What is Forum Shopping: An In-depth Analysis

Explore the intricacies of forum shopping, its implications, legal standpoints, and how it shapes the course of legal battles in our comprehensive guide.
What is Forum Shopping: An In-depth Analysis

Table of Contents:

  1. Understanding Forum Shopping

  2. Reasons behind Forum Shopping

  3. Implications of Forum Shopping

  4. Legal Viewpoints on Forum Shopping

  5. Forum Shopping in Different Jurisdictions

  6. Strategies to Prevent Forum Shopping 

  7. Forum Shopping in International Law

  8. Strategies to Prevent Forum Shopping

  9. Forum Shopping in International Law

  10. Forum Shopping in the Digital Age

  11. Forum Shopping: A Necessary Evil?

  12. Controlling Forum Shopping

  13. Forum Shopping: Case Study

  14. Conclusion 

Understanding Forum Shopping

Forum Shopping refers to the practice where a party involved in a lawsuit strategically chooses a court or jurisdiction that they believe will provide them with the most favourable outcome. The selection could be based on various factors, such as procedural advantages, sympathetic judges, convenient location, or established case law that's advantageous to the party's case.

This legal strategy is usually adopted in situations where more than one court is competent to hear the case, allowing the plaintiff to 'shop around' for a court that will be most beneficial to their cause. However, it's worth noting that the concept of forum shopping is often subject to controversy, being viewed negatively by many legal scholars and practitioners, primarily because it can distort the natural course of justice.

Reasons behind Forum Shopping

The motives driving parties to resort to forum shopping can be diverse, and understanding these motivations is key to grasping the overall phenomenon.

Procedural Advantages: The chosen jurisdiction may offer more streamlined, faster, or simpler procedures than other courts.

Legal Advantages: The interpretation of the law may differ between jurisdictions. For instance, the precedent in one jurisdiction may be more favourable to a party's case than in another.

Emotional Factors: Sometimes, the decision is not strictly legal or strategic. A party might prefer a particular court because they perceive it as being more understanding, fair, or sympathetic to their cause.

Implications of Forum Shopping

Forum shopping can have a significant impact on the legal system, and the implications can be manifold:

Threat to Impartial Justice: The primary criticism against forum shopping is that it has the potential to undermine the impartiality of the justice system. By allowing parties to choose the court that is most likely to rule in their favor, it could lead to biased outcomes, favoring those with the resources to manipulate the system.

Inequality among Litigants: It might lead to a situation where the more resourceful party, often the plaintiff, has an upper hand in dictating the course of the legal battle.

Burden on Courts: Forum shopping can lead to a burden on popular courts, slowing down their processes and leading to a backlog of cases. This results in delayed justice for all litigants involved.

Legal Viewpoints on Forum Shopping

Forum shopping is typically frowned upon by the legal fraternity. Most legal systems around the world have put measures in place to prevent or discourage it, as it goes against the principle of impartial justice.

Courts tend to discourage forum shopping by interpreting statutes and rules in ways that limit the ability of parties to select amongst multiple forums. However, it's important to note that these measures are not always effective, and often, the plaintiff's choice of forum will still have a significant influence on the outcome of the case.

Forum Shopping in Different Jurisdictions

Different jurisdictions have varying attitudes and rules about forum shopping. Some countries or states have laws that explicitly limit the practice, while others have rules that indirectly discourage it.

In the United States, for example, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for transfer of venue in the interest of justice or for the convenience of parties and witnesses. Similarly, in India, the Civil Procedure Code provides for transfer of suits in cases where a fair and impartial trial is not possible.

In contrast, jurisdictions like the European Union have established rules that help determine the court with jurisdiction, in a bid to limit forum shopping.

Strategies to Prevent Forum Shopping

There are various strategies that legal systems may adopt to discourage or limit forum shopping:

Uniformity in laws: One approach could be to create uniformity in laws across different jurisdictions to reduce the incentive for forum shopping. However, this might be difficult to achieve, particularly in large countries with federal systems of government.

Rules on jurisdiction: Setting strict rules on jurisdiction can help limit forum shopping. Courts can only hear cases that have a significant connection to their jurisdiction.

Transfer and removal of cases: Allowing for transfer or removal of cases to a more appropriate forum can help combat forum shopping. Judges can have the discretion to transfer cases if they believe that the plaintiff has engaged in forum shopping.

Limitations on choice of law: Restricting parties' ability to choose the law applicable to their dispute can also limit forum shopping.

Forum Shopping in International Law

The concept of forum shopping is not just limited to national courts; it's also prevalent in international law. In international law, forum shopping can be seen in two main situations:

1. International Commercial Arbitration: In international commercial arbitration, parties can choose the place (legal seat) of arbitration, which determines the procedural laws applicable to the arbitration. Therefore, parties often choose places of arbitration that have favorable procedural laws.

2. International Human Rights Law: In international human rights law, victims often have multiple options to bring their claims. For example, a victim of human rights abuse in a European country could bring their case before a domestic court, the European Court of Human Rights, or potentially even the International Criminal Court.

Forum Shopping in the Digital Age

The rise of the internet and e-commerce has given a new dimension to forum shopping. In cases related to the internet, determining the appropriate jurisdiction can be particularly challenging. For example, if an individual in Country A creates a website that is hosted on a server in Country B and is accessed by a user in Country C, causing them harm, which jurisdiction should hear the case?

This has led to a phenomenon sometimes referred to as 'cyber forum shopping', where litigants try to sue in jurisdictions that are more likely to find that they have jurisdiction over cases related to the internet.

Forum Shopping: A Necessary Evil?

While forum shopping is often seen as a negative practice, it's worth noting that some legal experts argue that it can have some benefits. For example, it can lead to a form of 'competition' between courts to improve their rules and procedures. Additionally, forum shopping can sometimes help to ensure that cases are heard in the most appropriate forum.

However, the consensus remains that excessive forum shopping can lead to unfair outcomes and a lack of predictability in the legal system, which is why many legal systems seek to limit its occurrence.

Controlling Forum Shopping

As forum shopping can lead to disparities in justice and hinder legal predictability, it's crucial to establish mechanisms to control this practice. Let's explore some of the commonly employed strategies:

1. Jurisdictional Rules: Jurisdictions can implement strict rules regarding when a court can hear a case, which can limit forum shopping. For instance, a court may require a certain level of connection between the issue at hand and the jurisdiction of the court.

2. Anti-Suit Injunctions: These are orders given by courts to parties to halt proceedings in another jurisdiction. It is a preventative measure to stop parties from simultaneously pursuing the same matter in different jurisdictions.

3. Lis Pendens and Res Judicata: These legal doctrines are used to prevent the same dispute from being litigated in multiple jurisdictions. Lis Pendens prevents a case from being initiated in a different jurisdiction once legal proceedings have already begun, while Res Judicata prohibits the same case from being re-litigated once a decision has been made.

4. Treaty Provisions: International treaties often include provisions to limit forum shopping. For instance, the Brussels I Regulation in the European Union regulates jurisdiction and enforcement of judgments among member states, thereby controlling forum shopping.

Forum Shopping: Case Study

To further illustrate the concept of forum shopping, let's consider a hypothetical case study:

Company A, based in the United States, has a dispute with Company B in Germany. Both companies previously agreed in a contract that any dispute would be arbitrated in Switzerland, due to its neutral laws and arbitration-friendly courts.

However, Company A realizes that the United States courts are more likely to rule in its favor, and so it starts proceedings in the U.S. This is a clear case of forum shopping, as Company A is attempting to litigate in a forum it perceives to be more advantageous.

The above example elucidates how forum shopping can occur in the context of international commercial arbitration.


Forum shopping, while often viewed negatively due to its potential to undermine fairness, continues to be a strategic consideration for litigants. Understanding the concept of forum shopping is crucial for lawyers, who must navigate these considerations while advocating for their clients.

While efforts have been made to curtail this practice, its existence brings to the fore the need for global uniformity in law enforcement and adjudication. Until such uniformity is achieved, forum shopping will continue to play a pivotal role in litigation strategy.

Subhash Ahlawat
Subhash Ahlawat
Jun 13
5 min read