Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Dianna B. Shew

First Page



When a foreign plaintiff sues a United States-based multinational for damages resulting from an extraterritorial toxic tort, the case should be tried in United States courts. The courts are assured of personal jurisdiction as long as there are sufficient contacts between the foreign subsidiary and the United States. Dismissal on grounds of forum non conveniens is not desirable because the United States has a vested interest in monitoring and even influencing the behavior of multinationals that do business within its borders. The requisite "adequate alternative forum" is simply not available in some countries. In addition, despite their case backload, United States courts are relatively unfettered when compared with foreign courts. The availability of juries, the existence of efficient procedures and the contingent fee system make the United States a natural forum for large-scale litigation by non-corporate plaintiffs. Allowing plaintiffs to litigate these cases in United States courts will encourage forum shopping unless attorneys' fees are limited, damages are "capped," or both. Since limiting damages puts the plaintiff in an inferior bargaining position and may deprive him of adequate compensation for his injuries, limiting attorneys' fees is a better way to discourage forum shopping. Finally, one United States procedure that will have to be modified to accommodate trials of extraterritorial toxic torts is discovery. In the interests of fairness and international goodwill, our liberal discovery rules must be tightened.