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Piper Aircraft v. Reyno

United States Supreme Court
454 U.S. 235 (1981)

Piper Aircraft v. Reyno


In 1976, a small commercial aircraft crashed in Scotland, killing the pilot and five passengers. The deceased were all Scottish citizens and residents. The plane was manufactured in Pennsylvania by Piper (defendant), and the propellers were manufactured in Ohio by Hartzell (defendant). Reyno (plaintiff), the administratrix of the estates of the five passengers, filed wrongful death actions against Piper and Hartzell in California state court, alleging negligence and strict liability. Reyno admitted to filing the action in the United States because its laws were more favorable to her case than those of Scotland. Piper and Hartzell removed to federal district court in California and then sought a transfer to the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The California district court granted these motions. After both cases were moved to federal district court in Pennsylvania, Piper and Hartzell sought to dismiss the case on grounds of forum non conveniens. The Pennsylvania district court granted the motions, citing the discretion courts have to dismiss a case when an alternative forum has jurisdiction to hear the case, and when trial in the chosen forum would be burdensome to the defendant. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed on the ground that dismissal for forum non conveniens is not appropriate where the law of the alternative forum is less favorable to the plaintiff. Piper and Hartzell appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

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Holding and Reasoning (Marshall, J.)

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