New Jersey District Court Held Taiwan an Adequate Alternative Forum Under Doctrine of Forum Non Conveniens

Chen-Teh Shu v. Wang, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 143222 (D.N.J. Oct. 17, 2016).

This matter is one of many related suits regarding the proper disposition of assets from the estate of a Taiwanese billionaire, Yung-Ching Wang (the “Decedent”), who died intestate.  Plaintiffs, Chen-Teh Shu, Dong-Zung Dai, and Robert Shi, are joint executors of the will of Yueh-Lan Wang.  This matter was initially filed by Yueh-Lan Wang, a Taiwanese citizen, in 2010, who since passed away, and the joint executors of her estate sought to recover the property that was allegedly transferred out of the multibillion-dollar estate of Yueh-Lan’s late husband, Yung-Ching Wang.

Yung-Ching Wang was the founder of one of Taiwan’s largest manufacturing conglomerates, the Formosa Plastics Group, which has a worldwide presence and four affiliates located in the United States.  All four affiliates in the U.S. are headquartered in Livingston, New Jersey.  Yung-Ching Wang did not speak or write English; he regularly traveled to New Jersey for business.

There were multiple motions pending before the court including defendants’ cross-motion to dismiss.  Defendant Pao Chu Lee was Decedent’s third companion; defendant Susan Ruey-Hwa Wang was part of Decedent’s family; and defendant Vanessa Ruey-Ji Wong is Pao Chu Lee’s daughter from another relationship.

The court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss on forum non conveniens grounds, thereby rendering the remaining motions denied as moot.  Specifically, the district court noted that the doctrine of forum non conveniens allows a court to “defer its jurisdiction where principles of justice and convenience favor the action being brought in another forum.” Steward Int’l Enhanced Index Fund v. Carr, 2010 WL 336276, at *2 (D.N.J. Jan. 22, 2010).

The district court explained that courts conduct a three-step analysis to determine whether forum non conveniens dismissal is appropriate:  (1) a court must determine whether an adequate alternative forum exists; (2) a court must then determine the appropriate amount of deference to be given to plaintiff’s choice of forum; and (3) finally, a court must balance the relevant public and private interest factors.  The court noted that a defendant bears the burden of persuasion to establish each element in the forum non conveniens inquiry.

Here, the district court found that Taiwan was an adequate alternative forum based on the residence of the parties, and plaintiffs’ claims could be litigated in Taiwan where a satisfactory remedy was available.  Additionally, the court noted that while one defendant was, and some evidence may be, located in or near New Jersey, a majority of the individuals directly associated with this litigation and much of the evidence was located in or near Taiwan.  Thus, the court found there was not a strong showing of convenience in litigating in New Jersey.

Lastly, the court balanced the public and private interest factors finding that the public interest factors weighed heavily toward dismissal – the most important being the desire to have the forum match the governing law.  The district court also found the private factors tipped slightly in favor of dismissal, including the ease of access to sources of proof and expense.  Therefore, the district court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss on the basis of forum non conveniens.