PIPER AIRCRAFT CO. v. REYNO

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
80-848
Petitioner 
Piper Aircraft Co.
Respondent 
Reyno
Consolidation 
No. 80-883
Advocates
(on behalf of the Respondent)
(on behalf of Petitioner, Piper Aircraft Company)
(on behalf of the Petitioner, Hartzell Propeller, Inc)
Tags
Term:
Facts of the Case 

(This summary was prepared by Tom Feledy.)

A British company, flying an airplane manufactured by Piper, a Pennsylvania company, equipped with propellers made by Hartzell, an Ohio company, conducted a charter flight in Scotland for five Scottish citizens. When the plane crashed, killing all on board, the next of kin, also Scottish, had a Los Angeles-based lawyer sue Piper and Hartzell for wrongful death. The suit was filed in a California state court, then removed to Federal District Court in California, and finally transferred to Federal District Court in Pennsylvania. There it was dismissed for forum non conveniens under the determination that the case should be tried in Scotland: the crash had occurred, the crash investigation had been conducted there by British authorities, and the pilot's estate, the plane's owners, and the charter company were all located there. However, respondents successfully appealed, claiming that substantive law in Scotland would be unfavorable to their case. Scotland, unlike Pennsylvania, had no strict liability law, which, along with negligence, respondents were relying upon in order to prevail.

Question 

Does the possibility of an unfavorable change in law bar dismissal under forum non conveniens?

Conclusion 
Decision: 4 votes for Piper Aircraft Co., 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision:

Yes. In a 7-3 majority opinion authored by Justice Thurgood Marshall, the Court held that the District Court properly weighed private and public interests using the Gulf Oil v. Gilbert test to determine that the trial should be held in Scotland. The possibility of a change in substantive law should ordinarily not be given conclusive or even substantial weight in the forum non conveniens inquiry. Justices Lewis Powell and Sandra Day o"Connor did not participate.

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PIPER AIRCRAFT CO. v. REYNO. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 10 September 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1981/1981_80_848>.
PIPER AIRCRAFT CO. v. REYNO, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1981/1981_80_848 (last visited September 10, 2014).
"PIPER AIRCRAFT CO. v. REYNO," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 10, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1981/1981_80_848.