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Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirms district court's dismissal of wrongful death claims by non-U.S. residents against estate of U.S. pilot arising from plane crash in Nigeria

On July 21, 2017, in Kolawole v. Sellers, Nos. 15-13720 & 15-15801, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court’s dismissal of the claims of all plaintiffs who were not U.S. citizens or residents in a wrongful death lawsuit involving a plane crash in Nigeria. The defendant, the estate of the deceased U.S. citizen or piloted the plane, had moved in the district court for the dismissal of all of the plaintiffs’ claims on the grounds of forum non conveniens, but the district court had granted the defendant’s motion only with regard to the claims of plaintiffs who were not U.S. citizens or residents. The foreign plaintiffs argued before the district court and on appeal that various deficiencies in the Nigerian legal system made that country an inadequate forum for their claims. The Court of Appeals noted that the normal “strong presumption” that a plaintiff has chosen a convenient forum “weakens” when the plaintiff is not a United States citizen or resident and that the district court reasonably concluded that other factors, such as the anticipated congestion the additional claims would cause to the court docket, conflict of law issues and the compelling interest in Nigeria in the litigation, justified the dismissal.