Forum non conveniens

Latin for ‘inconvenient/inappropriate forum’. Forum non conveniens is a common law principle that allows a court to dismiss a civil matter where it has jurisdiction on the basis that a more appropriate or convenient forum exists in which to hear the matter. Appropriateness and convenience are determined with regard to the interests of both parties to the matter, and the just resolution of the legal issues.

In Australian law, the requirement for a forum non conveniens order is that the court be a “clearly inappropriate forum” (Oceanic Sun Line Special Shipping Co Inc v Fay), in light of applicable principles. These principles were discussed in the case of Voth v Manildra Flour Mills Pty Ltd and later, more concisely in Henry v Henry (1996) 185 CLR 571 at 587:

“In Voth, this Court adopted for Australia the test propounded by Deane J in Oceanic Sun, namely, that a stay should be granted if the local court is a clearly inappropriate forum, which will be the case if continuation of the proceedings in that court would be oppressive, in the sense of “seriously and unfairly burdensome, prejudicial or damaging”, or, vexatious, in the sense of “productive of serious and unjustified trouble and harassment” [Oceanic Sun, above at 247].”

Other relevant considerations include connecting factors, legitimate personal or juridicial advantage, parallel proceedings occurring in different jurisdictions, waste of costs, local professional standards, law of the local forum, foreign lex cases, and agreements to refer disputes to a foreign court.