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Martinez v. Nemours

Supreme Court of Delaware

February 20, 2014

MARIA ELENA MARTINEZ, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of SANTOS ROQUE ROCHA, deceased, Plaintiff Below, Appellant,
v.
E.L DUPONT DE NEMOURS AND COMPANY, INC., Defendant Below, Appellee.

Submitted: November 6, 2013

Court Below - Superior Court of the State of Delaware, in and for New Castle County C.A. No. N10C-04-209-ASB

Upon appeal from the Superior Court. AFFIRMED.

Thomas C. Crumplar, Esquire (argued) and Jordan J. Perry, Esquire, Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A., Wilmington, Delaware, for appellant Maria Elena Martinez.

John C. Phillips, Jr., Esquire (argued) and David A. Bilson, Esquire, Phillips, Goldman & Spence, P.A., Wilmington, Delaware, for appellee, E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company.

Before HOLLAND, BERGER and JACOBS, Justices, STRINE, Chancellor [1] and NOBLE, Vice Chancellor.[2]

HOLLAND, Justice

This case is one of approximately thirty-two cases filed against the defendant-appellee, E.I du Pont de Nemours and Company, Inc. ("DuPont"), by Argentine nationals who claim that they were exposed to asbestos while working in textile plants located in Berazategui, Argentina and Mercedes, Argentina. At the time of the alleged exposures, which began in the early 1960's, the plants were owned by DuPont Argentina Sociedad Anomina ("DASA"). DASA, now known as DASRL, has its principal place of business in Argentina, and is a great-great grand-subsidiary of DuPont.

The plaintiff-appellant, Maria Elena Martinez ("Martinez"), is the wife of now deceased Argentine textile plant worker Santos Roque Rocha ("Rocha"). Her complaint alleges that her husband suffered injuries while employed by DASRL. The Superior Court dismissed Martinez's complaint pursuant to Superior Court Civil Rules 8 and 9 for inadequate pleading, for failure to state a claim under Superior Court Civil Rule 12(b)(6), for failure to join a necessary party under Superior Court Civil Rule 19, and on forum non conveniens grounds.

In this direct appeal, Martinez challenges each of the Superior Court's independent and alternate grounds for dismissal. We have concluded that the Superior Court properly exercised its discretion in dismissing the Complaint on the basis of forum non conveniens. Therefore, we do not reach or address the other issues.

A forum non conveniens motion is addressed to the trial court's sound discretion.[3] On review, this Court determines "whether the findings and conclusions of the Superior Court are supported by the record and are the product of an orderly and logical [reasoning] process. If they are, whether or not reasonable people could differ on the conclusions to be drawn from the record, this Court must affirm . .. ."[4]

Delaware's jurisprudence in forum non conveniens cases is well established. Where there is no issue of prior pendency of the same action in another jurisdiction, our analysis is guided by what are known as the "Cryo-Maid factors":[5]

(1) the relative ease of access to proof;
(2) the availability of compulsory process for witnesses;
(3) the possibility of the view of the premises;
(4) whether the controversy is dependent upon the application of Delaware law which the courts of this State more properly should decide ...

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