Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Case of the Day: Wonderworks Pte. v. Hewlett Packard Co., 2016 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 3566 (May 16, 2016)


Plaintiff Wonderworks is a Singaporean corporation, wholly owned and managed by a California resident. There are three defendants: Hewlett-Packard Co. ("HPC"), a Delaware corporation principally doing business in Palo Alot, California; Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Services, LLC ("HPES"), whose principal place of business is in Texas, and; Hewlett-Packard Malaysia ("HPM"), incorporated and doing business in Malaysia.

HPM obtained a contract with the central bank of Malaysia, and asked Wonderworks to join in the bid. Wonderworks allegedly expended more than $8 million to compose the computer programs required by its part of the bargain with HPM. Eventually, according to plaintiff, "due to its own incompetence and intentional misconduct[,]" the final product could not be delivered to the central bank of Malaysia. Thereafter, HPM refused to pay Wonderworks.

Defendants filed a forum non conveniens motion, petitioning the court to dismiss the case in favor of litigating in Malaysia. The trial court judge partially granted the motion, staying the case (rather than dismissing) until the case was adjudicated in Malaysia. Plaintiff appealed. On appeal, the court reversed, finding that many significant ties existed between the case and the plaintiff's chosen forum of California.


This is a relatively unusual result, because judges are often eager to dismiss a case and clear their docket through forum non conveniens motion whenever possible.

It is worth reading through the actual opinion and observe how deep into the weed the court wades in order to make the determination of whether the forum is convenient for the parties. In transnational litigation such as this one, forum non conveniens motion is a catch-all, mini-trial in the early stages where all evidence at parties' disposal is marshaled to cause or prevent the case from leaving the United States. Counsel should be prepared to litigate this point in the early stages.

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