111 F.3d 33 (5th Cir. 1997), 96-31056, Mitsui & Co. (USA), Inc. v. Mira M/V

Docket Nº:96-31056
Citation:111 F.3d 33
Party Name:MITSUI & CO. (USA), INC., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. MIRA M/V, Defendant, Euro-Baltic Lines, Inc., Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:April 28, 1997
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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Page 33

111 F.3d 33 (5th Cir. 1997)

MITSUI & CO. (USA), INC., Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

MIRA M/V, Defendant,

Euro-Baltic Lines, Inc., Defendant-Appellee.

No. 96-31056

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

April 28, 1997

Page 34

        Rene S. Paysse, New Orleans, LA, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

        Gary Alan Hemphill, Terriberry, Carroll & Yancey, New Orleans, LA, for Defendant-Appellee.

        Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

        Before SMITH, DUHE and BARKSDALE, Circuit Judges.

        PER CURIAM:

        Appellant, Mitsui & Company (USA), Inc. ("Mitsui"), appeals dismissal of its cargo damage claim against Euro-Baltic Lines, Inc. ("Euro"). The district court correctly enforced the forum-selection clause in the bill of lading covering the shipment. We affirm.

        FACTS:

        Mitsui's cargo of steel was damaged in transit from Russia to New Orleans aboard the M/V MIRA, chartered by Euro. The cargo was carried pursuant to a bill of lading which Mitsui received after the cargo was loaded, not having negotiated the terms contained therein. The bill of lading contained both a forum-selection clause, providing that

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all disputes be adjudicated in London, England, and a choice-of-law provision, stating that if the bill of lading covered the transportation of goods to or from the United States, the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act ("COGSA") would control.

        Mitsui sued Euro and the M/V MIRA for the damage to its cargo. Mitsui later amended its suit to name two additional defendants, Atlantic Arcturus, Inc., and Reederei Horst Zeppenfeld GmbH & Co., KH, the owners and managers of the MIRA.

        Euro moved to dismiss on the basis of the forum-selection clause in the bill of lading. The district court granted the motion, dismissed Mitsui's lawsuit, and entered judgment in favor of Euro, determining that the forum-selection clause was enforceable pursuant to recent Supreme Court precedent. On Mitsui's motion, the district court subsequently vacated its judgment and once again dismissed Mitsui's claim against Euro. The court further provided Mitsui with one hundred and twenty days after final judgment within which to file suit in London, and certified the appeal under Rule 54(b). 1 Mitsui appealed.

DISCUSSION:

        We agree with those circuits that have addressed the issue that the enforceability of a forum-selection or arbitration clause is a question of law which is reviewed de novo. See, e.g., Shell v. R.W. Sturge, Ltd., 55 F.3d 1227, 1229 (6th Cir.1995); Hugel v. Corp. of Lloyd's, 999 F.2d 206, 207 (7th Cir.1993); Riley v. Kingsley Underwriting Agencies, Ltd., 969 F.2d 953, 956 (10th Cir.1992). The Supreme Court has consistently held forum-selection and choice-of-law clauses presumptively valid. Vimar Seguros y Reaseguros, S.A. v. M/V SKY REEFER, 515 U.S. 528, ----, 115 S.Ct. 2322, 2329, 132 L.Ed.2d 462 (1995) (foreign arbitration clause); Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute, 499 U.S. 585, 595, 111 S.Ct. 1522, 1528, 113 L.Ed.2d 622 (1991); M/S BREMEN v. Zapata Off-Shore Co., 407 U.S. 1, 15, 92 S.Ct. 1907, 1916, 32 L.Ed.2d 513 (1972); see also Kevlin Serv., Inc. v. Lexington State Bank, 46 F.3d 13, 15 (5th Cir.1995). The Court in BREMEN articulated the policy underlying the presumptive validity of these clauses:

The expansion of American business and industry will hardly be encouraged if, notwithstanding solemn contracts, we insist on a parochial concept that all disputes must be resolved under our laws and in our courts.... We cannot have trade and commerce in world markets and international waters exclusively on our terms, governed by our laws, and resolved in our courts.

        407 U.S. at 9, 92 S.Ct. at 1913. The Supreme Court has therefore instructed American courts to enforce such clauses in the interests of international comity and out of deference to the integrity and proficiency of foreign courts. Mitsubishi...

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