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Did the District Court Err When It Failed to Dismiss a Case for Forum Non Conveniens?

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The Court of Appeals of Colorado, Division V tackled this tricky question in the case of Cox v. Sage Hospitality Resources, LLC, (27 COA 59).

In this case, John Cox (“Cox”), a Colorado resident, was staying at the Hilton San Diego/Del Mar Hotel (“the hotel”) in California. He was walking from his room on an outdoor path toward the breakfast area of the hotel when he fell, suffering a spiral fracture to his femur. Sage Hospitality Resources, LLC (“Sage”), owns the property. Sage’s principal place of business is in Denver, Colorado. WS HDM, LLC (“WS HDM”), incorporated in Delaware and licensed to do business in California, owns and operates the hotel.

Cox sued both Sage and WS HDM in Colorado and in California. Cox withdrew the Colorado suit for lack of diversity. The California suit was dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. So, in November 2015, Cox sued Sage in Denver District Court and WS HDM in California state court. Sage moved to dismiss the action in Denver District Court under the doctrine of forum non conveniens. Sage asserted that the incident occurred in California, and evidence and witnesses were principally located there; and that because Cox was pursuing a civil action in California state court as well, the Denver suit created a risk of double recovery. The Denver District Court granted Sage’s motion to dismiss.

Cox appealed, arguing the District Court erred in granting Sage’s motion to dismiss because there were no unusual circumstances sufficient to overcome the presumption in favor of Colorado courts hearing cases brought by Colorado residents.

The Court of Appeals applied the long-standing law and determined the district court erred for two reasons. It held that judicial economy often factors into a court’s forum non conveniens analysis, this factor alone does not outweigh a resident plaintiff’s constitutionally based interest in having his action heard by Colorado state courts. Secondly, the risk of double recovery does not overcome the presumption in favor of Colorado courts hearing suits filed by Colorado resident plaintiffs. For those reasons, the Court of Appeals concluded that the Denver District Court misapplied the law of forum non conveniens in dismissing Cox’s action, we reverse the challenged order, and remand it for further action.

The Metier Law Firm is committed to assisting people with personal injury claims throughout Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska, and we frequently serve as co-counsel to law firms nationwide. Tom Metier recently secured the largest personal injury verdict in Colorado.