Nevada Supreme Court examines forum non conveniens

Forum Non Conveniens

Gov’t of Marinduque v. Placer Dome, Inc. (Nev. Supreme Ct. – June 11, 2015)

The issue is whether the district court abused its discretion by dismissing a complaint for forum non conveniens when the events giving rise to the complaint occurred in the Republic of the Philippines and the alternative fora are in Canada.

The Provincial Government of Marinduque (the Province), is a political subdivision of the Republic of the Philippines. Placer Dome, Inc. (PDI), was incorporated under the laws of British Columbia, Canada. Beginning in the 1950s, a predecessor of PDI formed Marcopper Mining Corporation to undertake mining activities in the Province. This predecessor, and later PDI, held a substantial minority of the shares of Marcopper. According to the Province, PDI and its predecessor controlled all aspects of Marcopper’s operations. During the course of Marcopper’s operations, several incidents occurred that caused significant environmental degradation and health hazards to the people living in the Province, who are known as Marinduqueiios.

At the time the Province filed its complaint in the district court, PDI subsidiaries owned mining operations in Nevada. Shortly thereafter, PDI and another business entity amalgamated under the laws of Ontario, Canada, to form Barrick Gold Corporation. Barrick’s subsidiaries have continued substantial mining operations in Nevada. Barrick and PDI contended that only their subsidiaries conduct business in Nevada and personal jurisdiction was therefore lacking. The Province responded that the corporate veils may be pierced to establish personal jurisdiction in Nevada over both Barrick and PDI.

Barrick and PDI moved to dismiss for forum non conveniens, arguing that either British Columbia, where PDI was incorporated, or Ontario, where Barrick was formed, would provide a better forum for this litigation. After analyzing several public and private interest factors, the district court found that dismissal for forum non conveniens was warranted. The Province appealed.

The Nevada Supreme Court found that the district court did not abuse its discretion by finding that the public and private interest factors favored dismissal for forum non conveniens. Specifically, the district court did not abuse its discretion in its analysis of the public interest factors and the court did not abuse its discretion by finding that the private interest factors favored dismissal for forum non conveniens. Furthermore, the Court determined that finding that litigating in Nevada would not harass, oppress, or vex Barrick and PDI did not require the district court to deny the motion to dismiss for forum non conveniens. The Court also determined the district court properly exercised its discretion in imposing conditions on dismissal for forum non conveniens.

Therefore, the Court concluded that the district court properly gave less deference to the Province’s choice of a Nevada forum. Applying this less deference standard, the Court found the district court did not abuse its discretion by dismissing the Province’s complaint for forum non conveniens because, among other reasons, this case lacked any bona fide connection to this state, adequate alternative fora existed, and the burdens of litigating outweighed any convenience to the Province.

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