Eleventh Circuit Finds Montreal Convention Claims Based on Injury Treated in Germany Should be Heard in Germany, Affirming Forum Non Conveniens Dismissal

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a Georgia federal court’s ruling that a German passenger’s claims against Delta Airlines (“Delta”) and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (“KLM”) arising out of injuries allegedly sustained during a flight from Atlanta to Amsterdam should be brought in Germany, granting the airlines’ joint forum non conveniens motion to dismiss.

In the underlying suit, plaintiff booked a ticket via Delta’s website for travel from Atlanta to Munich via Amsterdam. KLM operated the flight under a joint venture agreement with Delta. Plaintiff claimed he was injured on the flight from Atlanta, but he received medical treatment in Munich. Plaintiff then filed suit in the Northern District of Georgia. The district court dismissed the action on forum non conveniens grounds, finding that Germany provided an adequate alternative forum to bring the case. Plaintiff
appealed.

The Eleventh Circuit, affirming the district court’s dismissal, reasoned that the private and public interest factors that comprise a forum non conveniens analysis weighed in favor of litigating in Germany. First, a foreign plaintiff’s choice of forum should be given less deference than an American citizen’s
chosen forum. Second, the foreign flight crew would have to travel from Europe to participate in the litigation if it proceeded in Georgia, and likely would be beyond the subpoena power of the Georgia federal court. The court also noted Germany’s greater interest in applying its compensatory scheme for its injured citizens. Finally, since both the U.S. and Germany are signatories to the Montreal Convention, plaintiff could bring the same substantive claims in either nation, and Germany otherwise has been deemed an “adequate alternative forum” despite significant differences from the American legal system. Bintu v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 21228 (11th Cir. Jul. 19, 2021).

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