Legal Translation, Jurisdiction and Foreign Language Evidence

When a case involves parties and documentary evidence located in various countries, an issue of jurisdiction may arise. Typically, jurisdiction is determined by where the majority of the action took place. In a case involving the sale of a forged Picasso print, Plaintiff moved to dismiss the claim from New York jurisdiction on the basis that much of the documentary evidence was located in Switzerland and required a foreign language translation. Specifically, the print, several experts and the actual wrongdoing were all in New York. However, much of the documentary evidence and some witnesses were located in Switzerland.

In its decision denying the motion to dismiss, the court held that the fact that some evidence and witnesses are located in a foreign country “does not alone outweigh the strong nexus between this dispute and New York”. Further, “any materials or witnesses located abroad can easily be brought to New York” and “while this may require the Court to (provide foreign language translation) of foreign law, this fact alone is insufficient to support dismissal”.

In other words, the Court held that the fact foreign language translations or foreign language interpretation of witness testimony alone is not enough to grant a dismissal under either the doctrine of personal jurisdiction or forum non conveniens.
See David Tunick, Inc. v. Kornfeld, 813 F. Supp. 988 (US Dist. Court, SD NY, 1993).

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