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May 2023

Gordon & Rees Foils Forum-Shopping Plaintiffs

Partner Chris Strunk and associate Brikk Bralley recently won a motion to stay California litigation pursuant to forum non conveniens, which is rarely granted, in a case involving long-time Connecticut residents who claimed exposure to the firm's clients’ talc products in California for a brief period years ago. The plaintiffs filed an appellate petition for a writ to overturn the order, arguing that (1) because one plaintiff was dying and they might be entitled to a preferential trial setting in California, the “interests of justice” required that the forum non motion be denied, and (2) that a key appellate decision helping defendants win such motions was wrongly decided and should be overturned.

Mr. Strunk then enlisted appellate practice group co-chair Don Willenburg, who teamed with Ms. Bralley to help oppose the petition. Their efforts were successful. The Court of Appeal summarily denied the petition, maintaining the stay imposed by the trial court. The court thereby refused the invitation to create a “preference exception” to California’s forum non conveniens statute or to revisit the settled authority. While the unpublished summary disposition cannot be cited as precedent, it is a total victory for our clients. It gives reason for hope that both the trial court for the consolidated Los Angeles asbestos cases and its Court of Appeal would make similar decisions in the future.  

Brikk E. Bralley
Christopher D. Strunk
Don Willenburg