Choice of Court Provision Found Enforceable

The person who starts a lawsuit normally has some choice where to bring the lawsuit. Specifically, in New York, a person injured in an accident can bring the lawsuit either where the injured party resides or where the defendant resides or does business, unless there is a rule to the contrary. Sometimes when there is a contract between the parties the contract will state the venue where any future dispute will be litigated, whether in court or through arbitration, and the location of the litigation. When you purchase a cruise ship ticket it likely has a provision setting forth the location where any lawsuit must be brought, and the time period in which it must be brought. The Courts of upheld these provisions stating that the buyer of the ticket has a choice to buy the ticket or not. The issue recently was litigated in a case of a hotel, where the patron pre-paid for the stay, but was not informed of the choice of forum restrictions until they checked in to the hotel and asked to sign an agreement that included it. During the stay at the hotel the plaintiff tripped and fell and suffered injuries. The plaintiff lived in Queens where she originally started the case. However, the Court upheld a transfer of the case to Warren County where the hotel was, based on the forum selection cause. The court held that:

A contractual forum selection clause is prima facie valid and enforceable unless it is shown by the challenging party to be unreasonable, unjust, in contravention of public policy, invalid due to fraud or overreaching, or it is shown that a trial in the selected forum would be so gravely difficult that the challenging party would, for all practical purposes, be deprived of its day in court'" (KMK Safety Consulting, LLC v. Jeffrey M. Brown Assoc., Inc., 72 AD3d 650, 651, quoting LSPA Enter., Inc. v. Jani-King of N.Y., Inc., 31 AD3d 394, 395). Here, the fact that the Rental Agreement containing the forum selection clause was presented to the plaintiffs at registration and was not the product of negotiation does not render it unenforceable (see Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute, 499 US 585; DiRuocco v. Flamingo Beach Hotel & Casino, Inc., 163 AD2d 270). The plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that enforcement of the forum selection clause would be unreasonable or unjust, or would contravene public policy, or that the clause is invalid because of fraud or overreaching (see Pratik Apparels, Ltd. v. Shintex Apparel Group, Inc., 96 AD3d 922, 923). They further failed to demonstrate that a trial in the selected forum of Warren County would, for all practical purposes, deprive them of their day in court (see KMK Safety Consulting, LLC v. Jeffrey M. Brown Assoc., Inc., 72 AD3d at 651).
The case was Molino v. The Sagamore which was decided by the Appellate Division Second Department. Where a case is litigated can effect the result, whether a criminal trial (see O.J. Simpson) or a civil trial. Such is why these clauses are put into agreements, and it is something that you should be aware of when you sign such a document.

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