Quackenbush v. Allstate Ins. Co., 517 U.S. 706, 17 (1996)

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722

QUACKENBUSH v. ALLSTATE INS. CO.

Opinion of the Court

(1947), in which we considered whether a Federal District Court sitting in diversity in New York could dismiss a tort action for damages on the grounds that Virginia provided a more appropriate locale for adjudicating the dispute. Id., at 503. We conceded that the application of this doctrine should be "rare," id., at 509, but also held that the exercise of forum non conveniens is not limited to actions in equity:

"This Court[,] in recognizing and approving it by name has never indicated that it was rejecting application of the doctrine to law actions which had been an integral and necessary part of [the] evolution of the doctrine. Wherever it is applied in courts in other jurisdictions, its application does not depend on whether the action is at law or in equity." Id., at 505, n. 4 (citations omitted).

The dispute in Gulf Oil was over venue, not jurisdiction, and the expectation was that after dismissal of the suit in New York the parties would refile in federal court, not the state courts of Virginia. This transfer of venue function of the forum non conveniens doctrine has been superseded by statute, see 28 U. S. C. 1404(a); Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U. S. 235, 253 (1981), and to the extent we have continued to recognize that federal courts have the power to dismiss damages actions under the common-law forum non conveniens doctrine, we have done so only in "cases where the alternative forum is abroad." American Dredging Co. v. Miller, 510 U. S. 443, 449, n. 2 (1994); see, e. g., Piper, supra, at 265-269 (dismissal of wrongful death action).

The fact that we have applied the forum non conveniens doctrine in this manner does not change our analysis in this case, where we deal with the scope of the Burford abstention doctrine. To be sure, the abstention doctrines and the doctrine of forum non conveniens proceed from a similar premise: In rare circumstances, federal courts can relinquish their jurisdiction in favor of another forum. But our abstention doctrine is of a distinct historical pedigree, and the tradi-

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