This article represents an effort to understand some aspects surrounding the involvement of foreign claimants in collective litigation in the U.S. through the study of the Ford-Firestone rollover litigation. This case exhibits features that today are common to most product liability claims: a product designed or fabricated in the U.S. by an American corporation was marketed overseas, accidents occurred in other countries (as well as in the U.S.), and foreign victims chose to bring their claims to American courts instead of processing them in the jurisdictions where the accidents took place. Conversely, the defendant corporations have put all their efforts in having the cases dismissed in the U.S. and sent back to be tried in their countries of origin.
Of particular interest are the strategic reasons why Latin American disputants decided to file their claims in the U.S. instead of their countries of origin - where the accidents occurred - and the obstacles that they faced as well as the possible incentives of the American defendant corporations to prefer litigating in other fora. Interviews with several leading plaintiff and defense attorneys provided some of the most valuable sources of information about some critical aspects of the case and about the strategic reasons taken into account by Venezuelan claimants who bring their claims in the U.S.. This article concludes that litigants, like migratory birds, travel north or south in search of an advantageous venue. Part II offers an overview of the origins and development of the Ford-Firestone rollover litigation, from the initial involvement of governmental agencies in the U.S. as well as in Venezuela, to the filing of claims in American courts and the collection under the Multi-District Litigation scheme. Part III describes the circumstances surrounding foreign claimants, from the initial filing of their lawsuits to the reasons why they chose to litigate in the U.S., the obstacles they faced, and conversely, the incentives for the defendant companies to litigate in Latin America. Part IV concludes that as has business itself, forum shopping, or seeking the most advantageous venue in which to try a case, has gone global.
Manuel A. Gómez,
Like Migratory Birds- Latin American Claimants in U.S. Courts and the Ford-Firestone Rollover Litigation
, 281 Sw. J. L. & Trade Am. 11
Available at: http://ecollections.law.fiu.edu/faculty_publications/40