1: Compl. ¶¶ 15-16) that the rescue was performed negligently. The Yellowstone itself was sold to interests in the People's Republic of China after the accident, and is believed to be currently limited to Chinese waters. (Arralde 12/2/02 Aff. Ex. C: Murray Aff. ¶ 2.)

Plaintiff contends, by contrast, that because defendants concede that there were no "eye witnesses" [sic] to the accident, no Russian crew members could provide relevant testimony. (Dkt. No. 16: Pl. Br. at 1, 4, 7.) Further, plaintiff contends that because defendants violated a treaty provision requiring that an officer supervise the rigging of pilot ladders, defendants are strictly liable for Stanislav's death. (Pl. Br. at 1, 7; see Dkt. No. 17: Edelman 7/15/02 Aff. at 2-3.) In plaintiff's view, therefore, testimony from Stanislav's shipmates regarding the details of his accident would be superfluous. (Id.)

Plaintiff further asserts that Stanislav's accident was caused by a decayed rope ladder. (Dkt. No. 17: Edelman 7/15/02 Aff. Ex. 9.) According to plaintiff, the jury will only need to hear testimony from an American expert on rope ladder negligence and a Russian sailor, identified by plaintiff, who is willing to travel here to testify that a ship similar to the Yellowstone had a defective pilot ladder. (Id.)*fn8 Finally, plaintiff asserts that, because defendants' shipping operations are based in New York, most of the relevant witnesses are located here. (Dkt. No. 16: Pl. Br. at 4-5.) Plaintiff, however, fails to identify any such witnesses or the nature of their testimony.

Procedural History

On May 16, 2002, Judge Wood referred this case to me for general pretrial supervision and for reports and recommendations on dispositive motions. (Dkt. No. 5.)

This Court held a May 31, 2002 status conference, at which plaintiff's counsel confirmed that he had never spoken to Helga, but rather had been "retained by other [foreign] lawyers" who control the case. (Dkt. No. 12:5/31/02 Hearing Tr. at 19.)*fn9 The Court admonished plaintiff's counsel that if the case were going to remain in this District, plaintiff's counsel would have to speak directly with plaintiff, foregoing the "intermediary approach." (5/31/02 Hearing Tr. at 18.) At that conference, the Court stayed discovery to allow the parties to consider voluntarily moving the case to Russia or to brief the FNC motion. (Id. at 24.)*fn10

Upon the Court's order (5/31/02 Hearing Tr. at 15-16), and in an effort to convince plaintiff to bring her claims voluntarily in Russia, defendants' counsel forwarded to plaintiff's counsel a proposed stipulation, signed only by defendants:

IT IS HEREBY AGREED, by and between the parties hereto, that if Russian so [sic] law permits, a case will be brought by Helga Varnelo for claims arising from the death of her husband, Stanislav Varnelo, in a court whose territorial jurisdiction includes Kaliningrad, against [Eastwind, Charm, and Mayflower]. In such event, defendants will appear in said court in response to proper notification and will be responsible for payment of any judgment rendered therein and waive defenses of lack of that court's jurisdiction and statute of limitations.
(Dkt. No. 38:6/7/02 Arralde Letter Enc.: 6/7/02 Stip.; see Dkt. No. 13: Eastwind Br. at 6.) Plaintiff, however, declined the invitation to commence suit in Russia. (See Dkt. No. 8:6/17/02 Order.)

Because defendants Mayflower and Charm dispute personal jurisdiction in this District (Dkt. No. 3: Answer ¶ 25), the forum non conveniens motion was brought solely on behalf of defendant Eastwind (Dkt. No. 13: Eastwind Motion). Any motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction as to Mayflower and Charm was deferred pending disposition of this FNC motion.

According to defendants, the Russian court would not issue a death certificate until six months from Stanislav's loss, at which time Stanislav would be presumed dead under Russian law. (5/31/02 Hearing Tr. at 6-8, 17-18, 24; see Dkt. No. 15: Lekkos 7/1/02 Aff. ¶ 9.) After Stanislav's death certificate was finally issued, on June 25, 2002 defendants delivered to plaintiff's counsel a certified check for $49,000, representing Helga's full death benefit under the Service Agreement. (Dkt. No. 37:6/26/02 Letter Encl. 6/25/02 Receipt; Dkt. No. 13: Eastwind Br. at 5.)*fn11

ANALYSIS

While defendants Mayflower and Charm dispute personal jurisdiction, defendant Eastwind concedes jurisdiction and has brought this forum non conveniens motion. (See page 10 above.) The Second Circuit recently held that where defendants contest jurisdiction, a district court may bypass the question of jurisdiction and dismiss the action solely on forum non conveniens grounds. Monegasque De Reassurances S.A.M. v. Nak Naftogaz of Ukraine, 311 F.3d 488, 497-98 (2d Cir. 2002). The Court therefore turns to the forum non conveniens question.

I. THE FORUM NON CONVENIENS STANDARD

The equitable doctrine of forum non conveniens ("FNC") permits a court to "resist imposition upon its jurisdiction even when jurisdiction is authorized by the letter of a general venue statute." Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 507, 67 S.Ct. 839, 842 (1947). "Through a discretionary inquiry, the court determines where litigation will be most convenient and will serve the ends of justice." PT United Can Co. v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., 138 F.3d 65, 73 (2d Cir. 1998); accord, e.g., Murray v. British Broad. Corp., 81 F.3d 287, 290 (2d Cir. 1996); Scottish Air Int'l, Inc. v. British Caledonian Group, PLC, 81 F.3d 1224, 1232 (2d Cir. 1996); Wiwa v. Royal Dutch*fn11 Petroleum Co., 96 Civ. 8386, 2002 WL 319887 at *29 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 28, 2002 (Wood, D.J.) ("The doctrine of forum non conveniens permits a federal court to decline to entertain a case over which it has jurisdiction if dismissing the action would serve the ends of justice or the convenience of the parties."); Potomac Capital Inv. Corp. v. KLM, 97 Civ. 8141, 1998 WL 92416 at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 4, 1998) (Peck, M.J.) ("Under the forum non conveniens ['FNC'] doctrine, a district court has broad discretion to decline to exercise jurisdiction that is authorized by the general venue statute, where dismissal would best serve the convenience of the parties and the ends of justice.") (internal quotations omitted).

The Court's "first level of inquiry" is determining the degree of deference to be accorded the plaintiff's choice of forum:

We . . . understand the Supreme Court's teachings on the deference due to plaintiff's forum choice as instructing that we give greater deference to a plaintiff's forum choice to the extent that it was motivated by legitimate reasons, including the plaintiff's convenience and the ability of a U.S. resident plaintiff to obtain jurisdiction over the defendant, and diminishing deference to a plaintiff's forum choice to the extent that it was motivated by tactical advantage.
Iragorri v. United Tech. Corp., 274 F.3d 65, 73 (2d Cir. 2001) (en banc).*fn12

The Court must then engage in an additional two-step process:

First, the district court asks if there is an alternative forum that has jurisdiction to hear the case. . . . [In] the second step of the inquiry . . . the district court determines the forum that will be most convenient and will best serve the ends of justice. In making this second determination, the court weighs a variety of private and public considerations, as set out in Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 508-09, 67 S.Ct. 839, 843 (1947) (the "Gilbert factors").
Peregrine Myanmar Ltd. v. Segal, 89 F.3d 41, 46 (2d Cir. 1996).*fn13

In Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 102 S.Ct. 252 (1981), the Supreme Court held that no one factor is determinative: "[i]f central emphasis were placed on any one factor, the forum non conveniens doctrine would lose much of the very flexibility that makes it so valuable." Id. at 249-50, 102 S.Ct. at 263.*fn14

"The decision to dismiss a case on forum non conveniens grounds `lies wholly within the broad discretion of the district court and may be overturned only when . . . that discretion has been clearly abused.'" Iragorri v. United Tech. Corp., 274 F.3d at 72 (quoting Scottish Air Int'l, Inc. v. British Caledonian Group, PLC, 81 F.3d at 1232).*fn15 "There can be a `clear abuse of discretion' only if `a court fails to carefully consider[] the Gilbert factors.'" Peregrine Myanmar Ltd. v. Segal, 89 F.3d at 46 (quoting Allstate Life Ins. Co. v. Linter Group Ltd., 994 F.2d 996, 1001 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 945, 114 S.Ct. 386 (1993)).*fn16

II. FORUM NON CONVENIENS ANALYSIS APPLIES TO JONES ACT CASES

As a threshold matter, plaintiff contends that the Jones Act governs this maritime action, and that the Court therefore has no choice but to deny the forum non conveniens motion. (Dkt. No. 16: Pl. Br. at 12-14.) To the contrary, and as plaintiff's counsel Edelman well knows, the Second Circuit has squarely held that an action may be dismissed on forum non conveniens grounds even if the Jones Act applies. See Cruz v. Maritime Co. of Philippines, 702 F.2d 47, 48 (2d Cir. 1983) (per curiam) ("maritime choice of law principles are not involved in a forum non conveniens analysis and . . . the district court's discussion on the subject was therefore unnecessary"); see also Alcoa S.S. Co. v. M/V Nordic Regent, 654 F.2d 147, 153-54, 158-59 (2d Cir.) (en banc) (The Second Circuit "consistently has applied the Gilbert standard in reviewing dismissals on the grounds of forum non conveniens in admiralty cases. . . . [I]t is in the field of admiralty that our federal courts have applied the doctrine of forum non conveniens most flexibly and over the longest period of time . . . almost 180 years."), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 890, 101 S.Ct. 248 (1980).

As have all other judges in this District to whom plaintiff's counsel, Mr. Edelman, made the argument, this Court also declines plaintiff's counsel's invitation to ignore Cruz. See, e.g., Ioannides v. Marika Mar. Corp., 928 F. Supp. 374, 377 & n. 5 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) ("Plaintiffs invite this Court to `reconsider' Cruz. It may not do so. Plaintiffs' argument would be addressed more properly to the Court of Appeals.") (plaintiff's counsel in Ioannides was Paul Edelman, counsel for plaintiff Varnelo); Tsangaris v. Elite, Inc., 92 Civ. 7855, 1993 WL 267425 at *7 (S.D.N.Y. July 9, 1993) ("The Second Circuit has concluded that it will follow the Gilbert standard in all forum non conveniens motions. Even in cases brought under the Jones Act, this Court may properly apply the Gilbert forum non conveniens analysis.") (citations, including to Cruz, omitted) (Edelman was Tsangaris' counsel); Gazis v. John S. Latsis (USA) Inc., 729 F. Supp. 979, 985 (S.D.N.Y. 1990) (following Cruz, "a district court may dismiss a case on forum non conveniens grounds without first making a choice of law determination") (Edelman represented Gazis); Doufexis v. Nagos S.S., Inc., 583 F. Supp. 1132, 1133 (S.D.N.Y. 1983) (FNC dismissal in Jones Act case permitted under Cruz) (Edelman was Doufexis' counsel).

III. DEFERENCE TO PLAINTIFF'S CHOICE OF FORUM

"In weighing the Gilbert factors, the court starts with a presumption in favor of the plaintiff's choice of forum, especially if the defendant resides in the chosen forum, as here." Peregrine Myanmar Ltd. v. Segal, 89 F.3d 41, 46 (2d Cir. 1996). "[U]nless the balance [of interest factors] is strongly in favor of the defendant, the plaintiff's choice of forum should rarely be disturbed." Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 508, 67 S.Ct. 839, 843 (1947).*fn17 "The defendant has the burden to establish that an adequate alternative forum exists and then to show that the pertinent factors `tilt[] strongly in favor of trial in the foreign forum.'" Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 226 F.3d at 100 (quoting R. Maganlal & Co. v. M.G. Chem. Co., 942 F.2d 164, 167 (2d Cir. 1991)).*fn18 In order to meet this burden, "defendants must provide enough information to enable the District Court to balance the parties' interests." Piper Aircraft Company v. Reyno, 454 U.S. at 258, 102 S.Ct. at 267. "The amount of information that the defendant must provide, in supporting affidavits or other evidence, depends on the facts of the individual case." El-Fadl v. Central Bank of Jordan, 75 F.3d 668, 677 (D.C. Cir. 1996).

"Where a foreign plaintiff is concerned, however, its choice of forum is entitled to less deference." Murray v. British Broad. Corp., 81 F.3d at 290 (citing Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. at 256, 102 S.Ct. at 266); accord, e.g., Mongasque de Reassurances S.A.M. v. Nak Naftogay of Ukraine, 311 F.3d 488, 498 (2d Cir. 2002). As the Second Circuit explained: The Supreme Court has emphasized that this rule is not based on a desire to disadvantage foreign plaintiff's but rather on a realistic prediction concerning the ultimate convenience of the forum:

[w]hen the home forum has been chosen, it is reasonable to assume that this choice is convenient. When the plaintiff is foreign, however, this assumption is much less reasonable. Because the central purpose of any forum non conveniens inquiry is to ensure that the trial is convenient, a foreign plaintiff's choice deserves less deference.
Murray v. British Broad. Corp., 81 F.3d at 290 (quoting Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. at 255-56, 102 S.Ct. at 266 (fn. omitted)); accord, e.g., R. Maganlal & Co. v. M.G. Chem. Co., 942 F.2d at 168. The Second Circuit has "cautioned that `this reduced weight is not an invitation to accord a foreign plaintiff's selection of an American forum no deference since dismissal for forum non conveniens is the exception rather than the rule.'" Murray v. British Broad. Corp., 81 F.3d at 290 (quoting R. Maganlal & Co. v. M.G. Chem. Co., 942 F.2d at 168). Thus, "some weight must still be given to a foreign plaintiff's choice of forum." Murray v. British Broad. Corp., 81 F.3d at 290.

In Iragorri v. United Tech. Corp., the Second Circuit en banc synthesized recent precedent to hold that "the degree of deference to be given to a plaintiff's choice of forum moves on a sliding scale depending on several relevant considerations":

The Supreme Court explained in Piper that the reason we give deference to a plaintiff's choice of her home forum is because it is presumed to be convenient. Id. at 255-56, 102 S.Ct. 252. ("When the home forum has been chosen, it is reasonable to assume that this choice is convenient.") In contrast, when a foreign plaintiff chooses a U.S. forum, it "is much less reasonable" to presume that the choice was made for convenience. Id. at 256, 102 S.Ct. 252. In such circumstances, a plausible likelihood exists that the selection was made for forum-shopping reasons, such as the perception that United States courts award higher damages than are common in other countries. Even if the U.S. district was not chosen for such forum-shopping reasons, there is nonetheless little reason to assume that it is convenient for a foreign plaintiff.
Based on the Supreme Court's guidance, our understanding of how courts should address the degree of deference to be given to a plaintiff's choice of a U.S. forum is essentially as follows: The more it appears that a domestic or foreign plaintiff's choice of forum has been dictated by reasons that the law recognizes as valid, the greater the deference that will be given to the plaintiff's forum choice. Stated differently, the greater the plaintiff's or the lawsuit's bona fide connection to the United States and to the forum of choice and the more it appears that considerations of convenience favor the conduct of the lawsuit in the United States, the more difficult it will be for the defendant to gain dismissal for forum non conveniens. Thus, factors that argue against forum non conveniens dismissal include the convenience of the plaintiff's residence in relation to the chosen forum, the availability of witnesses or evidence to the forum district, the defendant's amenability to suit in the forum district, the availability of appropriate legal assistance, and other reasons relating to convenience or expense. On the other hand, the more it appears that the plaintiff's choice of a U.S. forum was motivated by forum-shopping reasons — such as attempts to win a tactical advantage resulting from local laws that favor the plaintiff's case, the habitual generosity of juries in the United States or in the forum district, the plaintiff's popularity or the defendant's unpopularity in the region, or the inconvenience and expense to the defendant resulting from litigation in that forum — the less deference the plaintiff's choice commands and, consequently, the easier it becomes for the defendant to succeed on a forum non conveniens motion by showing that convenience would be better served by litigating in another country's courts.
Iragorri v. United Tech. Corp., 274 F.3d at 71-72 (emphasis added & fns. omitted).*fn19 The Iragorri Court concluded that:

[T]he greater the degree of deference to which the plaintiff's choice of forum is entitled, the stronger a showing of inconvenience the defendant must make to prevail in securing forum non conveniens dismissal. At the same time, a lesser degree of deference to the plaintiff's choice bolsters the defendant's case but does not guarantee dismissal. . . . The action should be dismissed only if [plaintiff's] chosen forum is shown to be genuinely inconvenient and [defendant's] selected forum significantly preferable. In considering this point, the court furthermore must balance the greater convenience to the defendant of litigating in its preferred forum against any greater inconvenience to the plaintiff if the plaintiff is required to institute the suit in the defendant's preferred foreign jurisdiction.
Id. at 74-75.*fn20

The Court analyzes below: (A) whether the Iragorri factors, including the amenability of defendants to suit in this District, affect deference to plaintiff's choice of forum; and (B) whether deference to plaintiff's choice of this forum should be affected by treaty obligations between Russia and the United States. The Court notes, however, that the degree of deference analyses to some extent overlaps with the Gilbert private convenience factors, which the Court discusses in Point V.A. below.

A. The Iragorri Factors Do Not Support Deference to Plaintiff's Forum Choice
Here, of course, plaintiff Helga Varnelo is a citizen and resident of Russia. (See page 2 above.) A finding of diminished deference based on plaintiff's overseas residence is only the beginning of the Iragorri deference analysis; the Court must also consider each of the other deference factors. See Iragorri v. United Tech. Corp., 274 F.3d 65, 71-73 (2d Cir. 2001) (en banc); accord, e.g., Monegasque De Reassurances S.A.M. v. Nak Naftogaz of Ukraine, 311 F.3d 488, 498-99 (2d Cir. 2002); Abdullahi v. Pfizer, Inc., 01 Civ. 8118, 2002 WL 31082956 at *10 (S.D.N.Y. Sep. 17, 2002); Wesoke v. Contract Servs. Ltd., 00 Civ. 1188, 2002 WL 1560775 at *5-6 (S.D.N.Y. July 15, 2002).

First, plaintiff has pointedly conceded that her recovery in Russia would be, at best, a small fraction of her recovery in this forum.*fn21 (Dkt. No. 17: Edelman 7/15/02 Aff. Ex. 1: Kargopolov 6/6/02 Aff. ¶¶ 5-6; Dkt. No. 16: Pl. Br. at 3.) One could hardly hope for a more forthright admission of forum shopping. "[T]he more it appears that the plaintiff's choice of a U.S. forum was motivated by forum-shopping reasons — such as attempts to win a tactical advantage resulting from local laws that favor the plaintiff's case, the habitual generosity of juries in the United States or in the forum district . . . — the less deference the plaintiff's choice commands. . . ." Iragorri v. United Tech. Corp., 274 F.3d at 72.*fn22 This points to giving lesser deference to plaintiff's choice of this forum.

Second, it is highly unlikely that plaintiff chose this forum for "the availability of witnesses or evidence to the forum district." See Iragorri v. United Tech. Corp., 274 F.3d at 72. As explained below (see Point V.A.1.), the key witnesses, including Stanislav's shipmates on the Yellowstone and indeed plaintiff Helga Varnelo herself, all reside in Russia. Plaintiff's assertion that employees of the defendants located in New York may possess evidence (see Point V.A.1.c. below) appears to be purely speculative. Again, this factor points to giving lesser deference to plaintiff's choice of forum.

Third, "the availability of appropriate legal assistance," Iragorri v. United Tech. Corp., 274 F.3d at 72, cannot be considered a factor favoring this forum, as plaintiff has had to employ no less than three sets of attorneys (Russian/Lithuanian, Greek, and American) to file suit here. (See pages 8-9 & n. 9 & page 10 n. 11 above.) Again, this factor points to giving lesser deference to plaintiff's choice of forum.

Fourth, given that this action involves the death of a Russian seaman, hired in Russia, on board a Liberian ship in Chinese territorial waters, one is hard put to argue the "lawsuit's bona fide connection to the United States." Iragorri v. United Tech. Corp., 274 F.3d at 72. Moreover, as described in greater detail in Point V.B.1. below, the possibility that the Jones Act might apply to plaintiff's claim does not create a substantial connection to this forum. Again, this factor points to giving lesser deference to plaintiff's choice of forum.

Finally, the Second Circuit has consistently held that suit in a defendant's home forum supports deference to plaintiff's forum choice.*fn23 In this case, defendants Charm and Mayflower — the parties most clearly responsible for Stanislav's accident — dispute jurisdiction, as they are (at least nominally) based in Liberia and Greece, respectively. (Dkt. No. 17: Edelman 7/15/02 Aff. Ex. 2: Pavlakis Aff. ¶ 3.) Nevertheless, Eastwind is based in this district (e.g., Edelman 7/15/02 Aff. Ex. 6 at 5), and plaintiff asserts that Eastwind controls Charm and Mayflower, so that defendants' overall shipping operations — which include the ship at issue — are owned, controlled, and managed from this District (Dkt. No. 17: Edelman 7/15/02 Aff. Ex. 2: Pavlakis Aff. ¶¶ 3-27; see also Dkt. No. 1: Compl. ¶¶ 3-12).

Heightened deference to plaintiff's choice of U.S. forum is only reasonable, however, if it is unclear that defendants would be amenable to suit in an alternative forum such as plaintiff's home forum (here, Russia). The Second Circuit explained:

One of the factors that necessarily affects a plaintiff's choice of forum is the need to sue in a place where the defendant is amenable to suit. Consider for example a hypothetical plaintiff residing in New Jersey, who brought suit in the Southern District of New York, barely an hour's drive from the plaintiff's residence, because the defendant was amenable to suit in the Southern District but not in New Jersey. It would make little sense to withhold deference for the plaintiff's choice merely because she did not sue in her home district. Where a U.S. resident leaves her home district to sue the defendant where the defendant has established itself and is thus amenable to suit, this would not ordinarily indicate a choice motivated by desire to impose tactical disadvantage on the defendant. This is all the more true where the defendant's amenability to suit in the plaintiff's home district is unclear.
Iragorri v. United Tech. Corp., 274 F.3d at 72-73 (emphasis added).

Here, it is undisputed that defendant Mayflower hired Stanislav, a Russian citizen, on Russian soil (see page 2 above), and plaintiff alleges that Mayflower regularly hires Russian crews on Russian soil. (See Dkt. No. 17: Edelman 7/15/02 Aff. Ex. 7: Eastwind Website ("the Russian joint-venture vessels are managed by Mayflower, which provides training programs for Russian and FSU seafarers.").) The Court thus deems it reasonable to assume that at least Mayflower would be amenable to suit in Russia. Otherwise, shipowners and operators would be able to hire Russian crews on Russian soil without being subject to Russian jurisdiction, and that cannot possibly be the substance of Russian law.*fn24 Accordingly, because plaintiff Helga Varnelo could have sued at least Mayflower in her home forum, Russia, this factor does not support heightened deference for plaintiff's choice of forum.

Indeed, in the related context of the adequacy of the foreign forum (discussed further in Point IV below), the Second Circuit has held that "[o]nce defendants consent[] to suit in" the foreign forum, "there [is] no reason to determine whether defendants were initially subject to the compulsory jurisdiction of [the foreign forum]." Farmanfarmaian v. Gulf Oil Corp., 588 F.2d 880, 882 (2d Cir. 1978) (citing Schertenleib v. Traum, 589 F.2d at 1163) ("Plaintiff argues that this practice is unfair to him in that he first brought suit in allegedly the only place he could, and now, after he tries to sue defendant in Geneva, he may end up back here again, all at his inconvenience and expense. The answer to this is that a district court should not dismiss unless it justifiably believes that the alternative forum will take jurisdiction, if the defendant consents. Once that finding has been made, the remaining but unlikely possibility that the plaintiff may ultimately have to return to the inconvenient forum is a factor to be weighed in deciding whether to dismiss, . . . but this kind of improbability should not automatically preclude the use of forum non conveniens.")).

In sum, based on this Court's analysis of the "sliding scale" factors described in Iragorri v. United Tech. Corp., 274 F.3d at 71-72, plaintiff Helga Varnelo's choice of this forum is accorded "little deference," Monegasque De Reassurances S.A.M. v. Nak Naftogaz of Ukraine, 311 F.3d at 499.

B. Treaty Obligations Between Russia and the United States Do Not Change the Result
Although neither party raised the issue on this motion, this Court notes that relations between the United States and Russia appear to be governed by a treaty providing for equal access to each other's courts. See Agreement On Trade Relations Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Entered into Force June 17, 1992, State Dept. No. 92-168, KAV No. 2609, 1992 WL 466079 (Treaty), Art. XII, § 1 ("Nationals, companies and organizations of either [Treaty] Party shall be accorded national treatment with respect to access to all courts and administrative bodies in the territory of the other Party, as plaintiffs, defendants or otherwise."). The Second Circuit has held that such treaty provisions prohibit courts from treating foreign plaintiffs' forum choices with less deference than that accorded United States citizens:

We have ruled . . . that when a treaty with a foreign nation accords its nationals access to our courts equivalent to that provided American citizens, identical forum non conveniens standards must be applied to such nationals by American courts. Because such a treaty exists between the United States and Venezuela, no discount may be imposed upon the plaintiff's initial choice of a New York forum in this case solely because [plaintiff] is a foreign corporation.
Blanco v. Banco Indus. de Venezuela, S.A., 997 F.2d 974, 981 (2d Cir. 1993) (citations omitted).*fn25

This line of treaty cases requiring "equal access" to foreign plaintiffs is, however, easily harmonized with the line of cases granting less deference to plaintiffs residing overseas. (See cases cited at page 17 above.) Foreign plaintiffs deserve less deference, not because they lack U.S. citizenship, but simply because their overseas residence vitiates any presumption that they would find the U.S. forum convenient. As the Second Circuit explained, U.S. residence is a "factor supporting the plaintiff's choice of a U.S. forum," "not because of chauvinism or bias in favor of U.S. residents," but

rather because the greater the plaintiff's ties to the plaintiff's chosen forum, the more likely it is that the plaintiff would be inconvenienced by a requirement to bring the claim in a foreign jurisdiction. Also, while our courts are of course required to offer equal justice to all litigants, see [Alcoa S. S. Co. v. M/V Nordic Regent,], 654 F.2d at 152-53 (noting existence of treaties requiring "no less favorable" treatment of foreign nationals), a neutral rule that compares the convenience of the parties should properly consider each party's residence as a factor that bears on the inconvenience that party might suffer if required to sue in a foreign nation.
Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 226 F.3d 88, 102 (2d Cir. 2000), cert. denied, 532 U.S. 941, 121 S.Ct. 1402 (2001).

Thus, a foreign plaintiff residing overseas should receive the same diminished degree of deference as would be accorded an expatriate U.S. citizen living abroad. See Iragorri v. United Tech. Corp., 274 F.3d 65, 73 n. 5 (2d Cir. 2001) ("it would be less reasonable to assume" that an "expatriate U.S. citizen residing permanently in a foreign country bring[ing] suit in the United States" chose this forum "based on convenience"). This solution (1) satisfies this country's treaty obligations, by treating foreign plaintiffs the same as similarly situated U.S. citizens (i.e., similarly situated in that they reside overseas), and (2) respects convenience as the touchstone of the forum non conveniens analysis by giving deference solely to plaintiffs actually residing in this country.*fn26 See In re Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., 190 F. Supp.2d 1125, 1136-37 (S.D.Ind. 2002) ("expatriate U.S. nationals and treaty nationals residing in their home countries are entitled to the same deference on their choice of forum, with the consideration that suing in a United States forum while residing in a foreign country is less likely to be convenient. This formulation accommodates a number of conflicting values, including protecting U.S. courts from a glut of foreign cases while continuing to respect our treaty obligations. . . . And, ultimately, it captures the main point of our analysis — convenience. Hence, we conclude that Plaintiffs here are entitled to the same deference as U.S. citizens in similar situations, with the understanding that suing in a United States court is sometimes, although not always, less likely to be convenient when the shared situation is residence in a foreign country."); Doe v. Hyland Therapeutics Div., 807 F. Supp. at 1123 n. 9 ("the practice of according talismanic significance to a plaintiff's citizenship seems contrary to the rationale underlying forum non conveniens analysis"); Oxley v. Wyeth Labs., Inc., No. Civ. A. 91-1285, 1992 WL 116308 at *3 (E.D.Pa. May 20, 1992) ("Pursuant to the terms of [Ireland-U.S.] Treaty, Irish plaintiffs are to be given the same deference to choice of forum as would be given to nonresident United States citizens.") Accordingly, because plaintiff Helga Varnelo resides in Russia, treaty obligations between Russia and the United States do not require any greater deference to her choice of this forum, and as discussed above, the Iragorri factors lead to giving her choice of forum lesser deference.

IV. RUSSIA IS AN ADEQUATE ALTERNATE FORUM

"The requirement of an alternative forum is ordinarily satisfied if the defendant is amenable to process in another jurisdiction, except in `rare circumstances' when `the remedy offered by the other forum is clearly unsatisfactory.'" Murray v. British Broad. Corp., 81 F.3d 287, 292 (2d Cir. 1996) (quoting Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 254 n. 22, 102 S.Ct. 252, 265 n. 22 (1981)); accord, e.g., Monegasque De Reassurances S.A.M. v. Nak Naftogaz of Ukraine, 311 F.3d 488, 499 (2d Cir. 2002); Aguinda v. Texaco, Inc., 303 F.3d 470, 476-77 (2d Cir. 2002); Bank of Credit & Commerce Int'l (Overseas) Ltd. v. State Bank of Pak., 273 F.3d 241, 248 (2d Cir. 2001); Alfadda v. Fenn, 159 F.3d 41, 45 (2d Cir. 1998) ("An alternative forum is adequate if: (1) the defendants are subject to service of process there; and (2) the forum permits `litigation of the subject matter of the dispute.'") (quoting Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. at 254 n. 22, 102 S.Ct. at 265 n. 22); R. Maganlal & Co. v. M.G. Chem. Co., 942 F.2d 164, 167 (2d Cir. 1991); Potomac Capital Inv. Corp. v. KLM, 97 Civ. 8141, 1998 WL 92416 at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 4, 1998) (Peck, M.J.).*fn27

Plaintiff asserts that Russia is an inadequate forum because: (A) Russian courts would not assert jurisdiction over defendants, even on defendants' consent; and (B) even assuming such jurisdiction, any recovery in Russia would be inadequate. (Dkt. No. 16: Pl. Br. at 3-5; Dkt. No. 17: Edelman Aff. Ex. 1: Kargopolov 6/6/02 Aff. ¶¶ 5-6 & 7/8/02 Aff. ¶¶ 3-5.)*fn28 Neither of these grounds has merit.

A. Russian Courts Would Likely Exercise Jurisdiction Over Defendants On Consent
Defendants have consented to jurisdiction in Russia:

IT IS HEREBY AGREED, by and between the parties hereto, that if Russian so [sic] law permits, a case will be brought by Helga Varnelo for claims arising from the death of her husband, Stanislav Varnelo, in a court whose territorial jurisdiction includes Kaliningrad, against [defendants Eastwind, Charm, and Mayflower]. In such event, defendants will appear in said court in response to proper notification and will be responsible for payment of any judgment rendered therein and waive defenses of lack of that court's jurisdiction and statute of limitations.
(Dkt. No. 38:6/7/02 Arralde Letter Enclosure.) Such "[a]n agreement by the defendant to submit to the jurisdiction of the foreign forum can generally satisfy [the adequate alternative forum] requirement." DiRienzo v. Philip Servs. Corp., 232 F.3d 49, 57 (2d Cir. 2000), vacated on other grounds, 294 F.3d 21 (2d Cir. 2002); accord, e.g., Aguinda v. Texaco, Inc., 303 F.3d 470, 477 (2d Cir. 2002); PT United Can Co. v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., 138 F.3d 65, 75 (2d Cir. 1998) ("the district court did not err by conditioning the [forum non conveniens] dismissal on [defendant's] consent to personal jurisdiction in Indonesia and any potential jurisdictional problem is avoided"); In re Union Carbide Corp. Gas Plan Disaster, 809 F.2d 195, 203 (2d Cir.) ("The emphasis placed by plaintiffs on [defendants] having its domicile here, where personal jurisdiction over it exists, is robbed of significance by its consent to Indian jurisdiction."), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 871, 108 S.Ct. 199 (1987); Abdullahi v. Pfizer, Inc., 01 Civ. 8118, 2002 WL 31082956 at *7 (S.D.N.Y. Sep. 17, 2002); Abert Trading, Inc. v. Kipling Belgium N.V./S.A., 00 Civ. 0478, 2002 WL 272408 at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 26, 2002); Deston Songs LLC v. Wingspan Records, 00 Civ. 8854, 2001 WL 799811 at *4 (S.D.N.Y. July 16, 2001); Pavlov v. Bank of New York Co., 135 F. Supp.2d 426, 434 (S.D.N.Y. 2001) (Russia adequate forum because defendant appears to be subject to jurisdiction there, but in any event, defendant "has offered to consent to jurisdiction in Moscow with respect to hese claims, thus removing this objection.") (fn. omitted), vacated on other grounds, No. 01-7434, 25 Fed. Appx. 70, 2002 WL 63576 (2d Cir. Jan. 14, 2002); Skelton Fibres Ltd. v. Canas, 96 Civ. 6031, 1997 WL 97835 at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 6, 1997) (adequate alternative forum satisfied where defendants "consent[ed] to the jurisdiction of the Spanish courts."); Beekmans v. J. P. Morgan & Co., 945 F. Supp. 90, 93 (S.D.N.Y. 1996); Doe v. Hyland Therapeutics Div., 807 F. Supp. 1117, 1123 (S.D.N.Y. 1992).

Plaintiff, however, asserts that because defendants are non-Russian, Russian courts would refuse to exercise jurisdiction even upon defendants' consent. (Dkt. No. 17: Edelman Aff. Ex. 1: Kargopolov 6/6/02 Aff. ¶ 6 & 7/8/02 Aff. ¶¶ 3-5.) The Court thus faces an issue of foreign law: whether a Russian court would exercise jurisdiction over plaintiff's claim on defendants' consent to jurisdiction.

This Court has the power to condition dismissal on: (1) defendants' consent to jurisdiction in Russia; (2) the Russian court accepting the case; and (3) a stay of the U.S. statute of limitations, protecting plaintiff in the event that the Russian court rejects the case. See, e.g., PT United Can Co. v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., 138 F.3d at 75 ("the district court did not err by conditioning the [FNC] dismissal on [defendant's] consent to personal jurisdiction in Indonesia and any potential jurisdictional problem is avoided"); Blanco v. Banco Indus. de Venezuela, S.A., 997 F.2d 974, 984 (2d Cir. 1993) ("[F]orum non conveniens dismissals are often appropriately conditioned to protect the party opposing dismissal."); In re Union Carbide Corp. Gas Plant Disaster, 809 F.2d at 203-04 (affirming FNC dismissal conditioned upon defendant's consent to personal jurisdiction in India and waiver of statute of limitations; such conditions "are not unusual and have been imposed in numerous cases where the foreign court would not provide an adequate alternative in the absence of such a condition").*fn29

In fact the Second Circuit has held that "[o]nce defendants consent[] to suit in" the foreign forum, "there [is] no reason to determine whether defendants were initially subject to the compulsory jurisdiction" of the foreign forum. Farmanfarmaian v. Gulf Oil Corp., 588 F.2d 880, 882 (2d Cir. 1978).

The Second Circuit, however, recently "clarif[ied] the type of finding that the district court should make regarding the adequacy of an alternative foreign forum in a case in which foreign law or practice is at issue, and in which the case is dismissed conditionally only":

[T]he district court may dismiss on forum non conveniens grounds, despite its inability to make a definitive finding as to the adequacy of the foreign forum, if the court can protect the non-moving party by making the dismissal conditional. This . . . does not, however, excuse the district court from engaging in a full analysis of those issues of foreign law or practice that are relevant to its decision, or from closely examining all submissions related to the adequacy of the foreign forum. If, in the end, the court asserts its "justifiable belief" in the existence of an adequate alternative forum, it should cite to evidence in the record that supports that belief. In doing so, the district court should keep in mind that it remains the movant's burden to demonstrate the existence of an adequate alternative forum.
Precisely how certain the court must be regarding the existence of an adequate alternative foreign forum will necessarily depend on how protective of the non-moving party the conditional dismissal will in fact be. . . .
. . . Finally, we observe that while the conditional dismissal device can help to protect the non-moving party in circumstances where the district court remains concerned about the accuracy of its "justifiable belief" as to a foreign forum's adequacy, the mechanism is not a substitute for the initial "justifiable belief" of adequacy. Conditions cannot transform an inadequate forum into an adequate one.
Bank of Credit & Commerce Int'l v. State Bank of Pak., 273 F.3d 241, 247-48 (2d Cir. 2001) (fns. omitted). Accordingly, even in the face of the Court's power to protect plaintiff through a conditional dismissal, the Court must nevertheless determine whether a Russian court likely would exercise jurisdiction over this case. Cf. Schertenleib v. Traum, 589 F.2d at 1163 ("If the defendant consents to suit in the foreign alternate forum, and if that appears to be sufficient under the foreign law, why waste the litigants' money and the court's time in what is essentially an unnecessary and difficult inquiry into the further intricacies of foreign jurisdictional law. . . . If, moreover, contrary to the expert testimony apparently relied on by [the district court] in this case, [the foreign court] refuses jurisdiction notwithstanding defendant's consent, plaintiff is still protected by the conditional nature of the [FNC] dismissal. Thus further inquiry into foreign jurisdictional law really is needless since it is so easily obviated by use of the typical conditional dismissal device."); In re Air Crash Off Long Island, N.Y., 65 F. Supp.2d 207, 215 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 12, 1999).

The adequacy of the foreign forum and the substance of any relevant foreign law is usually established through expert affidavits or declarations. See 17 James W. Moore, Moore's Federal Practice § 111.92 (3d ed. 2002). Rule 44.1 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that "[t]he court, in determining foreign law, may consider any relevant material or source, including testimony, whether or not submitted by a party or admissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence." Fed.R.Civ.P. 44.1. It thus appears that the Court may consider unsworn statements by attorneys opining on foreign law. See, e.g., Kalmich v. Bruno, 553 F.2d 549, 555 n. 4 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 940, 98 S.Ct. 432 (1977); 9 James W. Moore, Moore's Federal Practice § 44.1.04[5]. The Court is not, however, bound by the parties' submissions, and may conduct its own investigation of foreign law. See, e.g., Curley v. AMR Corp. 153 F.3d 5, 13 (2d Cir. 1998); Finance One Public Co. v. Lehman Bros. Special Fin., Inc., 215 F. Supp.2d 395, 402-03 (S.D.N.Y. 2002).

The parties have submitted conflicting opinions on the substance of Russian law. Eastwind submitted an unsworn "Attorney Letter of Opinion" by Alexander Balakirev, "an attorney duly authorised to practice law in Kaliningrad, Russia." (Dkt. No. 14: Arralde 7/1/02 Aff. ¶ 6 & Ex. C.) Mr. Balakirev asserts that "[p]laintiff, as a citizen and resident of Kaliningrad, Russia, could bring a case under Civil Processual Code of Russian Federation (`Russian Civil Code') in the court for Kaliningrad to recover a sum of money for the death of her husband. . . ." (Arralde 7/1/02 Aff. Ex. C: Balakirev Opinion Letter ¶ 3.)

Under Russian Civil Code, Mrs. Varnelo could ask the judge to enforce the contract service agreement, which according to its terms would pay her $49,000, in the event of the accidental death of her husband. If the ship management company who contracted for Mr. Varnelo's services, in this case Mayflower, does not contest the jurisdiction of the Russian Court and also does not dispute it is bound by the contract service agreement, the judge would have no reason not to find in Mrs. Varnelo's favor and award her the full amount due under the contract.
(Id. ¶ 5; see also id. ¶ 6 ("[I]f a non-Russian company consents to the Russian Court's jurisdiction, there would be no reason for the court not to hear the case."); id. ¶¶ 7-8 (Mrs. Varnelo also could sue for seaman's accidental death, with the same jurisdictional issues).) In support, however, Eastwind cites to an incoherent translation of the Russian Civil Code, Chapter 1, Part 3, Clause 25, stating "The Courts also consider the suits with participation of foreign citizens, stateless persons, foreign companies and organizations. . . ." (Balakirev Opinion Letter Ex. A; see also Dkt. No. 20:7/24/02 Arralde Aff. Ex. A.)

In response, plaintiff submitted two "affirmations" (though not in a form complying with 28 U.S.C. § 1746) by plaintiff's Russian attorney, Professor Stanislav Kargopolov. (Dkt. No. 17: Edelman 7/15/02 Aff. Ex. 1: Kargopolov 6/6/02 & 7/8/02 Aff's.) Prof. Kargopolov's June 6, 2002 affirmation asserts, ipse dixit, that Russian courts are "extremely unwilling[]" to exercise jurisdiction over actions involving non-Russian defendants. (Kargopolov 6/6/02 Aff. ¶ 6: "Russian Courts insist that a Plaintiff should bring a lawsuit in that court, on which jurisdictional territory a Defendant is.") According to Prof. Kargopolov, because a Russian court would likely limit defendants to those entities located in Russia, plaintiff would be limited to suing only the "crewing agency," Smart Crewing. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 8.) Prof. Kargopolov's July 8, 2002 affirmation flatly asserts that, because defendants are non-Russian, no Russian court would exercise jurisdiction over this case, even if defendants conceded jurisdiction. (Kargopolov 7/8/02 Aff. ¶¶ 3-7.) In support, he references what he alleges to be a maritime injury case brought by a Russian seaman that a Russian court allegedly dismissed for lack of jurisdiction over the foreign defendant, despite defendant's consent to jurisdiction. (Id. ¶ 3.) Plaintiff's summary of the case did not state such key facts as whether the crewman was actually hired in Russia or whether the ship sailed from Russia. (Id.)

Both parties' submissions regarding Russian law are virtually incoherent.*fn30 The Court cannot determine foreign law based on garbled snippets of translated statutes or summaries of Russian court decisions.

It seems inconceivable to this Court that a Russian court would refuse to exercise jurisdiction simply because the defendants are not permanently based in Russia, given that defendants have conceded Russian jurisdiction. At least one Court in this District has found defendants' consent to Russian jurisdiction sufficient to render the Russian forum adequate. See Pavlov v. Bank of New York Co., 135 F. Supp.2d 426, 434 (S.D.N.Y. 2001) (Kaplan, D.J.) (Defendant "has offered to consent to jurisdiction in Moscow with respect to these claims, . . . thus removing [plaintiff's] objection," as to the adequacy of the alternate forum, that defendant is not subject to jurisdiction in Russia), vacated on other grounds, No. 01-7434, 25 Fed. Appx. 70, 2002 WL 63576 (2d Cir. Jan. 14, 2002).*fn31

This case clearly implicates Russian interests, as Stanislav was a Russian citizen residing in Kaliningrad, hired by defendant Mayflower in Kaliningrad under a Service Agreement apparently signed in Kaliningrad, and leaving a widow (plaintiff Helga) also of Russian citizenship residing in Kaliningrad. (See page 2 above.) According to plaintiff, Mayflower regularly hires crews out of Kaliningrad (Dkt. No. 17: Edelman 7/15/02 Aff. Ex. 7), defendant Charm regularly sails (or sailed) its ships, including the Yellowstone, out of Kaliningrad, and both Mayflower and Charm are owned or controlled by defendant Eastwind (Dkt. No. 17: Edelman 7/15/02 Aff. Ex. 2: Pavlakis Aff. ¶¶ 3-26). Refusing Russian jurisdiction for such claims would leave an entire class of Russian seaman without an effective remedy. Thus, despite the parties' submissions, the Court "justifiably believes," Bank of Credit & Commerce Int'l v. State Bank of Pak., 273 F.3d at 247-48, that a Russian court would exercise jurisdiction over Helga Varnelo's claim, at least where, as here, defendants consent to such jurisdiction.

Moreover, as noted above (see pages 31-32), this Court may (and does) condition dismissal on (1) defendants' consent to Russian jurisdiction; (2) the Russian court's acceptance of the case; and (3) defendants' agreement to stay any United States statute of limitations pending the outcome of a Russian lawsuit. As such, there will be no harm if plaintiff returns to Russia and is rebuffed by a Russian court on jurisdictional grounds, and the Court may find the Russian forum adequate based even on a low degree of certainty without fear of harming plaintiff. See, e.g., Bank of Credit & Commerce Int'l v. State Bank of Pak., 273 F.3d at 248 ("Precisely how certain the court must be regarding the existence of an adequate alternative foreign forum will necessarily depend on how protective of the non-moving party the conditional dismissal will in fact be. . . .").*fn32

B. The Size of Plaintiff's Recovery in Russia Does Not Render Russia an Inadequate Forum
Plaintiff Helga Varnelo asserts that because "Russian law does not provide for damages to the relatives for pain and suffering of deceased prior to his dying," and because Russian statutes are notably stingy in granting recovery for work-related injuries, plaintiff would have "little chance of success for a recovery in excess of the $49,000" already received under the Service Agreement. (Dkt. No. 17: Edelman Aff. Ex. 1: Kargopolov 6/6/02 Aff. ¶¶ 5-6.)*fn33 Defendant agrees that "it seems unlikely [plaintiff] would recover more than $49,000 at law in Russia." (Dkt. No. 13: Eastwind Br. at 8.)

Under well-settled case law, however, lower recovery in Russia would not render that forum inadequate. The fact that "the substantive law that would be applied in the alternative forum is less favorable to the plaintiffs than that of the present forum . . . should ordinarily not be given conclusive or even substantial weight in the forum non conveniens inquiry." Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 247, 102 S.Ct. 252, 261 (1981); accord, e.g., Alfadda v. Fenn, 159 F.3d 41, 45 (2d Cir. 1998); Capital Currency Exch., N.V. v. National Westminster Bank PLC, 155 F.3d 603, 610-11 (2d Cir. 1998) ("[A] forum may be adequate even if it does not provide a plaintiff with causes of action that are identical to those plaintiff alleged in an American court. . . . Although it appears that plaintiffs might not be able to recover in England on some of their common law claims, the essential subject matter of the dispute can be adequately addressed by an English court."), cert. denied, 526 U.S. 1067, 119 S.Ct. 1459 (1999); Transunion Corp. v. PepsiCo, Inc., 811 F.2d 127, 130 (2d Cir. 1987) (unavailability of RICO treble damages does not render forum inadequate); Alcoa S.S. Co. v. M/V Nordic Regent, 654 F.2d 147, 159 (2d Cir. 1978) (en banc) (Maximum recovery of $570,000 in foreign forum as opposed to $8 million in U.S. forum did not render foreign forum inadequate: "It is abundantly clear . . . that the prospect of a lesser recovery does not justify refusing to dismiss on the ground of forum non conveniens."), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 890, 101 S.Ct. 248 (1980). Indeed, the motion will be denied only if plaintiff's remedy in the foreign forum is "so clearly inadequate or unsatisfactory that it is no remedy at all." Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. at 254, 102 S.Ct. at 265; accord, e.g., Tsangaris v. Elite, Inc., 92 Civ. 7855, 1993 WL 267425 at *7 (S.D.N.Y. July 9, 1993) (Greek forum found adequate even though plaintiff would "not be able to obtain relief under the Jones Act there"); Damigos v. Flanders Compania Naviera, S.A. Panama, 716 F. Supp. 104, 109 (S.D.N.Y. 1989) (Leval, D.J.) ("the seamen's hope to gain the benefits of the Jones Act is not a strong factor weighing against dismissal").

Moreover, for better or worse, litigation — and demands for high damages — is increasing in Russia. See, e.g., Steven Lee Myers, Russians Becoming Litigious: Survivors of Theater Siege Sue, N.Y. Times 12/2/02 at A3 ("In post-Soviet Russia, civil suits seeking compensation for all manner of suffering, much of it economic, have proliferated, driven by an increasingly aggressive bar," and noting that theater siege victims are seeking $1 million each).

The remedy in Russia is not so inadequate that it is no remedy at all.

V. ON BALANCING GILBERT'S PUBLIC AND PRIVATE INTEREST FACTORS, RUSSIA IS THE APPROPRIATE FORUM
A. Gilbert's Private Interest Factors Strongly Support the Russian Forum
The "private interest factors" relating to "the convenience of the litigants" include "`the relative ease of access to sources of proof; availability of compulsory process for attendance of unwilling, and the cost of obtaining attendance of willing, witnesses; possibility of view of premises, if view would be appropriate to the action; and all other practical problems that make trial of a case easy, expeditious and inexpensive.'" Iragorri v. United Tech. Corp., 274 F.3d 65, 73-74 (2d Cir. 2001) (en banc) (quoting Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 508, 67 S.Ct. 839, 843 (1947));*fn34 accord, e.g., Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 241 n. 6, 102 S.Ct. 252, 258 n. 6 (1981); Monegasque De Reassurances S.A.M. v. Nak Naftogaz of Ukraine, 311 F.3d 488, 500 (2d Cir. 2002); Aguinda v. Texaco, Inc., 303 F.3d 470, 479 (2d Cir. 2002); DiRienzo v. Philip Servs. Corp., 294 F.3d 21, 29-30 (2d Cir. 2002); Potomac Capital Inv. Corp. v. KLM, 97 Civ. 8141, 1998 WL 92416 a *6 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 4, 1998) (Peck, M.J.). "In considering these factors, the court is necessarily engaged in a comparison between the hardships defendant would suffer through the retention of jurisdiction and the hardships the plaintiff would suffer as the result of dismissal and the obligation to bring suit in another country." Iragorri v. United Tech. Corp., 274 F.3d at 74.*fn35

"Rather than simply characterizing the case as one in negligence, contract, or some other area of law, the court should focus on the precise issues that are likely to be actually tried, taking into consideration the convenience of the parties and the availability of witnesses and the evidence needed for the trial of these issues." Iragorri v. United Tech. Corp., 274 F.3d at 74.*fn36

Private interests will favor dismissal where most of the relevant witnesses and other evidence are located in the foreign forum. See, e.g., Murray v. British Broad. Corp., 81 F.3d at 294-95) (in copyright action arising out of contract, most of witnesses and physical and documentary evidence was located in England, such that private interests favored dismissal); Blanco v. Banco Indus. de Venezuela, S.A., 997 F.2d 974, 982 (2d Cir. 1993) (private interest factors strongly favor dismissal when most witnesses and physical and documentary evidence are located in other forum); Allstate Life Ins. Co. v. Linter Group Ltd., 994 F.2d 996, 1001 (2d Cir.) ("since all of the Banks' allegedly fraudulent activity occurred in Australia, most relevant documents . . . [and m]ost witnesses and other sources of proof are also located in Australia"), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 945, 114 S.Ct. 386 (1993); see also cases cited below.

1. The Location and Availability of Witnesses Strongly Favors Trial in Russia
"[T]he location of the witnesses [is] always a key factor in forum non conveniens cases. . . ." Manu Int'l, S.A. v. Avon Prods., Inc., 641 F.2d 62, 66 (2d Cir. 1981).*fn37 As detailed below, most of the key witnesses in this case are Russian nationals and there is little, if any, evidence that witnesses located in New York would provide relevant testimony. The location and availability of witnesses thus strongly favors trial in Russia.

a. The Russian Residence of the Shipmate Witnesses Strongly Favors Trial in Russia
Eastwind has identified five of Stanislav's Russian shipmates as potential witnesses — the captain, first mate, and three seamen. (See page 6 above.) A threshold issue is whether Stanislav's Russian shipmates could offer relevant testimony.

Plaintiff argues that because defendants have conceded that there were no "eye witnesses" to the accident,*fn38 none of Stanislav's shipmates could provide relevant testimony. (Dkt. No. 16: Pl. Br. at 4, 7.) This is nonsense. The complaint asserts that, inter alia: (1) "[t]he vessel was unseaworthy in that the . . . pilot ladder was not safe for its intended use"; (2) defendants "were negligent in not securing the pilot ladder in a safe manner"; (3) defendants "violated applicable safety regulations"; (4) defendants "failed to warn Decedent of danger"; (5) "rescue equipment was inadequate and not readily available"; and (6) "rescue efforts were negligently directed and enforced." (Dkt. No. 1: Compl. ¶¶ 14-16.) Even if Stanislav's shipmates did not actually see Stanislav fall overboard, they could testify regarding the conditions that allegedly contributed to his death, including: the duties of Stanislav and other crewmen; the ship's regular onboard procedures for boarding pilots; the state of the ship's equipment, including the pilot's ladder, at the time of the accident; the events leading up to and following the accident; Stanislav's health and mental state at the time of the accident; and the ship's rescue efforts. "Moreover, even assuming arguendo that [defendant's Russian]-based witnesses were not necessary, [plaintiff] has not identified a single New York-based witness." Potomac Capital Inv. Corp. v. KLM, 97 Civ. 8141, 1998 WL 92416 at *8 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 4, 1998) (Peck, M.J.).

Second, plaintiff argues that because, "as a matter of law," defendants are strictly liable for the accident that killed Stanislav, there is no need for trial testimony from witnesses to the accident. (Dkt. No. 16: Pl. Br. at 1-2, 7-8.) According to plaintiff, the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 ("SOLAS"), to which Russia, Liberia, and the United States are signatories, "provides that on the rigging of any pilot ladder, the rigging must be supervised by an officer with good visibility." (Pl. Br. at 7, citing Dkt. No. 17: Edelman 7/15/02 Aff. Ex. 5: SOLAS Reg. 17.) In plaintiff's view, the ship must have violated SOLAS Regulation 17, because "the story provided by the deckhand in the vicinity [Miron Nuke], and adopted by the defense on this motion," indicates that no officer was on deck supervising the rigging of the Yellowstone's pilot ladder. (Pl. Br. at 7; see Edelman 7/15/02 Aff. at 2-3.) According to plaintiff, such a "violation would provide absolute liability and certainly would obviate any claim" that Stanislav was contributorily negligent. (Id.) Thus, in plaintiff's view, trial testimony from Stanislav's shipmates regarding the details of his accident would be superfluous.

Plaintiff's argument is meritless. Plaintiff cites decisions holding that in the absence of any showing of negligence, the Jones Act permits recovery for the injury or death of a seaman resulting from a violation of a statutory duty or Coast Guard regulation. (Dkt. No. 16: Pl. Br. at 7, citing Kernan v. American Dredging Co., 355 U.S. 426, 433, 78 S.Ct. 394, 398 (1958), & Fuszek v. Royal King Fisheries, Inc., 98 F.3d 514, 516-17 (9th Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 520 U.S. 1155, 117 S.Ct. 1334 (1997).) Yet even if the Court accepted that (1) the Jones Act governed this action, (2) violations of SOLAS Regulation 17 could form the predicate for strict liability recovery under the Jones Act, and (3) defendants violated the SOLAS regulation (all issues disputed by Eastwind, see Dkt. No. 18: Eastwind Reply Br. at 6-8), plaintiff nevertheless would recover nothing absent proof of causation. See, e.g., Kernan v. American Dredging Co., 355 U.S. at 432-33, 78 S.Ct. at 398 ("In FELA cases based upon violations of [statutory duties], the Court has held that a violation of [the] statute creates liability under FELA if the resulting defect or insufficiency in equipment contributes in fact to the death or injury in suit, without regard to whether the injury flowing from the breach was the injury the statute sought to prevent."); Fuszek v. Royal King Fisheries, Inc., 98 F.3d at 517 ("regulatory . . . violation could amount to negligence per se under the Jones Act if five elements were met," including "causation"). In other words, the jury would have to find that defendants' alleged violation of SOLAS Regulation 17 (i.e., failing to provide an officer to supervise the rigging of the pilot ladder) caused Stanislav's accident and death. Onboard witnesses to the circumstances of the accident and its aftermath therefore would be indispensable to any trial on this issue.*fn39

Third, plaintiff asserts (apparently in the alternative) that testimony from Stanislav's crewmates is unnecessary because a Kaliningrad resident named Andrej Nikitinskij is willing to travel here to testify that in September 2000, the "M/V Yarmouth," was inspected by the United States Coast Guard in "Douglas, USA," and found to have a "decayed" "storm-ladder" that broke when tested. (Dkt. No. 17: Edelman 7/15/02 Aff. at 9 & Ex. 9: Nikitinskij Statement.) Although Nikitinskij has no personal knowledge of the Yellowstone, he asserts in an unsworn statement, based on "conversations with other seaman who worked on m/v Yellowstone," that the "equipment and deck equipment on boards the both vessels were very similar." (Id.) Plaintiff thus intends to offer Nikitinskij's testimony along with Coast Guard witnesses and records to prove that defendants' negligence caused Stanislav's death. (Edelman 7/15/02 Aff. at 9.) Even assuming that plaintiff's theory has some basis (and that Nikitinskij's testimony was not impermissible hearsay), the jury would still require testimony from the Yellowstone's Russian crew as to the condition of the Yellowstone's pilot ladder. Evidence that another "similar" ship had a decayed ladder could not, by itself, prove that the Yellowstone's ladder was decayed as well.*fn40

Given the importance of the shipmates' testimony, their Russian location strongly favors trial in Russia. Forum non conveniens decisions in this District give great weight to the overseas location of seamen witnesses. See Valarezo v. Ecuadorian Line, Inc., 00 Civ. 6387, 2001 WL 740773 at *4 (S.D.N.Y. June 29, 2001) (Granting FNC motion: "The two seamen who witnessed [plaintiff's] fall are citizens and residents of the Philippines. . . . The Port Captain for the vessel, Captain Achilles, is a resident of Ecuador, as is Captain N. Mancayo who assists in recruiting and placing crew members on board. . . . In sum, none of the relevant witnesses are citizens or residents of the United States. On the other hand, six of the key witnesses are residents of Ecuador."); Gazis v. John S. Latsis (USA) Inc., 729 F. Supp. 979, 989 (S.D.N.Y. 1990) ("Witnesses to the event, the treating physicians and the other crewmembers aboard the [ship] are presumably still in the Netherlands, aboard ship, or in Greece. None of these witnesses are subject to the subpoena power of the court. Although the depositions of these witnesses could be substituted at trial, this is not the optimal way for a jury to decide a case."); Bastas v. Atlantic Mar. Enter. Corp., No. Civ. A. 86-6962, 1988 WL 48547 at *2 (E.D.Pa. May 13, 1988) (Granting FNC motion: "As seamen are frequently out at sea, witnesses to the accident are more likely to be accessible in Greece, the vessel's home port."); Cruz v. Maritime Co. of Philippines, 549 F. Supp. 285, 290 (S.D.N.Y. 1982) (Leval, D.J.) (Granting FNC motion: "The six Philippine crewmen who the parties agree witnessed the accident are more likely to be available to testify in the Philippines than in New York (although it is possible that either forum would be required to take their testimony by deposition)."), aff'd, 702 F.2d 47 (2d Cir. 1983) (per curiam).*fn41

Defendants claim that they currently employ only three of the five shipmate witnesses, and that defendants lack the power to compel even those three to attend a New York trial. (See pages 6-7 above.) The Court need not decide whether the seamen would be willing to voluntarily appear in New York or whether as a practical (as opposed to legal) matter defendants could "convince" them to testify here, since in any event the cost of transporting the shipmate witnesses to New York for trial would, in and of itself, strongly favor trial in Russia. See, e.g., Scottish Air Int'l, Inc. v. British Caledonian Group, PLC, 81 F.3d 1224, 1232-33 (2d Cir. 1996) (affirming FNC dismissal based upon the considerable "difficulty, cost, and disruption of requiring the attendance of [British] witnesses in New York"); Blanco v. Banco Indus. de Venezuela, S.A., 997 F.2d 974, 982 (2d Cir. 1993) (affirming FNC dismissal based in part upon the "considerable expense" that would be entailed to compel the appearance of necessary witnesses from Venezuela if case were tried here); Allstate Life Ins. Co. v. Linter Group Ltd., 994 F.2d 996, 1001 (2d Cir.) (affirming FNC dismissal where "the [district] court also properly recognized that . . . [t]he cost of bringing [foreign] witnesses to the United States for trial, assuming they are willing, would be prohibitive"), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 945, 114 S.Ct. 386 (1993); Potomac Capital Inv. Corp. v. KLM, 1998 WL 92416 at *9 (cost of airline transporting witnesses from Netherlands to New York weighs in favor of FNC dismissal).*fn42

b. The Russian Residence of Any Damages Witnesses Also Favors Trial In Russia
Eastwind asserts that "all sources of proof on plaintiff's claim of pecuniary loss on account of her husband's past and to be expected future contribution to her support are located" in Kaliningrad, adding that plaintiff does not identify any witness in New York who possesses relevant information regarding Stanislav's "health, state of mind or the sums he spent for personal consumption or instead contributed to his wife's support." (Dkt. No. 18: Eastwind Reply Br. at 5.)

Plaintiff herself would likely provide much of the relevant damages testimony. Eastwind claims that trial in New York would be inconvenient to plaintiff, both because of plaintiff's travel expenses and the danger to plaintiff's frail health of traveling to New York. (Dkt. No. 13: Eastwind Br. at 4-5, 10.) The Court rejects this argument, as decisions have widely held that on a forum non conveniens motion, "defendants cannot rely on any inconvenience to plaintiff and witnesses whose expenses plaintiff will bear." Manela v. Garantia Banking Ltd., 940 F. Supp. 584, 592 n. 12 (S.D.N.Y. 1996); accord, e.g., Jose Armando Bermudez & Co. v. Bermudez Int'l, 99 Civ. 9346, 2000 WL 1225792 at *6 n. 6 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 29, 2000) ("Defendants rely in part on allegations of inconvenience to plaintiff, which should be disregarded."); Royal Indus. Ltd. v. Kraft Foods, Inc., 926 F. Supp. 407, 417 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) (Denying FNC motion to dismiss in favor of Russian forum: "nothing prevents a plaintiff from burdening itself with an inconvenient forum. The forum non conveniens doctrine is simply designed to relieve `oppressiveness and vexation to a defendant,' not a plaintiff. . . . To apply the doctrine differently, and disturb a plaintiff's choice of forum based on that party's self-imposed inconvenience would be paternalistic, to say the least.").*fn43

In its original motion papers, Eastwind failed to identify any Russian damages witnesses other than plaintiff. (See generally Dkt. No. 13: Eastwind Br.) In its supplemental papers, however, Eastwind has averred that "A. Kozlov," formerly a representative of Yellowstone's crewing agent, would testify about Stanislav's retirement pension under Russian law, as well as the average working life of a Russian seaman. (Dkt. No. 31: Arralde 12/2/02 Aff. ¶ 9 & Ex. A: Kozlov 11/27/02 Aff. ¶ 3.) Even if Eastwind were able to compel Kozlov's attendance in New York, the cost — in time, money and disruption — of transporting Kozlov to New York would favor trial in Russia. (See cases cited at pages 49-50 & n. 42 above.)

The location of damages witnesses slightly favors trial in Russia.

c. The Location of Defendants' Offices In New York Is Not a Significant Factor
Plaintiff asserts that defendants' shipping operations are based in New York. (See page 8 above.) Even if plaintiff is correct, it is well settled that evidence and witnesses relevant to a particular controversy are not necessarily located at a defendant's headquarters. See, e.g., Transunion Corp. v. PepsiCo, Inc., 811 F.2d 127, 129 (2d Cir. 1987) (dismissing action despite fact that defendant was a New York corporation, certain of the alleged misrepresentations were made in New York, and certain witnesses and documents were in New York); Potomac Capital Inv. Corp. v. KLM, 97 Civ. 8141, 1998 WL 92416 at *10 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 4, 1998) (Peck, M.J.) ("The fact that [defendant] . . . has its American headquarters here is of no consequence [to FNC decision], since the tort and the resulting damage both occurred elsewhere."); Beekmans v. J.P. Morgan & Co., 945 F. Supp. 90, 94 & n. 2 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) ("[T]he relevant private factors strongly lean toward dismissal in favor of a Dutch forum. The mere fact that [defendant] is headquartered in New York is simply not significant enough to justify the litigation of this action in the United States."); Nippon Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. M.V. Egasco Star, 899 F. Supp. 164, 169 (S.D.N.Y. 1995) (New York has no interest in "the claim of a foreign-owned subsidiary against an Egyptian shipper for subsequent damage to goods shipped from Louisiana to Egypt," even though plaintiff has a New York office which handles all of its U.S. claims), aff'd, 104 F.3d 351 (2d Cir. 1996); Doe v. Hyland Therapeutics Div., 807 F. Supp. 1117, 1124-25 (S.D.N.Y. 1992) ("[R]emarkably, plaintiffs have failed to point to the existence of any evidence within [the Southern District of New York] that is materially related to plaintiffs' causes of action. While defendants `do business in New York,' it is evident that the places where they collect, test, heat treat, and process the blood products in question, as well as where they are incorporated, and maintain their principal places of business, are located elsewhere."); Ocean Shelf Trading Inc. v. Flota Mercante Grancolombiana, 638 F. Supp. 249, 253 (S.D.N.Y. 1986) ("Although both parties maintain offices in New York, there is minimal local interest in this controversy. . . . All of the acts complained of occurred in Colombia, . . . and all parties are foreign. . . . This points toward dismissal because courts should encourage trial of controversies in the localities in which they arise.").

Nevertheless, plaintiff is also correct that in addition to the Yellowstone's crew, certain employees in defendants' management suite may possess relevant information. Plaintiff, however, has not identified who might have what information. Indeed, since it appears that defendant Mayflower, located in Piraeus, Greece, managed or "operated" the Yellowstone, its management would be most likely to possess relevant information about any ship defects. (See, e.g., Dkt. No. 15: Lekkos 7/1/02 Aff. ¶¶ 1, 7 & Exs. D-E; Dkt. No. 31: Arralde 12/2/02 Aff. Ex. B: Lekkos 11/29/02 Aff. ¶¶ 1,6.)*fn44 Importantly, plaintiff does not explain what particular evidence might be obtained from defendants' New York employees. See Saab v. Citibank, N.A., 00 Civ. 6784, 2001 WL 1382577 at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 7, 2001) ("Plaintiffs argue that the Southern District is more convenient and appropriate because [defendant] is the true focus of this litigation and the key witnesses and documents will be found at [defendant's New York corporate headquarters]. . . . However, Plaintiffs merely assert the existence of these documents and witnesses without any apparent factual backing. . . . [T]he location of witnesses and documents in this case actually favors dismissal. . . ."), aff'd, No. 01-9417, 2002 WL 31317708 (2d Cir. Oct. 16, 2002). Further, Eastwind's counsel has asserted in an affidavit that "it is believed no witness who is available in New York has any knowledge concerning causation or damages." (Dkt. No. 31: Arralde 12/2/02 Aff. ¶ 13).

Accordingly, because the Court may not base its decision on speculation that New York-based witnesses may possess relevant information, the alleged existence of any New York-based witnesses will be deemed at best a neutral factor.*fn45 See, e.g., Scottish Air Int'l, Inc. v. British Caledonian Group P.L.C., 81 F.3d 1224, 1233 (2d Cir. 1996) ("Plaintiff's contention that the district court ignored several potential U.S. witnesses is, on this record, more wishful than real."); Ioannides v. Marika Mar. Corp., 928 F. Supp. 374, 379 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) (FNC dismissal despite claim by plaintiff, represented by attorney Edelman, that ship actually owned by local owner: "There is no suggestion anywhere in plaintiff's voluminous papers that there is anyone with knowledge of any of these matters in the United States. . . . Insofar as the case turns on the condition of the ship at the time it was in Piraeus and what transpired there, the bulk of the evidence — including everyone with personal knowledge — is in Greece. While [alleged local owner and executives], as plaintiffs suggest, may have received reports from Piraeus . . ., the bulk of the relevant evidence regarding the ship . . . is in Greece.")

d. The Location of Witnesses in Greece or China Is a Neutral Factor

As noted in the previous section, witnesses in Mayflower's Greek offices almost certainly possess relevant information. (See pages 53-54 & n. 44 above.) However, this is a neutral factor, as it is not clear, despite plaintiff's protestations, that this Court would be any more effective than a Russian court in obtaining discovery from Greek witnesses. Nevertheless, to alleviate any difficulty in obtaining such discovery, this Court will condition any dismissal order on defendants' agreement to make any relevant Greek witnesses they control, such as Captain Lekkos, available in the Russian forum. (See cases discussed at page 55 n. 45 above).

The parties have also mentioned the possibility of calling Chinese witnesses, including the Chinese pilot (Dkt. No. 13: Eastwind Br. at 9; Dkt. No. 17: Edelman 7/15/02 Aff. at 15), and Eastwind asserts that the Yellowstone was inspected by "superintendents" or inspectors at various ports throughout the world (Dkt. No. 31: Arralde 12/2/02 Aff. Ex. B: Lekkos 11/29/02 Aff. ¶ 6). However, neither side seems to have taken any steps to determine the identity of such witnesses, much less their availability; indeed, the likelihood that such witnesses will ever be found seems slim. (Id.) And again, it is unclear that this forum's procedure would be more effective than the Russian forum's in obtaining such testimony.*fn46

2. The Location of Documents is a Neutral Factor

The ease of access to documentary proof is essentially a neutral factor. "The parties have not submitted any evidence regarding the difficulty involved in bringing the relevant documents to either forum." Tsangaris v. Elite, Inc., 92 Civ. 7855, 1993 WL 267425 at *8 (S.D.N.Y. July 9, 1993). This does not appear to be a document-intensive case. Most of the relevant documents regarding the accident or the condition of the ship appear to be located on board the ship or at Mayflower's offices in Greece. To the extent any documents are located in New York, such documents would, in any event, be in defendants' hands, and could easily be produced in Russia. See Hughes v. John E. Graham & Sons, No. CIV. A. 93-303, 1993 WL 133814 at *4 (E.D.La. Apr. 21, 1993) (Denying § 1404 transfer motion relating to action by seaman for injury aboard ship: "[T]his is not one of those cases where the location of books and records is of paramount importance. A personal injury action such as this does not fall into the category of cases where such numerous documents are expected to be produced that their production in another district could prove to be overly burdensome. The liability question in this case should not be much different than the typical negligent injury case, where liability is proven through the testimony of witnesses."); see also Beekmans v. J.P. Morgan & Co., 945 F. Supp. 90, 94 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) ("[Plaintiff's] assertion that*fn46 the Memorandum may have passed through the hands of some individuals in [defendant's] New York office does not, on balance, outweigh the overwhelming inconvenience of continuing litigation in New York as compared to the Netherlands.").

3. Translation Costs Slightly Favor Russia

Translation costs can be an important, though not necessarily dispositive, factor in the forum non conveniens analysis.*fn47 The relative translation burdens in this case slightly favor Russia.

Because Helga's affidavit submitted on this motion was translated from Russian into English (Dkt. No. 17: Edelman 7/15/02 Aff. Ex. 3), the Court assumes that her testimony would have to be translated. By contrast, "A. Kozlov," the crewing agent's representative, submitted an affidavit in English on this motion, and thus would not seem to require an interpreter. (Dkt. No. 31: Arralde 12/2/02 Aff. Ex. A: Kozlov Aff.) It is unclear whether the remaining Russian-speaking witnesses would require translation. Although both the Master's initial telex report on the accident and Mr. Nuke's "statement" to investigators are in English (Dkt. No. 15: Lekkos 7/1/02 Aff. Exs. D & E), Kozlov asserts that the Master and First Mate "speak English within the scope of their profession, but not well enough to give testimony in English without the aid of an interpreter," and that Mr. Nuke and the other seamen "speaks only limited English" (Dkt. No. 31: Arralde 12/2/02 Aff. Ex. A: Kozlov Aff. ¶ 1). See Petcor v. MEGA BREEZE, 1992 WL 245587 at *4 ("[E]ven if all witnesses were willing to testify in New York, the defendant argues that language translation from Greek to English would be needed for not only the key witnesses, but also for many documents. The court, however, is hesitant to credit this position with the weight that the defendant argues it should be given. Indeed, the majority of the documents supplied to the court, with the exception of the vessel's log, are written in English. From this it can fairly be concluded that the drafters of such documents as well as those individuals who participated in the negotiations and performance thereof, . . . are conversant in English and that translation would not be needed for these witnesses.").

On the other side of the ledger, if the case were litigated in Russia, defendants' documents (including the Service Agreement, statements to investigators, etc.) and the testimony of defendants' New York and Greek employees would presumably have to be translated into Russian. (See Dkt. No. 17: Edelman 7/15/02 Aff. at 10.) Although defendants — and specifically Mayflower — apparently do business in Kaliningrad on a regular basis, Eastwind has offered no evidence that defendants' back-office managers speak Russian fluently enough to testify in a Kaliningrad court without a translator. Indeed, Captain Lekkos averred that he speaks English and Greek but failed to mention Russian. (Dkt. No. 31: Arralde 12/2/02 Aff. Ex. B: Lekkos 11/29/02 Aff. ¶ 1.)

Because there are so few documents, and most of the witnesses are Russian, the overall cost of translations slightly favors the Russian forum. See In re Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., 190 F. Supp.2d 1125, 1142 (S.D.Ind. 2002) ("[T]he best course is to weigh the amount of evidence that must be translated if the trial remains in the U.S. forum against the amount of evidence to be translated if the trial is held in a foreign forum.").

4. Russian Judgments are Enforceable in the U.S.

Plaintiff's Russian legal expert asserts that it is "practically impossible" to enforce Russian judgments outside Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. (Dkt. No. 17: Edelman 7/15/02 Aff. Ex. 1: Kargopolov 6/6/02 Aff. ¶ 7.) Judge Kaplan recently rejected the identical argument:

[O]ne of plaintiffs' experts expresses concern that plaintiffs, were they to prevail in Russia, would be forced to "relitigate substantial portions of their case before a U.S. court would honor a Russian judgment against a U.S. bank in this matter." But plaintiffs' expert is a Russian lawyer with no discernable qualifications in U.S. law. The Uniform Foreign Country Money-Judgments Recognition Act, which has been adopted in New York, insofar as it is relevant here, would permit a court to refuse enforcement to a Russian money judgment only if it concluded that the Russian legal system "does not provide impartial tribunals or procedures compatible with the requirements of due process of law. . . ." In view of [defendant's] staunch assertion here that the Russian legal system provides an adequate alternative forum, it quite likely would be estopped to mount such a challenge to a Russian money judgment in this case. Moreover, at least one U.S. court has recognized and enforced a Russian custody decree. [Bliss v. Bliss, 733 A.2d 954 (D.C. App. 1999).]
Pavlov v. Bank of New York Co., 135 F. Supp.2d 426, 435 (S.D.N.Y. 2001) (fns. omitted), vacated on other grounds, No. 01-7434, 25 Fed. Appx. 70, 2002 WL 63516 (2d Cir. Jan. 14, 2002); see also, e.g., AAOT Foreign Econ. Ass'n (VO) Technostroyexport v. Int'l Dev. & Trade Servs., Inc., 139 F.3d 980, 982-83 (2d Cir. 1998) (confirming Russian arbitration awards despite claims arbitral panel was corrupt tribunal); In re Union Carbide Corp. Gas Plant Disaster, 809 F.2d 195, 203-04 (2d Cir.) (Indian judgment would be enforceable in New York based on adoption of Uniform Foreign Money-Judgments Recognition Act), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 871, 108 S.Ct. 199 (1987).

Thus, this factor favors transfer to Russia, or at least is a neutral factor.

5. The Allegedly Burdensome Procedure in Russian Courts Does Not Favor the New York Forum
Plaintiff's Russian law expert asserts that even were a Russian court to entertain this action, it would be "slow, burdensome and costly," lasting "in practice" one year (and up to four years). (Dkt. No. 17: Edelman 7/15/02 Aff. Ex. 1: Kargopolov 6/6/02 Aff. ¶ 6.) The procedure for serving summonses upon foreign defendants is burdensome and time-consuming. (Id.) All documents would have to be translated into Russian and the translation certified by a notary public. (Id.) Further, Russian courts do not have subpoena power over witnesses (including defendants) or documents outside the jurisdiction. (Id. ¶¶ 6, 9.)

Plaintiff's argument is meritless. While Russian courts may or may not be "slow, burdensome and costly," this Court has no way of comparing the two systems in terms of efficiency or speed; we have, however, already deemed the Russian courts to be an adequate alternate forum (see Point IV above). As for the Russian court's subpoena power, the only relevant witnesses not located in the Russian jurisdiction appear to be employees of defendants. Dismissal here would be conditioned on defendants submitting to the jurisdiction of the Russian court and making their employees available for trial or deposition.

6. On Balance, the Private Interest Factors Strongly Favor Dismissal

On balance, and giving great weight to the Russian location of the key witnesses, the evidentiary center of gravity strongly favors trial in Russia. See, e.g., Capital Currency Exch., N.V. v. National Westminster Bank PLC, 155 F.3d 603, 611 (2d Cir. 1998) (FNC granted where, inter alia, "most of the witnesses . . . reside in England, and the cost of transporting these witnesses to New York could be enormous."), cert. denied, 526 U.S. 1067, 119 S.Ct. 1459 (1999); Murray v. British Broad. Corp., 81 F.3d 287, 293 (2d Cir. 1996) (in copyright action arising out of contract, most of witnesses and physical and documentary evidence was located in England, such that private interests favored dismissal); Allstate Life Ins. Co. v. Linter Group Ltd., 994 F.2d 996, 1001 (2d Cir.) ("since all of the Banks' allegedly fraudulent activity occurred in Australia, most relevant documents . . . [and m]ost witnesses and other sources of proof are also located in Australia"), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 945, 114 S.Ct. 386 (1993); In re Union Carbide Corp. Gas Plant Disaster, 809 F.2d 195, 199-200 (2d Cir.) ("the private interests of the respective parties weigh heavily in favor of dismissal" under FNC, as "[t]he many witnesses and sources of proof are almost entirely located in India, where the accident occurred, and could not be compelled to appear for trial in the United States"), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 871, 108 S.Ct. 199 (1987); Potomac Capital Inv. Corp. v. KLM, 1998 WL 92416 at *8 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 4, 1998) (FNC dismissal where witnesses located in Netherlands and no witnesses located in New York); Beekmans v. J.P. Morgan & Co., 945 F. Supp. 90, 93 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) (FNC dismissal where "virtually all of the witnesses and other sources of proof are located in the Netherlands or the United Kingdom"); Lan Assocs. XVIII, L.P. v. Bank of Nova Scotia, 96 Civ. 1022, 1997 WL 458753 at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 11, 1997) (the fact that numerous witnesses and sources of proof are located in Turks & Caicos and none are located in New York weighs in favor of FNC dismissal); Guimond v. Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, 95 Civ. 0428, 1996 WL 281959 at *3 (S.D.N.Y. May 29, 1996) (FNC dismissal where almost all witnesses and sources of proof are located in Jamaica and none in New York, even though one witness is located in Tennessee); Bell v. British Telecom, 95 Civ. 1972, 1995 WL 476684 at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 9, 1995) (FNC dismissal where "Scotland offers superior access to documentary, physical and testimonial evidence, and consequently, a trial in Scotland is likely to be more efficient and less expensive than a comparable proceeding in New York").*fn48

B. Gilbert's Public Interest Factors Also Favor Russia

"The Supreme Court has outlined four public interest factors to be weighed in the forum non conveniens inquiry: (1) administrative difficulties associated with court congestion; (2) the unfairness of imposing jury duty on a community with no relation to the litigation; (3) the `local interest in having localized controversies decided at home;' and (4) avoiding difficult problems in conflict of laws and the application of foreign law." DiRienzo v. Philip Servs. Corp., 294 F.3d 21, 31 (2d Cir. 2002) (quoting Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 508-09, 67 S.Ct. 839, 843 (1947)); accord, e.g., Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 241 n. 6, 102 S.Ct. 252, 258 n. 6 (1981); Monegasque De Reassurances S.A.M. v. Nak Naftogaz of Ukraine, 311 F.3d 488, 500 (2d Cir. 2002); Aguinda v. Texaco, Inc., 303 F.3d 470, 480 (2d Cir. 2002); Iragorri v. United Tech. Corp., 274 F.3d 65, 74 (2d Cir. 2001) (en banc).

1. The Choice of Law Factor Is Neutral

The Supreme Court has counseled that:

The doctrine of forum non conveniens . . . is designed in part to help courts avoid conducting complex exercises in comparative law. As we stated in Gilbert, the public interest factors point towards dismissal where the court would be required to `untangle problems in conflict of laws, and in law foreign to itself.'" 330 U.S., at 509, 67 S.Ct., at 843.
Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 251, 102 S.Ct. 252, 263 (1981). Although "`the need to apply foreign law is not in itself a reason to apply the doctrine of forum non conveniens,'" and courts "must guard against an excessive reluctance to undertake the task of deciding foreign law," the need to apply foreign law is "relevant" to the forum non conveniens analysis. Manu Int'l, S.A. v. Avon Prods., Inc., 641 F.2d 62, 67-68 (2d Cir. 1981) (citation omitted).*fn49

Contrary to plaintiff's contention (see Dkt. No. 16: Pl's Br. at 12-15), "a district court may dismiss a case on forum non conveniens grounds without first making a choice of law determination." Gazis v. John S. Latsis (USA) Inc., 729 F. Supp. 979, 985 (S.D.N.Y. 1990) (citing Cruz v. Maritime Co. of Philippines, 702 F.2d 47, 48 (2d Cir. 1983) (per curiam) ("[M]aritime choice of law principles are not involved in a forum non conveniens analysis and that the district court's discussion on the subject was therefore unnecessary.")). Although foreign choice of law is one factor favoring dismissal, "it is well established that a court considering a forum non conveniens motion should not engage in a complex conflict of laws inquiry." PT United Can Co. v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., 96 Civ. 3669, 1997 WL 31194 at *10 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 28, 1997), aff'd, 138 F.3d 65 (2d Cir. 1998). "While the Court need not definitively resolve the choice of law issue at this point, the likelihood that foreign law will apply weighs against retention of the action." Ioannides v. Marika Mar. Corp., 928 F. Supp. 374, 379 (S.D.N.Y. 1996); accord, e.g., Abert Trading, Inc. v. Kipling Belgium N.V/S.A., 00 Civ. 0478, 2002 WL 272408 at *6 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 26, 2002) ("While the prospect of applying foreign law is not dispositive in favor of dismissal, . . . it is relevant.") (citation omitted); Potomac Capital Inv. Corp. v. KLM, 97 Civ. 8141, 1998 WL 92416 at *14 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 4, 1998) (Peck, M.J.) ("[A]t this stage of the proceedings, the Court need not definitively determine what law applies, i.e., whether maritime law applies."); Karlitz v. Regent Int'l Hotels, Ltd., 95 Civ. 10136, 1997 WL 88291 at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 28, 1997); Flynn v. General Motors, Inc., 141 F.R.D. 5, 10 (E.D.N.Y. 1992) (McLaughlin, C.J.) ("it is not immediately clear which forum's law will apply; nor is it necessary to determine this issue at this time."); Bybee v. Oper der Standt Bonn, 899 F. Supp. 1217, 1223 (S.D.N.Y. 1995) ("The need to apply foreign law is a factor that weighs in favor of dismissal."); Damigos v. Flanders Compania Naviera, S.A. Panama, 716 F. Supp. 104, 108 (S.D.N.Y. 1989) ("The necessity of conducting conflict of laws analyses, and the likely need to apply Greek law points toward dismissal.").

In Lauritzen v. Larsen, 345 U.S. 571, 73 S.Ct. 921 (1953), the Supreme Court set forth the factors that are now used in determining choice of law questions in admiralty and maritime cases. See Romero v. International Terminal Operating Co., 358 U.S. 354, 382, 79 S.Ct. 468, 485 (1959) (providing that Lauritzen test applies to Jones Act as well as general maritime cases). According to Lauritzen, the following factors are to be balanced to determine which forum's law will apply to any given claim: (1) place of the wrongful act; (2) law of the flag; (3) allegiance or domicile of the injured seaman; (4) allegiance of the defendant shipowner; (5) place contract of employment was made; (6) inaccessibility of foreign forum; and (7) the law of the forum. Lauritzen v. Larsen, 345 U.S. at 583-90, 73 S.Ct. at 928-32. Later, in Hellenic Lines Ltd. v. Rhoditis, 398 U.S. 306, 90 S.Ct. 1731 (1970), the Supreme Court added to the list of factors consideration of the shipowner's base of operations. See id. at 309, 90 S.Ct. at 1734 (providing that "the list of seven factors in Lauritzen was not intended as exhaustive. . . . [T]he shipowner's base of operations is another factor of importance in determining whether the Jones Act is applicable; and there well may be others."). Ultimately, before applying the Jones Act, the Second Circuit requires evidence that the defendants had "substantial contact" with the United States. See Sango v. Plovba, 966 F. Supp. 229, 231 (S.D.N.Y. 1997) ("Use of the Jones Act and the unseaworthiness doctrine is limited to `suits in which the defendant has some substantial contact with the United States.'") (quoting Koupetoris v. Konkar Intrepid Corp., 535 F.2d 1392, 1396 (2d Cir. 1976)).

In this case, only two factors arguably favor application of the Jones Act: (1) the alleged ultimate American ownership of the vessel; and (2) defendants' alleged American "base of operations." (See page 5 above.) Of these two factors, plaintiff has a far better claim as to the first (American ownership) than the second (American base of operations).*fn50 If the fleet's "base of operations" is strictly defined as the location from which day-to-day operations are managed, then the base of operations for defendants' Russian fleet appears to be with Mayflower in Greece (see pages 53-54 & n. 44 above). See Fogleman v. ARAMCO (Arabian American Oil Co.), 920 F.2d 278, 284 (5th Cir. 1991) (for Jones Act purposes, look to day-to-day operations). If, however, base of operations is defined more broadly, then it might be located in New York. See Gazis v. John S. Latsis (USA) Inc., 729 F. Supp. 979, 984 (S.D.N.Y. 1990) ("Various factors determine the base of operations including the location of the shipowner's home office, the location where management and day-to-day operating decisions are made, the country where the ship most frequently calls or generates the most income, and the location of the ship's home port.").*fn51

The "Second Circuit has suggested," without actually holding, "that American ownership alone may be sufficient to establish jurisdiction." See Gazis v. John S. Latsis (USA) Inc., 729 F. Supp. 979, 985 & n. 2 (S.D.N.Y. 1990) (citing Antypas v. Cia. Maritima San Basilio, S.A., 541 F.2d 307, 310 (2d Cir. 1976) ("It appears that at least some of the stockholders of the shipowner . . . are American citizens. This contact, in and of itself, has been held sufficient to support jurisdiction under the Jones Act."), cert. denied, 429 U.S. 1098, 97 S.Ct. 1116 (1977); Moncada v. Lemuria Shipping Corp., 491 F.2d 470, 473 (2d Cir.) ("In Bartholomew we suggested that American ownership alone suffices to establish Jones Act jurisdiction. . . . However, we need not rely upon this ground alone, for there are here additional contacts which, when added to American ownership, make the sum of the contacts substantial."), cert. denied, 417 U.S. 947, 94 S.Ct. 3072 (1974); Bartholomew v. Universe Tankships, Inc., 263 F.2d 437, 443 n. 4 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 359 U.S. 1000, 79 S.Ct. 1138 (1959)). Here, plaintiff has made colorable arguments for both American ownership and American base of operations. On the present record, therefore, the Court concludes that the Jones Act may apply to this case. Cf. Gazis v. John S. Latsis (USA) Inc., 729 F. Supp. at 989-91 (even though FNC "private interest factors point strongly toward dismissal," denying dismissal to determine "the extent of the defendants' shipping business in the United States and whether the [vessel] has an American base of operations"); Ioannides v. Marika Mar. Corp., 928 F. Supp. 374, 378-80 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) (granting FNC motion because private and public factors strongly favored dismissal; even assuming American base of operations, "there is at least a substantial possibility that foreign law will govern," where "case [was] brought on behalf of Greek seamen who shipped aboard a Liberian vessel crewed by a Greek company which, wherever its ownership lay, was engaged exclusively in carrying cargos to and from non-U.S. ports," parties had Greek forum and choice of law clauses, and some claimants had already settled in Greece); Tsangaris v. Elite, Inc., 92 Civ. 7855, 1993 WL 267425 at *8-9 (S.D.N.Y. July 9, 1993) (granting FNC motion as private and public factors heavily favored Greek forum; Greek forum selection clause and choice of law clause in contract required Greek law, so Jones Act would not apply; Hellenic Lines was distinguishable because "plaintiffs have failed to show that the defendant corporations mainly operate out of New York or that any United States domiciliary owns the defendant corporations.").

Accordingly, because it is unclear whether the law to be applied in this case is foreign or U.S. maritime law, the choice of law factor is essentially neutral.

2. Russia Has a Strong Interest in This Action, While New York's Interest Is Attenuated
Russia, and particularly Kaliningrad, has a strong interest in this dispute: (1) Stanislav was a resident of Kaliningrad; (2) Stanislav was hired in Kaliningrad; (3) the ship apparently made home port in Kaliningrad; (4) the ship had an all-Russian crew; and (5) plaintiff Helga — Stanislav's widow and beneficiary — resides in Kaliningrad. See, e.g., Murray v. British Broad. Corp., 81 F.3d 287, 293 (2d Cir. 1996) (FNC dismissal: "The crux of the matter, therefore, involves a dispute between British citizens over events that took place exclusively in the United Kingdom. . . . The United States thus has virtually no interest in resolving the truly disputed issues."); Valarezo v. Ecuadorian Line, Inc., 00 Civ. 6387, 2001 WL 740773 at *5 (S.D.N.Y. June 29, 2001) ("There is nothing local about [plaintiff's] claim and this jurisdiction has no interest in it. Ecuador has a far greater interest in adjudicating disputes between its own seamen and a foreign-flagged vessel over an incident that occurred on international waters. Dismissal in favor of an Ecuadorian forum is also favored by the burden this case will impose on this court `relative to the forum's minimal interest in the controversy.'"); Tsangaris v. Elite, Inc., 92 Civ. 7855, 1993 WL 267425 at *9 (S.D.N.Y. July 9, 1993) ("Plaintiffs have not shown how this Court and the United States have any interest in this action between a Greek seaman and his Greek employer arising out of an incident occurring on the high seas. . . . Greek courts, unlike this Court, have much interest in resolving this dispute which partially involves interpreting a contract executed in Greece between Greek citizens and under Greek law and which determines whether a Greek citizen will be compensated for his injuries."); Damigos v. Flanders Compania Naviera, S.A. Panama, 716 F. Supp. 104, 109 (S.D.N.Y. 1989) (Leval, D.J.) ("Greece has a strong interest in the well-being of Greek seamen and Greek vessels, generally, and in this action in particular. . . . Conversely, the United States has no interest in adjudicating disputes involving Greek seamen employed on Greek flag vessels in foreign waters, and has no interest in this action."); Doufexis v. Nagos S.S., Inc., 583 F. Supp. 1132, 1134 (S.D.N.Y. 1983) ("The decedent was Greek and was employed on a Greek flag ship at the time of his death. His widow and children are Greek. It is obvious that Greece has a more substantial interest in the resolution of this dispute.").

By contrast, the action's only connection to this forum is that the ship is allegedly owned by New York residents and defendants allegedly base their shipping operations here, although the Yellowstone appears to have been managed on a day-to-day basis from Greece. The fact that defendants may have their headquarters or base of operations here would ordinarily carry little weight, as the tort and the resulting damage both occurred elsewhere. See cases cited in Point V.B.1., above; see also, e.g., Alfadda v. Fenn, 159 F.3d 41, 46 (2d Cir. 1998) ("This case involves a dispute between a Netherlands Antilles corporation and Saudi Arabian shareholders over the conduct of a French bank. Thus, France has a far greater interest in this litigation than the United States."); Villar v. Crowley Mar. Corp., 782 F.2d 1478, 1483 (9th Cir. 1986) (Jones Act suit by family members of a Philippine sailor who drowned in Saudi Arabian waters while working on a Philippines-flagged ship owned by Americans was dismissed for forum non conveniens. "[T]he Philippines has a powerful interest in deciding the controversy because of its strong contacts with both the decedent and the [plaintiffs], and [the] American jurors and court personnel have little interest in this controversy."); Saab v. Citibank, N.A., 00 Civ. 6784, 2001 WL 1382577 at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 7, 2001) (FNC dismissal: "Although [defendant's] headquarters are in New York, the other major players in this controversy are Lebanese businessmen and a Saudi Arabian bank. The actions in dispute occurred throughout Europe and the Middle East; moreover, the witnesses are nearly all foreign. . . . Though Plaintiff alleges that there are other, unknown witnesses, mere allegations are not sufficient to connect the community to litigation."), aff'd, No. 01-9417, 2002 WL 31317708 (2d Cir. Oct. 16, 2002).*fn52

The Court notes that plaintiff's counsel, Paul Edelman, often tries to bring in this Court maritime cases involving foreign plaintiffs injured or killed on foreign vessels in foreign waters, and that most such cases have been dismissed on forum non conveniens grounds. It is useful to quote extensively from Judge Kaplan's decision in one such case brought by Mr. Edelman:

There is a final public interest consideration that bears more than passing mention. This is a case brought on behalf of Greek seamen who shipped aboard a Liberian vessel crewed by a Greek company which, wherever its ownership lay, was engaged exclusively in carrying cargos to and from non-U.S. ports. There are fora and remedies available to plaintiffs under the law of their country of domicile. Three of them already have settled their claims for sums which are substantial, even if they perhaps might seem low by American standards. There seems little justification for opening the courts of the United States — which are paid for by U.S. taxpayers and whose juries are composed of U.S. citizens asked to drop their everyday activities to serve — to claims in these circumstances even if, as plaintiffs stoutly argue, the ultimate base of operations of the vessel in question was the United States. That no doubt is why judges of this Court repeatedly have dismissed cases like this one — all brought by the same attorney [Edelman] — in favor of Greek fora. E.g., Damigos, 716 F. Supp. 104; Tsangaris v. Elite Inc., No. 92 Civ. 7855 (RPP), 1993 WL 267425 (S.D.N.Y. July 9, 1993); Geralis v. Westwind Africa Line, Ltd., No. 84 Civ. 4310 (DNE) (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 19, 1989); Hasakis v. Trade Bulkers, Inc., 690 F. Supp. 260 (S.D.N.Y. 1988); Kassapas v. Arkon Shipping Agency, Inc., 578 F. Supp. 400 (S.D.N.Y. 1984); Doufexis v. Nagos S.S. Inc., 583 F. Supp. 1132 (S.D.N.Y. 1983); Krimizis v. Panoceanic Navigation Corp., No. 83 Civ. 5667(JFK), 1985 WL 3834 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 14, 1985).
Rhoditis is not to the contrary. The injury there in question occurred in the United States, and the vessel was engaged in carrying cargoes to and from U.S. ports. The interest of the United States in providing a remedy and a forum in that case was far greater than it is here, and it is important to note that the case did not even involve the question whether a forum non conveniens dismissal was appropriate. The public interest factors thus weigh heavily in favor of dismissal.
Ioannides v. Marika Mar. Corp., 928 F. Supp. 374, 380 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) (emphasis added). Here, too, the fact that Russia has a strong interest in this action, and any New York interest is attenuated at best, strongly favors FNC dismissal.

3. The Court Administration Factor Favors Russia

Considerations of court congestion favor neither party, as there is no evidence that this Court is more congested than Russian courts. See, e.g., Monegasque De Reassurances S.A.M. v. Nak Naftogaz of Ukraine, 311 F.3d 488, 500 (2d Cir. 2002) ("Court congestion is no more a problem in the Ukraine than it is here. . . . "); DiRienzo v. Philip Services Corp., 294 F.3d 21, 31 (2d Cir. 2002) ("Ontario courts, like the Southern District of New York, suffer from congestion."); Guidi v. Inter-Continental Hotels Corp., 224 F.3d 142, 147 n. 5 (2d Cir. 2000) (The "criterion regarding the administrative and legal problems of the chosen court has no application here. Although the district court noted that the Southern District of New York is `heavily overburdened,' the recent filling of all judicial vacancies and the resulting full complement of judges for the District makes this concern of little or no present significance.").*fn53

Nevertheless, plaintiff's overseas location and multiple layers of representation are likely to cause pretrial and trial inefficiencies. Plaintiff is currently represented by three levels of counsel: Lithuanian/Russian, Greek, and American. (See pages 8-9 & n. 9 & page 10 n. 11 above.) Plaintiff's American counsel has admitted that he has never spoken directly to his "client," and was retained by overseas counsel. (Dkt. No. 12:5/31/02 Hearing Tr. at 19.) Pretrial administration of this action is likely to be complicated by the fact that American counsel, in order to communicate with his client, will have to deal with several layers of intermediary lawyers.*fn54 Trial in Russia, involving only one plaintiff's lawyer, likely will be far more efficient.*fn55

4. The Jury Duty Factor Strongly Favors Russia

As the Supreme Court observed in Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 67 S.Ct. 839 (1947), "[j]ury duty is a burden that ought not to be imposed upon the people of a community which has no relation to the litigation." Id. at 508-09, 67 S.Ct. at 843. This action's connection to this forum is far too attenuated to justify burdening our citizens with jury duty. See, e.g., Trigano v. Bain & Co., No. 97-7475, 182 F.3d 901 (table), 1999 WL 464991 at *1 (2d Cir. June 29, 1999) (FNC dismissal upheld where contract executed in France and most witnesses were in France, not New York, and no actions were taken in New York; "[T]he interest in having local disputes settled locally, in avoiding complications of applying foreign law, and in avoiding burdening New York jurors with a case that has no impact on their community all weigh heavily against New York as a forum in this case."); Alfadda v. Fenn, 159 F.3d 41, 46-47 (2d Cir. 1998) ("The interest in protecting jurors from sitting on cases with no relevance to their own community weighs heavily in favor of France. This suit involves . . . plaintiffs' investment in a Netherlands Antilles holding company that owned a French-licensed bank. . . . Thus, French jurors have a more significant interest in this case than American jurors."); Pavlov v. Bank of New York Co., 135 F. Supp.2d 426, 437 (S.D.N.Y. 2001) ("This is a private dispute about monetary loss allegedly suffered by depositors in a Russian*fn55 bank. There is little justification for imposing it on U.S. courts and jurors."), vacated on other grounds, No. 01-7434, 25 Fed. Appx. 70, 2002 WL 63516 (2d Cir. Jan. 14, 2002); Potomac Capital Inv. Corp. v. KLM, 97 Civ. 8141, 1998 WL 92416 at *11 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 4, 1998) (Peck, M.J.); Lan Assocs. XVIII, L.P. v. Bank of Nova Scotia, 96 Civ. 1022, 1997 WL 458753 at *6 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 11, 1997) ("to require New York's citizens to serve as jurors merely because some wire transfers passed through [defendant's] New York branch would be inappropriate"); MTS Secs., Inc. v. Creditanstalt-Bankverein, No. 96-CV-0567E, 1997 WL 251482 at *6 (W.D.N.Y. May 1, 1997) ("because Austria has a far greater interest in [the] case than does the United States, the burdens of jury duty should fall upon Austrian citizens and the burdens of administering this case should fall on Austrian courts"); Guimond v. Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, 95 Civ. 0428, 1996 WL 281959 at *5 (S.D.N.Y. May 29, 1996) (Since "the Court is unable to find that New York has even the most attenuated connection to the instant action . . . [,] it would be unjust to require New York's citizens to serve as jurors in an action so wholly devoid of local interest.").*fn56

C. Balancing the Private and Public Interest Factors Strongly Favors Trial in Russia
The Court concludes that the private and public interest factors, balanced together, weigh strongly in favor of trial of this action in Russia.*fn57

CONCLUSION

Accordingly, Eastwind's forum non conveniens motion should be GRANTED and the case dismissed without prejudice on defendants' filing of the undertaking (consent to suit in Russia, waiver of statute of limitations defense, and agreement to make defendants' witnesses available in Russia) called for in this Report and Recommendation.

FILING OF OBJECTIONS TO THIS REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the parties shall have ten (10) days from service of this Report to file written objections. See also Fed.R.Civ.P. 6. Such objections (and any responses to objections) shall be filed with the Clerk of the Court, with courtesy copies delivered to the chambers of the Honorable Kimba M. Wood, 500 Pearl Street, Room 1610, and to my chambers, 500 Pearl Street, Room 1370. Any requests for an extension of time for filing objections must be directed to Judge Wood. Failure to file objections will result in a waiver of those objections for purposes of appeal. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 106 S.Ct. 466 (1985); IUE AFL-CIO Pension Fund v. Herrmann, 9 F.3d 1049, 1054 (2d Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 822, 115 S.Ct. 86 (1994); Roldan v. Racette, 984 F.2d 85, 89 (2d Cir. 1993); Frank v. Johnson, 968 F.2d 298, 300 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 1038, 113 S.Ct. 825 (1992); Small v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 892 F.2d 15, 16 (2d Cir. 1989); Wesolek v. Canadair Ltd., 838 F.2d 55, 57-59 (2d Cir. 1988); McCarthy v. Manson, 714 F.2d 234, 237-38 (2d Cir. 1983); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72, 6(a), 6(e).


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