The Doctrine of Forum Non Conveniens and the Bhopal Case
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 May 2009
Following the worst industrial accident in history, the leak of poisonous methyl isocyanate gas in Bhopal, India and the deaths of more than 2,000 people with injuries to more than 200,000, suits were soon brought in the United States against Union Carbide Corporation, the owner of a little over 50 percent of the stock in Union Carbide India Limited, the owner and operator of the disastrous plant. The American suits were consolidated in one action before the United States Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York. The Federal District Court, however, dismissed the action on the grounds of forum non conveniens, deciding that the Bhopal case would be more properly litigated in India. The District Court's opinion was endorsed by the Federal Circuit Court for the Second Circuit, also concluding that India, not the United States, was the appropriate situs for the trial.
- Copyright © T.M.C. Asser Press 1987
2. In Re: Union Carbide Corporation Gas Plant Disaster at Bhopal, India in December, 984, 809 F. 2nd 195 (2d Cir. 1987) [hereinafter cited as ‘Circuit Court Opinion’].
5. Almost two decades after Blair wrote his article, Barrett concluded that even though the term forum non conveniens had become popular, only a half dozen states and, in 1947, the federal courts, actually incorporated the doctrine. See Barrett, E. L., ‘The Doctrine of Forum Non Conveniens’, 35 California LR (1947) pp. 380, 388–389CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
7.  Sess. Cass. 13, 20, HL.
9. Barrett, , loc.cit. n. 5, at p. 387 n. 35Google Scholar, citing Vernor v Elvies (1610) 6 Diet, of Dec. 4788.
17. Ibid., at p. 2, citing Bagdon v Philadelphia & R.C. & I. Co., 178 App. Div. 662, 165 N.Y. Supp. 910 (2d Dept. 1917).
20. Dainow in 1935, argued that ‘the reception of such a doctrine [forum non conveniens] is not only possible but also very desirable in the United States’: Dainow, J., ‘The Inappropriate Forum’, 29 Illinois LR (1935) pp. 867, 870Google Scholar.
21. The Supreme Court noted Blair's article in 1932, in Canada Malting Co. Ltd. v Paterson Steamships, Ltd., 285 U.S. 413, 423n (1932).
22. 330 U.S. 501 (1947).
23. 330 U.S. 518 (1947).
24. 330 U.S. 501, 502 (1947).
33. 330 U.S. 518, 518–521 (1947).
37. 28 U.S.C. Sect. 1404 (a).
38. As a procedural matter, the doctrine of forum non conveniens may be employed by state courts pursuant to their own, not any federal, jurisprudence. In general, the doctrine has been described: ‘A state will not exercise jurisdiction if it is a seriously inconvenient forum for the trial of the action provided that a more appropriate forum is available to the plaintiff’: American Law Institute, Restatement Second of the Law of Conflict of Laws, Sect. 84 (1969)Google Scholar.
39. 454 U.S. 235 (1981).
49. See the four articles on the Bhopal disaster: NY Times (January 28, 1985) at Al, A6–A7; NY Times (January 30, 1985) at Al, A6; NY Times (January 31, 1985) at Al, A8; NY Times (February 3, 1985) at Al, A8.
50. NY Times (December 12, 1984) at A10.
52. NY Times (March 9, 1985) at Al, quoting Mr. Bharadwaj, Minister of State for Law.
57. District Court Opinion, supra n. 1.
58. Circuit Court Opinion, supra n. 2.