Here is a great article from WorkBoat.com regarding forum selection clauses and their increasing addition to maritime contracts.
Read the full article at Workboat.com or in full below as well…
As we represent victims who have been injured on cruise ships, we’re quite familiar with with the major cruise lines’ forum selection clauses. These are the clauses within the ticket that passengers sign when booking their cruises that dictates where claims need to be filed and which court systems the cruise line can be sued in.
Forum selection causes are the reason why an injured passenger in Ohio or New York must bring suit in Miami for example…it’s what the cruise lines have stipulated in the contracts that their passengers have signed…
Timing is everything. But when disputes lead to formal legal action, the most important consideration might well be, as they say, “location, location, location.”
That’s why forum selection clauses are becoming increasingly popular in all types of maritime contracts. From towage agreements to vessel charters, employment contracts and even cruise line tickets, industry players are taking advantage of their freedom to contract by stipulating (and limiting) where they can sue or be sued.
By including a forum selection clause in contracts, you can require that litigation arising out of the contract be brought only in the particular federal or state court forum of your choice. This can provide the tactical benefit of avoiding an unfriendly forum as well as promote savings on legal expenses by ensuring that legal battles are fought close to home.
Under maritime law, forum selection clauses are generally valid and enforceable, with courts traditionally respecting parties’ rights to demand and accept forum selection by contract.
However, there are exceptions to every rule. Sometimes your desired judicial locale can be challenged and possibly rejected. Typically, courts will overrule a forum selection contract if it is demonstrated that the agreement to be sued in a specified jurisdiction was the result of fraud or overreaching, or that trial in a particular venue would be so difficult and inconvenient that the other party would for all practical purposes be deprived of his day in court.
Also, laws in certain states may restrict the viability of a forum selection clause. In Louisiana, such provisions in most employment contracts are null and void. Other jurisdictions have held that unreasonable forum selection clauses cannot be enforced to the detriment of Jones Act seamen. Also, when the forum selection provisions are not clearly spelled out or use ambiguous language, they can be invalidated if challenged in court.
Do you have questions about why the cruise line is requiring you to bring suit in Florida or another venue outside of the state that you live?
Please call the cruise ship attorneys at Waks and Barnett, P.A. for answers to your questions.