GARY BRADBURY V TRW VEHICLE SAFETY SYS INCAnnotate this Case
STATE OF MICHIGAN
COURT OF APPEALS
December 8, 1998
TRW VEHICLE SAFETY SYSTEMS, INC., and
FORD MOTOR COMPANY,
Wayne Circuit Court
LC No. 96-607309 NO
Before: Murphy, P.J., and Fitzgerald and Gage, JJ.
Plaintiff appeals as of right the trial court’s order granting defendant TRW Vehicle Safety
Systems, Inc.’s motion to dismiss based on forum non conveniens.1 We affirm.
Plaintiff first contends that the trial court erred in failing to articulate on the record its reasons for
granting defendant’s motion. Although the trial court did not explain the reasons underlying its decision
to grant defendant’s motion, this failure does not necessarily constitute error requiring reversal.
Generally, unless otherwise required by court rule, decisions on motions do not require findings of fact.
MCR 2.517(A)(4); Michigan Nat’l Bank v Metro Institutional Food Service, Inc, 198 Mich App
236, 241-242; 497 NW2d 225 (1993).2 Furthermore, because plaintiff ultimately fails to demonstrate
that the trial court abused its discretion in granting defendant’s motion to dismiss, we may affirm the trial
court’s decision without remanding for a clarification of the bases for its ruling. Michigan Nat’l Bank,
supra at 242.
Plaintiff argues that an analysis of the factors set forth in Cray v General Motors Corp,
389 Mich 382, 396; 207 NW2d 393 (1973), establishes that this case should remain in Michigan, and
that the trial court erred in concluding otherwise. We review a trial court’s decision regarding a motion
to dismiss on the basis of forum non conveniens for an abuse of discretion. Russell v Chrysler Corp,
443 Mich 617, 621; 505 NW2d 263 (1993). An abuse of discretion exists when an unprejudiced
person, considering the facts on which the trial court acted, would say there was no justification or
excuse for the ruling made. Auto Club Ins Ass’n v State Farm Ins Cos, 221 Mich App 154, 167;
561 NW2d 445 (1997).
The principle of forum non conveniens establishes the right of a court to resist imposition
on its jurisdiction although such jurisdiction could properly be invoked. Cray, supra at 395. It
presupposes that there are at least two possible choices of forum. Id. The courts are charged to
consider the plaintiff’s choice of forum and to weigh carefully the relative advantages and disadvantages
of jurisdiction and the ease of and obstacles to a fair trial in this state. Id. at 396. More specifically, a
court should balance the following factors in determining whether to invoke the forum non conveniens
1. The private interest of the litigant.
a. Availability of compulsory process for attendance of unwilling and the cost of
obtaining attendance of willing witnesses;
b. Ease of access to sources of proof;
c. Distance from the situs of the accident or incident which gave rise to the
d. Enforceability of any judgment obtained;
e. Possible harassment of either party;
f. Other practical problems which contribute to the ease, expense and
expedition of the trial;
g. Possibility of viewing the premises.
2. Matters of public interest.
a. Administrative difficulties that may arise in an area, which may not be present
in the area of origin;
b. Consideration of the state law that must govern the case;
c. People who are concerned by the proceeding.
3. Reasonable promptness in raising the plea of forum non conveniens.
Id. at 395-396.
An analysis of the Cray factors in light of the instant record establishes that many factors
favor defendant, including the timeliness of its plea, the fact that most of the res gestae witnesses
essential to defendant’s defense reside elsewhere, and, in light of the fact that Michigan is not the situs of
the accident or the location where the alleged negligent conduct occurred, ease of access to sources of
proof. We also consider the burdened Wayne County dockets and the fact that there is only a slight
nexus between the chosen forum and the incidents that gave rise to plaintiff’s complaint. Holme v
Jason’s Lounge, 168 Mich App 132, 135; 423 NW2d 585 (1988). Those factors that weigh in favor
of maintaining the case in Michigan include plaintiff’s residency, the location of his treating physicians in
Michigan, and the amount of time that has passed between the time plaintiff filed his complaint and
defendant’s motion was granted. The other factors--enforceability of any judgment and matters of
public interest--weigh evenly in favor of neither party.
Because our review of the record indicates that plaintiff’s residence constitutes the only
significant Michigan connection to the instant case and that it is a close question regarding which
witnesses, who are located throughout Michigan, Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania and
elsewhere, will be available to which party in any of the fora available to plaintiff, we cannot conclude
that the trial court abused its discretion in granting defendant’s motion to dismiss the case. Auto Club
Ins Ass’n, supra.
/s/ William B. Murphy
/s/ E. Thomas Fitzgerald
/s/ Hilda R. Gage
The trial court granted Ford Motor Company’s motion for summary disposition. While Ford Motor
Company did file an appearance in this appeal, none of plaintiff’s issues on appeal involve defendant
Although MCR 2.517(A)(4) does not compel the trial court to elaborate on the record its findings of
fact regarding defendant’s motion, we direct the trial court’s attention to the following rationale
underlying MCR 2.517’s fact finding requirement:
The purpose of MCR 2.517 is to aid the appellate court by affording it a clear
understanding of the grounds or the basis for the trial court decision. Another purpose
of the rule is to make definite just what was decided in the case; this information is
essential to apply the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel in future cases
which might arise. Lastly, and perhaps most important, the court rule forces the trial
judge to take great care in examining the facts and ruling thereon. [3 Martin, Dean &
Webster, Michigan Court Rules Practice, p 302.]
We note that, though MCR 2.517’s fact finding requirement technically does not apply to defendant’s
motion, this reasoning behind the rule does apply to the balancing of factors required in the trial court’s
instant forum non conveniens inquiry. In a complex, fact-specific determination such as this, the court’s
enunciation of its reasoning reflects that it actually ascertained the facts and considered them in ruling on
the motion with care, thus clarifying a basis for the court’s decision, and in turn fostering a sense of
public confidence in the integrity and workings of the judiciary to the extent that an unexplained ruling