(CN) – The 5th Circuit declined to reconsider a panel decision requiring Mexican citizens injured in car accidents involving Ford SUVs and Firestone tires to litigate their product liability claims in Mexican courts.
Several injured Mexicans sued in federal court in Texas, and their case was transferred to a multidistrict litigation court Indiana, where it was consolidated with more than 700 similar cases against Ford and Firestone. At the same time, the Indiana court absorbed another case, Manez, involving Mexican citizens.
Ford and Firestone asked the federal court to transfer the Manez case to Mexican courts, and the district court agreed.
But the 7th Circuit remanded for a probe into two Mexican court orders stating that the case could not be tried in Mexico.
The Indiana court scrutinized the orders and determined that the plaintiffs’ attorneys had tried to manipulate the forum. It cited attorney emails discussing how one Mexican judge “confirmed that she would throw out the suit according to what we planned.”
The Indiana judge dismissed the case, saying Mexico was the more convenient venue.
After that dismissal, the multidistrict litigation court asked all parties to show why their cases should not be dismissed. The Mexican plaintiffs insisted that Mexico was not an available forum, based on several dismissal orders from the Mexican courts, which held that tort cases involving foreign defendants can’t be tried in Mexico.
The court agreed and returned the case to a federal court in Texas, where Ford and Firestone again moved to have the case transferred to Mexico.
U.S. District Judge Harry Hudspeth denied the motion, saying he thought the defendants were only trying to put off the trial.
Ford and Firestone asked the 5th Circuit to force Hudspeth to reconsider the Indiana court’s decision, and the three-judge panel granted their motion.
“Petitioners submitted to jurisdiction in Mexico,” Judge Jerry Smith wrote, “and our caselaw plainly holds that Mexico is an available forum.”
A majority of 5th Circuit judges voted not to rehear the case before the full court.