April 24, 2015
DEPUY ORTHOPAEDICS, INC. AND JOHNSON & JOHNSON, Appellants (Defendants below),
TRAVIS BROWN ET AL., Appellees (Plaintiffs below)
Appeal from the Marion Superior Court, No. 49D11-1202-CT-008271. The Honorable John F. Hanley, Judge. On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 49A02-1304-CT-332.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: Peter J. Rusthoven, Terri L. Bruksch, Michael R. Conner, Indianapolis, Indiana.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: Eric C. Lewis, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Massa, Justice. Rush, C.J., and Dickson, Rucker, and David, JJ., concur.
Plaintiffs Travis Brown et al. filed suit against DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc. in Marion Superior Court, alleging injuries related to certain hip replacement equipment. DePuy moved to transfer venue to Virginia and Mississippi on the grounds of forum non conveniens, pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 4.4(C). The trial court denied the motion, and certified the question for interlocutory appeal. We find the trial court did not abuse its discretion under Rule 4.4(C), and thus affirm.
Facts and Procedural History
DePuy Orthopaedics is an Indiana corporation, and its principal place of business is located in Warsaw, Kosciusko County, Indiana. From 2005 to 2010, DePuy sold a prosthetic hip implant throughout the United States known as the ASR[TM] XL Acetabular System. Plaintiffs are nineteen individuals who had the ASR[TM] XL System implanted during hip replacement surgeries (eighteen in Virginia, one in Mississippi). Plaintiffs have filed suit in the Marion Superior Court, alleging negligence, breach of express and implied warranties, and fraudulent concealment, after DePuy issued a voluntary global recall on the ASR[TM] XL
System. DePuy filed a motion to dismiss under Trial Rule 4.4(C), asserting that Virginia and Mississippi were the proper fora. Following extensive briefing by both parties and oral argument, the trial court summarily denied DePuy's motion to dismiss. DePuy filed an interlocutory appeal, and the Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the trial court had abused its discretion in denying the motion, given the matter's stronger connection to Virginia and Mississippi. DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. v. Brown, 10 N.E.3d 567, 575 (Ind.Ct.App. 2014). We now grant Plaintiffs' petition for transfer, thus vacating the opinion below. Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A). We affirm the trial court.
Standard of Review
Pursuant to Trial Rule 4.4(C), the trial court exercises discretion with respect to motions to dismiss based on forum non conveniens, and our review is thus limited to abuse of that discretion. Anyango v. Rolls-Royce Corp., 971 N.E.2d 654, 656 (Ind. 2012). Under an abuse of
discretion review, " we presume that the trial court will 'act in accord with what is fair and equitable in each case,' and thus we will only reverse 'if the trial court's decision is clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances before the court, or if the trial court has misinterpreted the law.'" Wright v. Miller, 989 N.E.2d 324, 330 (Ind. 2013) (citing McCullough v. Archbold Ladder Co., 605 N.E.2d 175, 180 (Ind. 1993)). We do not reweigh the evidence; rather, we determine whether the evidence before the trial court can serve as a rational basis for its decision. Matter of Grissom, 587 N.E.2d 114, 116 (Ind. 1992); Fry v. Schroder, 986 N.E.2d 821, 823 (Ind. Ct.App.) trans. denied, 989 N.E.2d 782 (Ind. 2013).
The Trial Court Did Not Abuse Its Discretion in Denying DePuy's Motion to Dismiss Based on Forum Non Conveniens.
Trial Rule 4.4(C) imposes no mandatory obligations upon trial courts in dismissing a case on forum non conveniens grounds; rather, the court may dismiss " under such reasonable conditions as the court in its discretion may determine to be just."
See also Anyango, 971 N.E.2d at 663 (noting that " our Trial Rule 4.4(C) wisely entrusts the forum non conveniens decision to the trial court." ). Moreover, Rule 4.4(C)'s enumerated list of factors is merely permissive, to the point of including a catch-all provision of " any other factors having substantial bearing upon the selection of a convenient, reasonable and fair place of trial." Accordingly, the trial court's summary dismissal was adequate as a matter of law.
See Inman, 981 N.E.2d at 1208 (holding summary rejection of request for interest was not an abuse of discretion under Ind. Code § 34-51-4-7, which states: " The court may award prejudgment interest as part of a judgment." ) (emphasis added in Inman).
Our review is therefore limited to whether the decision was " clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances before the court."
Wright, 989 N.E.2d at 330. The record on appeal reveals, at a minimum, the following facts supporting retaining Indiana as venue:
-- DePuy is an Indiana corporation, whose principal place of business is in Indiana;
-- DePuy is the responsible U.S. entity for the design, manufacture, label, distribution, marketing and sale of the ASR[TM] XL System;
-- Indiana has a " manifest interest" in hearing disputes involving its citizens. See generally JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Desert Palace, Inc., 882 N.E.2d 743, 752 (Ind.Ct.App. 2008); McGee v. Int'l Life Ins. Co., 355 U.S. 220, 223, 78 S.Ct. 199, 2 L.Ed.2d 223 (1957);
-- Plaintiffs chose to file suit against DePuy in its home state, and their choice of forum is entitled to deference.
Employers Ins. of Wausau v. Recticel Foam Corp., 716 N.E.2d 1015, 1021 (Ind.Ct.App. 1999);
-- At least seventeen depositions have already been conducted in Indiana;
-- No evidence was presented that any witnesses located in Virginia or Mississippi will be unwilling or unable to come to Indiana to give testimony; and
-- Although there are differences between the laws of Indiana, Virginia and Mississippi with respect to product liability, Indiana courts are capable of interpreting and applying those differences without significant difficulty. See, e.g., Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 6(2)(g) (1971) (stating that an appropriate choice-of-law consideration is " ease in the determination and application of the law to be applied" ); Anyango, 971 N.E.2d at 658 (sustaining the motion to dismiss in part because the trial court " anticipated that there will be significant problems in dealing with resolving the application of Canadian law" ).
We agree with DePuy that there is, indeed, ample evidence supporting venue in Virginia or Mississippi rather than Indiana. That does not mean, however, that we are entitled to reweigh the evidence on appeal. The record here reveals sufficient evidence for the trial court to have reasonably concluded that Indiana was the appropriate forum for this litigation, and thus the trial court did not abuse its discretion.
For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the trial court's denial of DePuy's motion to dismiss based on forum non conveniens, and remand this case to the trial court for further proceedings.
Rush, C.J., and Dickson, Rucker, and David, JJ., concur.