Renvoi: Lex Situs Conflictus

Canadian Conflict of Laws Blawg by Seva Batkin

Posts Tagged ‘forum shopping’

Of Love and Forum Shopping

Posted by Seva on October 9, 2008

Once upon a time there lived a man (M) in Windsor and a woman (W) in Michigan. They met, got engaged, M bought W a $15,000 ring, and they put a down-payment on a house in Michigan. Alas, this was not a “happily every after” story, and a dispute over title to the future matrimonial home led to a demise of this particular relationship. Lending credence to the old adage of hell and fury, the engagement ended with not one, but two legal action launched by W against M: one in Michigan, in relation to the now-sold matrimonial home, in which M countersued for the return of the ring and his portion of the down-payment; and one in Ontario, for a declaration that she is the lawful owner of the ring, and for payment of incurred wedding expenses. Faced with this barrage, M successfully moved to stay the Ontario action, arguing that Michigan, where most of the witnesses were located, was forum conveniens.

What it is interesting about the decision of Master Pope in Buxar v. Lukich is not just the (somewhat) droll subject matter, but the court’s recognition and disapproval of W’s actions, which effectively amounted to forum shopping. Specifically, the Master found that W’s action in Ontario was motivated by her desire to gain a juridical advantage, since Michigan law effectively precluded her claim for the engagement ring, deeming it to be a conditional gift to be completed upon marriage. Following the guidance of Amchem, which decried forum shopping, Master Pope weighed the forum shopping conclusion in favour of staying the action.

On the facts of the case, it is likely that the stay would have been granted anyways, since most of the Muscutt FNC factors clearly favoured Michigan. However, future litigants beware: a forum shopping litigant is not likely to find much love in Canadian courts.

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