Over the past two decades, U.S. courts have pursued a studied avoidance of transnational litigation. The resulting litigation isolationism appears to be driven by courts’ desire to promote separation of powers, international comity, and the interests of defendants. This Article demonstrates, however, that this new kind of “avoidance” in fact frequently undermines not only these values but also other significant U.S. interests by continuing to interfere with foreign relations and driving plaintiffs to sue in foreign courts.
This Article offers four contributions: First, it focuses the conversation about transnational litigation on those doctrines designed to avoid it—that is, doctrines that permit or require courts to dismiss a case based on its “foreignness.” Doing so helps to identify the particular concerns justifying this kind of avoidance and to evaluate them on their own terms. Second, the Article presents evidence of emerging foreign trends that increasingly (and surprisingly) permit traditionally American, plaintiff-friendly procedures, including higher damages awards, aggregate litigation, and third-party litigation financing. Third, the Article demonstrates that, particularly in light of these foreign trends, avoidance has failed to achieve its stated goals, and in many instances has undermined them. Finally, the Article suggests ways to refine avoidance doctrines to address these unintended consequences. Its more basic and urgent task, however, is to identify the growing phenomenon of litigation isolationism, highlight its perversities, and caution against its further expansion.