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Shadbolt v. Bernzomatic, Newell, Rubbermaid, Inc.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

September 3, 2013

MURRAY SHADBOLT, Plaintiff,
v.
BERNZOMATIC, NEWELL, RUBBERMAID, INC. AND DOES 1 TO 10, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

MORRISON C. ENGLAND, Jr., Chief District Judge.

On June 28, 2013, Murray Shadbolt ("Plaintiff") filed this action against Bernzomatic, [1] Newell Rubbermaid, Inc. ("Newell") (collectively referred to as "Defendants") seeking "injunctive relief to amend and expand product recall and comply with DOT 39" and alleging negligence and fraud. (ECF No. 1.) Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. (ECF No. 6.)[2] The Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for the reasons described below. (ECF No. 6.)

BACKGROUND[3]

This action involves a product, known as a MAPP gas torch ("MAPP"). On March 25, 2011, Plaintiff was using a portable MAPP manufactured by Defendants in a single-family residential building to perform plumbing. Plaintiff fired the torch two times while it was in a vertical position. Within seconds a flame started between the tank and the torch. The MAPP dropped onto to the floor. Soon, the flame from the MAPP caught some towels and the doorway on fire. Other individuals present brought in some snow and Plaintiff tried to suppress the fire with the snow. Plaintiff attempted to retrieve the MAPP, but it was too hot. Plaintiff instructed the other two persons to leave the area, and at that moment the MAPP exploded violently and traveled towards Plaintiff. Plaintiff ducked out of the way. The fire then cleared out rapidly, but it left Plaintiff with severe burn injuries and near-total hearing loss. It also caused substantial damage to the residential dwelling.

In January 2012, Defendants recalled the MAPP gas fuel cylinders. On March 25, 2013, Plaintiff filed suit in Saskatchewan, Canada, based on the same incident as the instant action. Shadbolt v. Newell Rubbermaid, Inc., Q.B. No. 18 of 2013. (ECF No. 1, Ex. A.) In May 2013, Plaintiff found information on the internet identifying various defects and incidents of product failures of the MAPP. Based on that information, Plaintiff concluded that Defendant misrepresented the nature of the defect of the product and filed this action.

STANDARD

The common law doctrine of forum non conveniens allows a court to decline to exercise jurisdiction over a dispute when the convenience of the parties so dictates. See Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert , 330 U.S. 501, 504 (1947). Granting such a motion results in the dismissal of the litigation. When a suit is brought before the court that should have been brought elsewhere, and the court does not have the power to transfer the suit to the foreign jurisdiction, the lawsuit may properly be dismissed. See Contact Lumber Co. v. P.T. Moges Shipping Co., Ltd. , 918 F.2d 1446, 1448-49 (9th Cir. 1990).

A forum non conveniens dismissal will "ordinarily be appropriate where trial in the plaintiff's chosen forum imposes a heavy burden on the defendant or the court, and where the plaintiff is unable to offer any specific reasons of convenience to support his choice." Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno , 454 U.S. 235, 249 (1981). The moving party has the burden of proving, and the court must consider: (1) the existence of an adequate alternative forum; and (2) whether the balance of public and private factors favors dismissal. Loya v. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. , 583 F.3d 656, 664 (9th Cir. 2009). The required showings by the moving party must "overcome the great deference due to plaintiffs because a showing of convenience by a party who has sued in his home forum will usually outweigh the inconvenience the defendant may have shown." Id. at 664. While Plaintiff's choice of forum is given some deference in the balancing of private and public interest factors, foreign plaintiffs who initiate litigation in United States courts are entitled to less deference. Piper Aircraft Co. , 454 U.S. at 256.

ANALYSIS

A. Allegations in the Complaint Have No Nexus to California

After a full review of the documents filed herein, it is unclear to the Court why Plaintiff filed this action in the Eastern District of California. Plaintiff is a foreign national residing in Saskatchewan, Canada. (ECF No. 1.) The accident that injured Plaintiff happened in Canada. (Id.) Three months before filing this Complaint, Plaintiff filed the same action in Saskatchewan, Canada. (ECF No. 1, Ex. A.)

Defendant Irwin Industrial Tool Company is incorporated in Delaware and its principal place of business is in Atlanta, Georgia. (ECF No. 6, Ex A.)[4] Defendant Newell is incorporated in Delaware and its principal place of business is also in Georgia. (ECF No. 6, Ex B.) Newell's only relationship to California is that it is an international corporation that sells products in every state and many other countries, including Canada. Plaintiff argues Newell has an agent who accepts service of process in Sacramento, California. (ECF No. 9.) Newell has an agent who accepts service of process in every state and country it does business. (ECF No. 6-1.)

Based on the facts above, it is unclear why Plaintiff filed an action in the Eastern District of California as the allegations in the ...


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