FRESH RESULTS, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, Plaintiff-Appellant,
ASF HOLLAND, B.V., a Dutch corporation, Defendant-Appellee, TOTAL PRODUCE, PLC, an Irish public limited company, Defendant.
from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Florida D.C. Docket No. 0:17-cv-60949-BB
WILLIAM PRYOR and NEWSOM, Circuit Judges, and ROSENTHAL,
WILLIAM PRYOR, CIRCUIT JUDGE
main issue presented by this appeal is whether the district
court abused its discretion when it dismissed a complaint for
forum non conveniens because it failed to consider
all relevant public factors for each forum after determining
that the private factors for the litigants were not in
equipoise. Fresh Results, an American company, arranged bulk
shipments of blueberries for ASF Holland, a Dutch company
that repacks wholesale produce to sell to European customers.
ASF Holland created reports about the results of its
inspection of the shipments, and those reports determined the
final price it paid for the blueberries. Fresh Results filed
a complaint against ASF Holland in the Southern District of
Florida, alleging that it had falsified the reports and
fraudulently deflated the price. ASF Holland moved to dismiss
the complaint on the ground that the Netherlands was a more
convenient forum for the suit, and the district court agreed.
After concluding that the interests of the litigants-the
so-called "private factors"-were not in equipoise,
the district court ruled that it need not consider all
relevant "public factors" for each forum and
dismissed the complaint so that the litigation could proceed
in the Netherlands. The district court derived the equipoise
standard from dicta in our precedent, La Seguridad v.
Transytur Line, 707 F.2d 1304, 1307 (11th Cir. 1983),
that we have since recited in dicta in other cases. Fresh
Results contends that the district court abused its
discretion when it weighed the private factors in favor of
dismissal and when it failed to consider the relevant public
factors. Because we agree that the district court abused its
discretion when it failed to consider the relevant public
factors and committed two errors in its analysis of the
private factors, we vacate and remand.
appeal concerns a blueberry deal that soured. Fresh Results,
an American company, acts as a sales agent for growers of
produce in South America. In 2015, Fresh Results arranged
bulk shipments of blueberries for two seasons for ASF
Holland, a Dutch company that buys wholesale produce to
repack and sell to customers in Europe.
initiate a shipment, ASF Holland would request blueberries
from Fresh Results at a reference price that purportedly
reflected its anticipated net returns. When Fresh Results
received the request, it would coordinate with the growers to
fulfill the order. The growers would send the blueberries
from South America directly to the Netherlands by air
freight. When the shipment arrived, ASF Holland was
responsible for inspecting, sorting, and repacking the
blueberries in a timely manner. It would then send Fresh
Results several reports on the shipment, with details of its
inspection, sorting, sales prices, and expenses. Fresh
Results used the reports to adjust the reference price and
create an invoice for ASF Holland with the final price. ASF
Holland would remit the invoice amount to Fresh Results in
the second season, one of the growers hired an auditor to
make an unannounced inspection of a blueberry shipment at ASF
Holland's facility in the Netherlands. The auditor
allegedly discovered that the blueberries were still in their
original freight package, even though ASF Holland had
reported to Fresh Results that the shipment had been
inspected, sorted, and repacked. After learning of the
auditor's inspection, Fresh Results demanded that ASF
Holland pay the market price for each shipment of blueberries
it had received, but ASF Holland refused.
Results filed a complaint, which it later amended, against
ASF Holland in the Southern District of Florida. Fresh
Results asserted claims of breach of contract, negligent
misrepresentation, fraud, conversion, and tortious
interference with its business relationship with the growers.
It alleged that ASF Holland fraudulently promised a high
reference price but then deflated the actual price it paid by
sending false reports. According to Fresh Results, ASF
Holland manipulated the price by understating the amount paid
by its European customers and by falsely inflating its
expenses in the reports. ASF Holland informed the district
court that it would pursue counterclaims against Fresh
Results for sending substandard blueberries.
Holland then moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to
state a claim and forum non conveniens. It argued
that the Netherlands was a more convenient forum for the
dispute. ASF Holland presented an affidavit from Ronald
Jongbloed, its managing director, in which he asserted that
the important documents and witnesses are in the Netherlands.
And it presented an affidavit from Sebastiaan Moolenaar, a
Dutch lawyer, in which he asserted that Fresh Results can
obtain relief for all its claims in the Netherlands and that
the United States has no treaty with the Netherlands for the
reciprocal enforcement of judgments.
district court granted the motion on the ground that
forum non conveniens warranted dismissal. Although
it explained that a strong presumption favors Fresh
Results' choice of forum, the court ruled that the
private factors weighed in favor of dismissal. It reasoned
that most sources of proof needed to prove Fresh Results'
claims are in the Netherlands, where the blueberries were
delivered, repacked, and sold and where the reports were
allegedly falsified. Although Fresh Results contended that
the South American growers were willing to participate in
litigation only in the United States and not in the
Netherlands, the district court disregarded the growers'
testimony as a source of proof because they were not parties.
And it weighed in favor of dismissal the possibility for view
of ASF Holland's facility in the Netherlands. Because the
United States has no treaty with the Netherlands for the
reciprocal enforcement of judgments, the court concluded that
Fresh Results would inevitably have to litigate in the
Netherlands to enforce a judgment if it obtained one, so it
weighed the enforceability of a judgment in favor of
district court decided that it need not consider the public
factors if the private factors were not "in equipoise or
near equipoise," relying on King v. Cessna Aircraft
Company, 562 F.3d 1374, 1382 (11th Cir. 2009) (quoting
La Seguridad, 707 F.2d at 1307). It then concluded
that all "the private interest factors align in favor of
Defendant's position and are thus not [in] equipoise,
[so] it need not engage in an exhaustive analysis of all
public interest factors." The court also concluded
that "[n]onetheless, the public interest factors favor
dismissal as well," but it discussed only one public
factor, choice of law, and weighed that factor in favor of
dismissal because Dutch law would likely apply. The court
dismissed the complaint for forum non conveniens and
declined to decide the other grounds for dismissal asserted
by ASF Holland.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
"[t]he forum non conveniens determination is
committed to the sound discretion of the trial court,"
we review for abuse of discretion. Piper Aircraft Co. v.
Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 257 (1981). "[W]here the court
has considered all relevant public and private interest
factors, and where its balancing of these ...