The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has determined that a federal district court properly dismissed, on inconvenient forum grounds, an action brought by Chinese residents alleging injury from melamine-tainted infant formula manufactured in China. Tang v. Synutra Int’l Inc., No. 10-1487 (4th Cir., decided September 6, 2011). The contamination sickened approximately 300,000 infants in China in 2008 and purportedly led to the deaths of six. One of the Chinese manufacturers that produced the tainted formula is a subsidiary of a U.S.-based company, so the parents of some of the afflicted children brought suit against it in a U.S. court.
The appeals court agreed with the district court that China is an available, adequate and more convenient forum to redress the plaintiffs’ claims. While noting that Chinese courts and government officials took efforts to discourage citizens from using the judicial system to seek redress, the court also indicated that the manufacturers involved in the scandal agreed to fund a government compensation program. According to both courts, the availability of the compensation fund and the plaintiffs’ eligibility to be compensated under that fund support a finding that a remedy is available to them in China. So ruling, the Fourth Circuit determined that the forum non conveniens doctrine does not limit adequate alternative remedies to judicial ones.