from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Michigan at Ann Arbor. No. 5:17-cv-12483-John
Corbett O'Meara, District Judge.
BRIEF: Dean Elliott, DEAN ELLIOTT, PLC, Royal Oak, Michigan,
Gaëtan Gerville-Réache, WARNER NORCROSS JUDD
LLP, Grand Rapids, Michigan, for Appellee.
Before: BATCHELDER, McKEAGUE, and NALBANDIAN, Circuit Judges.
MCKEAGUE, CIRCUIT JUDGE
Jones is a United States citizen who chose to make his money
abroad. In good times, he was happy to invest, work, and live
in Equatorial Guinea. But when business soured, he hoped the
United States would sweeten the deal. That hope did not pan
out. After Jones sued his employer in the Eastern District of
Michigan, the district court dismissed his complaint under
the doctrine of forum non conveniens. Jones now asks
us to reverse that decision. We are unconvinced that there
was a clear abuse of discretion. We AFFIRM.
Jones is a Michigan citizen who has worked overseas most of
his professional life. He began working in Equatorial Guinea
around 2007. In 2011, he started a company-IPX International
Equatorial Guinea, S.A.-to provide telecommunication and
internet services in Equatorial Guinea. As its name suggests,
IPX International Equatorial Guinea, S.A. is incorporated in
Equatorial Guinea and its principal place of business is in
the country's capital. Like many founders, Jones wore
several hats at his company, including shareholder, director,
case is about Jones's role as an employee. Jones worked
as a Director General under an annual contract. Each year,
Jones negotiated and signed his contract in Equatorial
Guinea. He then lived and worked there during the
and his company both did quite well, but financial success
could not sustain the relationship. IPX International decided
in 2015 to open a subsidiary in the United States. Given his
ties to Michigan, Jones urged the company to open the
subsidiary there. IPX International agreed and sent Jones to
Michigan to set up shop. That was supposed to take six
months. Jones would then return to Equatorial Guinea. But
after Jones arrived in Michigan, IPX International learned
that he may have been stealing money and neglecting important
business relationships. The company then suspended Jones so
it could investigate.
part, Jones claims that the suspension was a pretext to
divest him of his stock and that IPX International breached
his employment contract. He thus sued for breach of contract
in the Eastern District of Michigan. The district court found
that the case should be tried in Equatorial Guinea and
dismissed the complaint under forum non conveniens.
Jones now appeals that decision.
non conveniens decisions are "committed to the
sound discretion of the trial court." Piper Aircraft
Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 257 (1981). We thus review
for "clear abuse of discretion." Zions First
Nat'l Bank v. Moto Diesel Mexicana, S.A. de C.V.,
629 F.3d 520, 523 (6th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted). Under
that standard, we give "substantial deference" to
the district court when it considers all relevant interests
and balances those interests reasonably. Piper
Aircraft, 454 U.S. at 257.
non conveniens is a common law doctrine that allows a
district court not to exercise its jurisdiction. Hefferan
v. Ethicon Endo-Surgery Inc., 828 F.3d 488, 492 (6th
Cir. 2016) (quotation omitted). In the federal system,
forum non conveniens has been largely replaced by a
statutory scheme that allows district courts to dismiss or
transfer cases when better forums are available. See
28 U.S.C. §§ 1404(a) and 1406(a). Forum non
conveniens operates similarly to that statutory scheme,
nonetheless it is distinct. It generally applies when the
alternative forum is in a foreign country, rather than in a
different district within the federal system. Sinochem
Int'l Co. v. Malaysia Int'l Shipping Corp., 549
U.S. 422, 430 (2007) (quotations omitted).
courts apply forum non conveniens, there are three
considerations: (1) whether an adequate alternative forum is
available; (2) whether a balance of private and public
interests suggests that trial in the chosen forum would be
unnecessarily burdensome for the defendant or the court; and
(3) the amount of deference to give the plaintiff's
choice of forum. Sometimes we call those considerations part
of a three-step analysis. Hefferan, 828 F.3d at 492.
Other times we frame the first two considerations as steps
and then separately address deference to the plaintiff's
choice of forum. See Wong v. PartyGaming Ltd., 589
F.3d 821, 830 (6th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted); Duha ...