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MATLI v. STRATEGIC MINERALS CORPORATION

United States District Court, S.D. New York


October 7, 2004.

KHANYA MATLI, an infant by her mother ANASTASCIA MATLI, and ASSOCIATION OF INJURED CHILDREN OF SOUTH AFRICA a/k/a "AICOSA," Plaintiffs,
v.
STRATEGIC MINERALS CORPORATION, a/k/a U.S. VANADIUM CORPORATION, a subsidiary of UNION CARBIDE COMPANY, and its/their subsidiary in South Africa known and/or operating as VAMETCO; UNION CARBIDE COMPANY, a subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company; THE DOW CHEMICAL COMPANY; and its/their subsidiary in South Africa known and/or operating as THE DOW CHEMICAL COMPANY OF SOUTH AFRICA, Defendants.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHIRA SCHEINDLIN, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs, South African nationals and an "association . . . of infant and/or minor children of South Africa,"*fn1 brought this action alleging injuries caused by defendants' products while working at defendants' South African mines. Defendant Vametco Minerals Corporation ("Vametco") now moves to dismiss the claims against Vametco for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), (2) and (6), and to dismiss the complaint in its entirety on grounds of forum non conveniens.*fn2 For the following reasons, Vametco's motion is granted.

  I. THE COURT LACKS PERSONAL JURISDICTION OVER VAMETCO

  It is plaintiffs' burden to show that the Court has jurisdiction over the defendants.*fn3 In order to defeat a jurisdictional challenge in the absence of discovery or an evidentiary hearing, a plaintiff must make a prima facie showing supporting the assertion of jurisdiction over a defendant.*fn4 Such a showing must be supported by factual allegations.*fn5 Plaintiffs have failed to meet this burden.*fn6 Personal jurisdiction in this case is determined, in the first instance, according to the law of New York.*fn7 It is undisputed that Vametco is a Delaware corporation, which has its principal place of business in South Africa, and has no offices, agents or property in New York.*fn8 Plaintiffs do not allege any facts showing that Vametco is present in or does business in New York.*fn9 Nor do plaintiffs allege that Vametco committed a tort in New York, or caused any injuries in New York;*fn10 the alleged torts and injuries all occured in South Africa. Because plaintiffs have failed to show any basis for jurisdiction over Vametco, the claims against Vametco are dismissed.

  II. THE COMPLAINT MUST BE DISMISSED ON THE GROUND OF FORUM NON CONVENIENS

  The doctrine of forum non conveniens "does not come into play" unless the court has been shown to have jurisdiction.*fn11 Because the remaining defendants have not contested jurisdiction,*fn12 I will turn to Vametco's forum non conveniens argument. In considering a motion to dismiss on forum non conveniens grounds, "`the ultimate inquiry is where trial will best serve the convenience of the parties and the ends of justice.'"*fn13 To succeed on such a motion, a defendant must satisfy a two-prong test: it must show that (1) an adequate alternate forum exists; and (2) private and public interest factors weigh in favor of dismissal.*fn14

  Plaintiffs are South Africans, alleging injuries caused in South Africa, resulting from the operation of South African facilities. According to the undisputed affidavit of South African counsel, plaintiffs could institute proceedings in the South African courts against all defendants (i.e., American companies) for these claims.*fn15 The first part of the test is therefore satisfied.

  Under the second prong of the test, all relevant private interest factors weigh in favor of dismissal. All of the plaintiffs are residents of South Africa, a fact which severely limits any interest they may have in pursuing their claims in this forum.*fn16 Plaintiffs' claims are based exclusively on activities in South Africa, and the great majority of the relevant evidence is located there: consequently, trial in South Africa will be more "easy, expeditious and inexpensive" for all parties.*fn17

  The public interest factors similarly weigh in favor of dismissal. These "factors include (1) whether New York law or foreign law applies to the case; (2) the administrative burden on the Court; and (3) whether the community has any relation to the litigation because there is local interest in having localized controversies decided at home."*fn18 It is likely that South African law will apply. The burden on the Court of applying South African law, in a case in which the great majority of evidence is located in South Africa, would be considerable. Finally, New York has no interest in this almost purely South African matter: South Africa is the only community with an interest in this action.

  Plaintiffs have shown no reason why this action should be litigated in New York, while Vametco offers compelling arguments why this matter should be litigated in South Africa. Accordingly, the complaint must be dismissed on grounds of forum non conveniens.

  III. CONCLUSION

  For the foregoing reasons, Vametco's motion to dismiss all claims against Vametco for lack of personal jurisdiction is granted. The claims against all other defendants are dismissed on grounds of forum non conveniens. The Clerk of the Court is directed to close this case. SO ORDERED.


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