Judge Harold Baer
Florida-based Steiner Leisure is a global provider of Elemis brand skin and body care products. New York-based Bliss World is Steiner’s “spa division.” Steiner’s British subsidiary Elemis oversees distribution of Elemis brand products. The 2012 lawsuit by Hong Kong’s South China Cosmetics and Courageous arose from two June 2011 agreements by which Elemis and Bliss allegedly took over and destroyed—from Bliss’ New York headquarters—South China’s business as exclusive distributor of Elemis brand products within Hong Kong, and also Courageous’s operation of the Elemis Day Spa in Hong Kong. District court dismissed South China’s and Courageous’s suit for forum non conveniens. Their forum choice was not motivated by genuine convenience and was therefore entitled little deference. More importantly key witnesses live in Hong Kong or London, and the two contracts at the heart of the parties’ dispute were concluded and executed in Hong Kong. Noting prior rulings deeming Hong Kong an adequate forum for contract and tort actions, district court found defendants showed Hong Kong an adequate alternative forum. The balancing of private and public interests further favored Hong Kong as the lawsuit’s forum.