(a) Grounds for Dismissal. An action may be dismissed on the ground that a satisfactory remedy may be more conveniently sought in a jurisdiction other than Florida when:
(1) the trial court finds that an adequate alternate forum exists which possesses jurisdiction over the whole case, including all of the parties;
(2) the trial court finds that all relevant factors of private interest favor the alternate forum, weighing in the balance a strong presumption against disturbing plaintiffs’ initial forum choice;
(3) if the balance of private interests is at or near equipoise, the court further finds that factors of public interest tip the balance in favor of trial in the alternate forum; and
(4) the trial judge ensures that plaintiffs can reinstate their suit in the alternate forum without undue inconvenience or prejudice.
The decision to grant or deny the motion for dismissal rests in the sound discretion of the trial court, subject to review for abuse of discretion.
(b) Stipulations in General. The parties to any action for which a satisfactory remedy may be more conveniently sought in a jurisdiction other than Florida may stipulate to conditions upon which a forum-non-conveniens dismissal shall be based, subject to approval by the trial court. The decision to accept or reject the stipulation rests in the sound discretion of the trial court, subject to review for abuse of discretion.
A forum-non-conveniens dismissal shall not be granted unless all defendants agree to the stipulations required by subdivision (c) and any additional stipulations required by the court.
(c) Statutes of Limitation. In moving for forum-non-conveniens dismissal, defendants shall be deemed to automatically stipulate that the action will be treated in the new forum as though it had been filed in that forum on the date it was filed in Florida, with service of process accepted as of that date.
(d) Failure to Refile Promptly. When an action is dismissed in Florida for forum non conveniens, plaintiffs shall automatically be deemed to stipulate that they will lose the benefit of all stipulations made by the defendant, including the stipulation provided in subdivision (c) of this rule, if plaintiffs fail to file the action in the new forum within 120 days after the date the Florida dismissal becomes final.
(e) Waiver of Automatic Stipulations. Upon unanimous agreement, the parties may waive the conditions provided in subdivision (c) or (d), or both, only when they demonstrate and the trial court finds a compelling reason for the waiver. The decision to accept or reject the waiver shall not be disturbed on review if supported by competent, substantial evidence.
(f) Reduction to Writing. The parties shall reduce their stipulation to a writing signed by them, which shall include all stipulations provided by this rule and which shall be deemed incorporated by reference in any subsequent order of dismissal.
(g) Time for Moving for Dismissal. A motion to dismiss based on forum non conveniens shall be served not later than 60 days after service of process on the moving party.
(h) Retention of Jurisdiction. The court shall retain jurisdiction after the dismissal to enforce its order of dismissal and any conditions and stipulations in the order.
2000 Amendment. Subdivision (a)(1) is amended to clarify that the alternative forum other than Florida must have jurisdiction over all of the parties for the trial court to grant a dismissal based on forum non conveniens.
Subdivision (b) is amended to clarify that all of the defendants, not just the moving defendant, must agree to the stipulations required by subdivision (c) as well as any additional stipulations required by the trial court before an action may be dismissed based on forum non conveniens.
Subdivision (g) is added to require that a motion to dismiss based on forum non conveniens be served not later than 60 days after service of process on the moving party.
Subdivision (h) is added to require the court to retain jurisdiction over the action after the dismissal for purposes of enforcing its order of dismissal and any conditions and stipulations contained in the order.
This section was added to elaborate on Florida’s adoption of the federal doctrine of forum non conveniens in Kinney System, Inc. v. Continental Insurance Co., 674 So.2d 86 (Fla. 1996), and it should be interpreted in light of that opinion.
Subdivision (a) codifies the federal standard for reviewing motions filed under the forum-non-conveniens doctrine. Orders granting or denying dismissal for forum non conveniens are subject to appellate review under an abuse-of-discretion standard.
As stated in Kinney, the phrase “private interests” means adequate access to evidence and relevant sites, adequate access to witnesses, adequate enforcement of judgments, and the practicalities and expenses associated
with the litigation. Private interests do not involve consideration of the availability or unavailability of advantageous legal theories, a history of generous or stingy damage awards, or procedural nuances that may affect outcomes but that do not effectively deprive the plaintiff of any remedy.
“Equipoise” means that the advantages and disadvantages of the alternative forum will not significantly undermine or favor the “private interests” of any particular party, as compared with the forum in which suit was filed.
“Public interests” are the ability of courts to protect their dockets from causes that lack significant connection to the jurisdiction; the ability of courts to encourage trial of controversies in the localities in which they arise; and the ability of courts to consider their familiarity with governing law when deciding whether to retain jurisdiction over a case. Even when the private conveniences of the litigants are nearly in balance, a trial court has discretion to grant a forum-non-conveniens dismissal upon finding that retention of jurisdiction would be unduly burdensome to the community, that there is little or no public interest in the dispute, or that foreign law will predominate if jurisdiction is retained.
Subdivision (b) provides that the parties can stipulate to conditions of a forum-non-conveniens dismissal, subject to the trial court’s approval. The trial court’s acceptance or rejection of the stipulation is subject to appellate review under an abuse-of-discretion standard.
Subdivisions (c) and (d) provide automatic conditions that shall be deemed included in every forum-non- conveniens dismissal. The purpose underlying subdivision (c) is to ensure that any statute of limitation in the new forum is applied as though the action had been filed in that forum on the date it was filed in Florida. The purpose underlying subdivision (d) is to ensure that the action is promptly refiled in the new forum. Both of these stipulations are deemed to be a part of every stipulation that does not expressly state otherwise, subject to the qualification provided in subdivision (e).
Subdivision (e) recognizes that there may be extraordinary conditions associated with the new forum that would require the waiver of the conditions provided in subdivisions (c) and (d). Waivers should be granted sparingly. Thus, the parties by unanimous consent may stipulate to waive those conditions only upon showing a compelling reason to the trial court. The trial court’s acceptance or rejection of the waiver may not be reversed on appeal where supported by competent, substantial evidence.
Subdivision (f) requires the parties to reduce their stipulation to written form, which the parties must sign. When and if the trial court accepts the stipulation, the parties’ agreement then is treated as though it were incorporated by reference in the trial court’s order of dismissal. To avoid confusion, the parties shall include the automatic stipulations provided by subdivisions (c) and (d) of this rule, unless the latter are properly waived under subdivision (e). However, the failure to include these automatic conditions in the stipulation does not waive them unless the dismissing court has expressly so ruled.
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