Del Monte Fresh Produce
The plaintiffs Del Monte Fresh Produce Company and Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A., Inc.
incorporated in Delaware Florida, respectively and the defendants Dole Food Company, Inc. and Dole Fresh Fruit Company, incorporated in Hawaii and Nevada, respectively were developers, growers, processors and distributors of pineapples by profession. The plaintiff developed a new variety of extra sweet pineapples, which was named as MD-2 or the “Del Monte Gold Extra Sweet”.
The cultivation of this new variety of pineapple was commenced in Costa Rica. In the year1991, Cabo Marzo, which was a Costa Rican farm and one of Dole’s suppliers of pineapples, managed to procure Del Monte’s MD-2 plant material. Subsequently, Dole announced in the pineapple market that it had developed a new super sweet pineapple variety, which it named as the “Dole Premium Select”, in order to offer competition to the “Gold Extra Sweet” variety developed by Del Monte. Procedural History:
In the Southern District Court of Florida a complaint was filed by Del Monte against Dole for breach of section 1125 of the Lanham Act; violation of the Florida Trade Secret Act on account of misappropriation of trade secrets; conversion and the adoption of deceptive and unfair trade practices as per the provisions of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. The contention of Del Monte was that not only Cabo Marzo but also Dole were cognizant of the fact that the M-2 variety of pineapple was belonged solely to Del Monte.
In reply, Dole filed a motion seeking dismissal on the grounds of forum non conveniens. Issues legal question: The legal issue raised was whether a case that involved companies incorporated in the United States and conducting business operations in the United States could be dismissed on ground of forum non conveniens if an alternative forum was available. Broad holding: In instances where there is an absence of an adequate alternative forum and where dismissal of the case would not further public or private interest, the court may refuse to set aside a motion for dismissal.
Narrow holding: The Costa Rican court did not have the authority to sanction the remedy sought by the plaintiffs and these US corporations sold most of their products in the domestic market, therefore there had been an infringement of the US competition law; consequently, the court may refuse to allow a motion for dismissal on grounds of forum non conveniens. Doctrinal Reasoning: The court referred to Doe v. Sun Int’l Hotels.
, Ltd and held that choice of forum indicated by the plaintiff should not be changed, unless the facts of the case warranted such a change (Doe v. Sun Int’l Hotels. , Ltd , 1998). The court further opined, on the basis of Republic of Panama v. BCCI Holdings that there should exist, an adequate alternative forum and that adjudication in such a forum should be conducive to public and private interest (Republic of Panama v. BCCI Holdings , 1997).
It also held that adjudication in an alternative forum could totally deprive Del Monte of a remedy. Policy Reasoning: The doctrines established by the extant case law formed the basis for this decision and no change to the existing case law was effected. Miscellaneous: All the presiding judges were unanimous in their opinion. References Doe v. Sun Int’l Hotels. , Ltd , 20 F. Supp. 2d 1328 (S. D. Fla 1998). Republic of Panama v. BCCI Holdings , 119 F. 3d. 935 (11th Circuit Court 1997).