In Re: Standard Fruit Company, Standard Fruit and Steamship Co., Dole Food Company, Inc., and Dole Fresh Fruit Company--Appeal from 23rd District Court of Brazoria County

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Petitions for Writ of Mandamus Denied and Memorandum Opinion filed September 13, 2005

Petitions for Writ of Mandamus Denied and Memorandum Opinion filed September 13, 2005.

In The

Fourteenth Court of Appeals

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NO. 14-05-00697-CV

NO. 14-05-00698-CV

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IN RE STANDARD FRUIT COMPANY, STANDARD FRUIT AND

STEAMSHIP CO., DOLE FOOD COMPANY, INC. and DOLE FRESH FRUIT, Relators

ORIGINAL PROCEEDING

WRIT OF MANDAMUS

M E M O R A N D U M O P I N I O N

Relators filed two petitions for writ of mandamus in this court.[1] See Tex. Gov=t. Code Ann. ' 22.221 (Vernon 2004); see also Tex. R. App. P. 52. Relators assert the trial courts abused their discretion by granting reinstatement of the plaintiffs= claims after the cases were remanded by federal court.


Mandamus issues only to correct a clear abuse of discretion or the violation of a duty imposed by law where there is no adequate remedy by appeal. Walker v. Packer, 827 S.W.2d 833, 839 (Tex.1992). Even though a reviewing court may have decided the issue differently, it cannot disturb the trial court=s decision unless it is shown to be arbitrary and unreasonable. Id.

The real parties in interest in both proceedings are banana workers from Costa Rica who originally filed suits for damages in Texas courts in the early 1990s. One of the defendants in each case joined an Israeli company, Dead Sea Bromine Company, Ltd., and removed the cases to federal court, asserting that federal courts had jurisdiction because the Israeli company acted as an instrumentality of the State of Israel. In 1995, the federal court dismissed the cases on forum non conveniens grounds. The dismissal order contained a return jurisdiction clause requiring the real parties to prosecute their actions in good faith in Costa Rica and obtain a ruling from that country=s highest court that Costa Rican courts lacked jurisdiction over the claims.

Relators complain that the state court judges in these proceedings abused their discretion by reinstating the actions in state court without requiring the real parties to comply with the return jurisdiction clause in the federal court=s order. We disagree.

In 2004, after a ruling by the United States Supreme Court in a related case that Dead Sea Bromine Company, Ltd. is not an instrumentality of the Israeli government, the federal court dismissed the underlying cases for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The only jurisdiction the federal court had was to remand the cases to state court, which it did. Because the federal court lacked subject matter jurisdiction, its forum non conveniens order, including any requirements it imposed, is void. Therefore, the state courts could not have abused their discretion by failing to comply with a void order.


The relief sought in these petitions is based upon the trial courts= alleged failure to abide by the conditions contained in a federal court order that (1) did not apply to state court and (2) were part of a void order. Accordingly, we overrule relators= issues and deny the petitions for writ of mandamus.

PER CURIAM

Petition Denied and Memorandum Opinion filed September 13, 2005.

Panel consists of Justices Edelman, Seymore and Guzman.


[1] There are two underlying actions, cause number 93-CV-0030, in the 212th District Court of Galveston County and cause number 93-C-2290 in the 23rd District Court in Brazoria County. Although the orders complained of were issued by different courts, the substance of the orders and the relief sought are the same.