(CN) – Italian courts should resolve a dispute over a stolen shipment of more than $4 million of pure platinum that Delta Airlines flew from Milan to Philadelphia, the 3rd Circuit ruled.
Italian company Chimet had hired Delta to ship 100 kilograms of pure platinum to Johnson Matthey Inc. in Pennsylvania. The shipment reached Philadelphia, but was stolen before it arrived at its final destination.
Delta filed a complaint in federal court, claiming an international treaty called the Montreal Convention caps its liability for the stolen platinum to an amount much lower than the actual value of platinum.
A federal judge granted Chimet’s motion to dismiss, concluding that Italian courts were better suited to resolve the dispute, as several critical documents, witnesses and third parties were in Italy.
Delta appealed, claiming the lower court had “abused its discretion by according insufficient deference to Delta’s choice of forum.”
The 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia disagreed and affirmed dismissal of the U.S. case.
The lower court “did evaluate Chimet’s arguments that Delta’s choice of forum deserved no deference, disagreed with this position, and then noted explicitly that it granted ‘considerable deference to Delta’s choice of forum,'” Judge Michael Chagares wrote for the three-judge panel.
Delta had argued that the documentary evidence in Italy was not needed to settle the dispute. It pointed to an “air waybill” document, claiming that Chimet failed to declare the value of the shipment on the form.
Though the waybill “does not include any explicit reference to a declared value,” the appeals court wrote, the dispute can’t “be conclusively resolved solely by examining” the document.
The court added that the “circumstances under which the shipment of cargo was lost in Pennsylvania are not relevant to determining whether Delta’s liability is limited under the Montreal Convention.”
“We agree with the district court that the locus of the alleged culpable conduct was Italy, not Pennsylvania,” Chagares wrote.