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POOLE v. BROWN

February 14, 1989

CHRISTOPHER POOLE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
KEVIN BROWN, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HARRIS

 STANLEY S. HARRIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 This matter is before the Court on defendant's motion to dismiss. For the reasons set forth below, that motion is granted.

 Background

 This case stems from an attack on a child by a female Rhodesian Ridgeback. The alleged attack took place at the home of defendant while he was stationed in Kinshasa, Zaire. *fn1" Plaintiffs are citizens of the United Kingdom who are temporarily residing in Kinshasa, Zaire. Daniel Poole, age six at the time this suit was filed, was the child injured in the attack; Christopher Poole is his father.

 According to the complaint, the dog -- Jinga -- was owned by defendant, was a trained attack dog, and was caring for a recent litter of puppies. The complaint alleges that defendant knew that the dog was likely to attack a stranger, but that he took no precautions for the presence of plaintiffs (invited by defendant to his residence). *fn2" When defendant opened the door to admit plaintiffs, the dog attacked Daniel, inflicting serious injuries to his nose and lips. Because the dog had not been inoculated against rabies, the child had to undergo painful anti-rabies shots. The complaint further alleges that Daniel is permanently disfigured, has suffered pain and trauma, and will be forced to undergo further surgery. Defendant has moved to dismiss this case on the grounds of forum non conveniens.

 Discussion

 The seminal case on forum non conveniens is Gulf Oil v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 91 L. Ed. 1055, 67 S. Ct. 839 (1947). *fn3" Gulf Oil sets forth a number of factors to be applied by courts in declining jurisdiction on forum non conveniens grounds:

 
An interest to be considered, and the one likely to be most pressed, is the private interest of the litigant. Important considerations are the relative ease of access to sources of proof; availability of compulsory process for attendance of unwilling, and the cost of obtaining willing, witnesses; . . . and all other practical problems that make trial of a case easy, expeditious and inexpensive. . . . But unless the balance is strongly in favor of the defendant, the plaintiff's choice of forum should rarely be disturbed.
 
Factors of public interest also have place in applying the doctrine. . . . Jury duty is a burden that ought not to be imposed upon the people of a community which has no relation to the litigation.

 Id. at 508-09. In sum, the court's obligation is to weigh the three interests at stake: plaintiff's, defendant's, and the forum's. See Pain v. United Technologies Corp., 205 U.S. App. D.C. 229, 637 F.2d 775, 783 (D.C. Cir. 1980).

 Alternative Forum Availability

 The Court's initial responsibility *fn4" is to ensure that there is an alternative forum available and that the remedies provided are not so unsatisfactory as to render that forum inadequate. *fn5" See 15 Wright, Miller & Cooper at ยง 3828. Defendant asserts that Zaire, whose code and court system are modeled on those of Belgium, is an adequate alternative forum. Moreover, defendant cites article 261 of its code as proof that this cause of action also exists in the other forum:

 
Le proprietaire d'un animal, ou celiu [ sic ] qui s'en sert, pendant qu'il est a son usage, est responsable du dommage que l'animal a cause soit que l'animal fut sous sa garde, soit qu'il fut egare ou echappe. ...

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