The case arises out of Korean Air Lines disaster of 1983, in which a Russian fighter jet shot down a KAL jet, killing all on board. The disaster engendered multiple lawsuits against KAL in different federal courts, each of which gave a conflicting procedural ruling. Later, the cases were transferred to a single venue and consolidated under 28 U.S.C. s. 1407 (as opposed to the all-purpose transfer under 28 U.S.C. s. 1404(a).) The issue, then, was: which ruling binds the case that was transferred out of its original district?
Previously the Supreme Court found that, in a state court case, the plaintiff may carry the favorable state law ruling to the new venue. In this case, however, the court found that there is no same justification for federal courts, because the federal courts must strive for unity.
An opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as an appellate judge! Her opening line: "This cases arises out of an air disaster and raises turbulent federal questions." This is a typical Ginsburg, a former civil procedure professor.