New Jersey Court Applies The Doctrine Of Forum Non Conveniens

Travelers Casualty and Surety Company, Inc. v. Skrabonja, et al., 2017 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 591 (N.J. Super. Ct. Law Div. Mar. 8, 2017).

Bronko Grcic was involved in a car accident in the late 1970s that left him paralyzed on the left side of his body, confining him to a wheelchair.  Litigation related to Bronko’s accident was settled, and a conservatorship was established in the New York Supreme Court, Queens County, with the proceeds from the settlement.  In the 1990s, Bronko and his mother moved to New Jersey and began the process of establishing a guardianship for Bronko in New Jersey.

On February 3, 2010, the Supreme Court of New York, Queens County, entered an order directing the filing of a final accounting for the conservatorship.  The final accounting was filed with the New York court in April 2010.  On April 20, 2010, the New York court executed an Order to Show Cause related to the final accounting directing all interested parties to appear and show cause why the final accounting should not be approved.  No opposition to the Order to Show Cause or Final Accounting was submitted to the New York court.

About $2.3 million was transferred from the conservatorship to New Jersey in early 2010 and the remaining funds, about $2.6 million, was transferred in 2012 after the final accounting for the conservatorship was approved by the New York court.

On April 18, 2012, the New York court entered an Order Approving Final Account and Inventory.  The surety bond related to the New York conservatorship was issued by Seaboard.  Neither Seaboard nor Travelers submitted any objection to the Orders approving the final accounting.  They also did not assert any claim for an unpaid premium in connection with the surety bond issued in connection with the New York conservatorship.

Pending before the New York Court was Skrabonja’s request to amend the order discharging the bond to be effective on the date of the final accounting.  Travelers asked the Court to consider its demand for payment of premiums and legal fees.  Defendants moved to dismiss Travelers’ Complaint.

The New Jersey court held that the matter should not have been brought in New Jersey as it construed and concerned a suretyship that arises out of a New York transaction.  Specifically, the court found principles of comity required dismissal in favor of a resolution by the New York court.  While the Defendants resided in New Jersey, the more appropriate and convenient forum was New York.  The conservatorship action was established in New York, the New York court handled the matter for over 20 years, and there were no “special equites” argued that would give cause to keep the matter in New Jersey.

Thus, under the doctrine of forum non conveniens, the court dismissed Travelers’ Complaint without prejudice pending a final determination by the Supreme Court of New York, Queens County, which had original jurisdiction over the matter.