(CN) - Several wrongful death lawsuits brought by survivors of the 152 passengers killed in a 2005 plane crash in the Venezuelan mountains should be litigated in Martinique, not the United States, the 11th Circuit ruled.
The Atlanta-based appeals court upheld a lower court's finding that the French Caribbean island of Martinique is a more convenient forum, even though a Florida company chartered the flight.
Newvac chartered West Caribbean Airways, a Colombian company, for round-trip flights from Martinique to Panama. On Aug. 16, 2005, Flight 708 crashed in the mountains of Venezuela, killing all 152 passengers and eight crew members.
Relatives of the deceased passengers, nearly all French citizens of Martinique, filed wrongful death actions in Miami federal court.
The district court acknowledged that it has jurisdiction under the Montreal Convention, to which France and the United States are signatories. The treaty stipulates that a lawsuit for damages stemming from an international plane crash can be brought in the country of the actual or contracting carrier.
Nonetheless, the district court said Martinique is a better forum for the consolidated cases.
The 11th Circuit found no flaws in the lower court's reasoning.
"[W]e cannot say that the district court abused its discretion in determining that the United States was an inconvenient forum for both parties in which to determine damages," Judge Barkett wrote.
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