490 U.S. 495 (1989), 88-23, Lauro Lines v. Chasser

Docket Nº:No. 88-23
Citation:490 U.S. 495, 109 S.Ct. 1976, 104 L.Ed.2d 548, 57 U.S.L.W. 4543
Party Name:Lauro Lines v. Chasser
Case Date:May 22, 1989
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 495

490 U.S. 495 (1989)

109 S.Ct. 1976, 104 L.Ed.2d 548, 57 U.S.L.W. 4543

Lauro Lines

v.

Chasser

No. 88-23

United States Supreme Court

May 22, 1989

Argued April 17, 1989

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE SECOND CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Respondents -- passengers and representatives of the estates of passengers on a cruise ship hijacked by terrorists -- filed suit in the District Court against petitioner, the ship's owner, to recover damages for personal injuries and for the wrongful death of one passenger. Before trial, petitioner moved to dismiss the actions, citing the forum-selection clause printed on each passenger ticket, which purported to obligate passengers to institute any suit in connection with the contract in Italy and to renounce the right to sue elsewhere. The District Court denied the motions, holding that the ticket did not give passengers reasonable notice that they were waiving the opportunity to sue in a domestic forum. The Court of Appeals dismissed petitioner's appeal on the ground that the District Court's dismissal orders were interlocutory, and not appealable under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, holding that the orders did not fall within the exception to the rule of nonappealability carved out by the collateral order doctrine.

Held: An interlocutory order denying a defendant's motion to dismiss a damages action on the basis of a contractual forum-selection clause is not immediately appealable under § 1291. Such an order is not final in the usual sense, for it does not end the litigation on the merits but, on the contrary, ensures that the litigation will continue. Nor does the order fall within the narrow exception to the normal application of the final judgment rule known as the collateral order doctrine, for the order is not effectively unreviewable on appeal from final judgment. The right to be sued only in a particular forum, as compared to the right to avoid suit altogether, although not perfectly secured by an appeal after final judgment, is sufficiently vindicable at that stage and is not essentially destroyed if vindication is postponed until trial is completed. Moreover, the costs associated with unnecessary litigation, should it eventually [109 S.Ct. 1977] be decided that the District Court erred in trying the case, do not warrant allowing an immediate appeal of a pretrial order. That there may be a policy favoring enforcement of foreign forum-selection clauses goes to the merits of petitioner's claim that its ticket agreement requires that suit be filed in Italy and that the agreement should be enforced by the federal courts, but does not affect the appealability of a prejudgment

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order, which turns on the contours of the right asserted, not on the likelihood of eventual success on the merits.

844 F.2d 50, affirmed.

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. SCALIA, J., filed a concurring opinion.

BRENNAN, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

We granted certiorari to consider whether an interlocutory order of a United States District Court denying a defendant's motion to dismiss a damages action on the basis of a contractual forum-selection clause is immediately appealable under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 as a collateral final order. We hold that it is not.

I

The individual respondents were, or represent the estates of persons who were, passengers aboard the cruise ship Achille Lauro when it was hijacked by terrorists in the Mediterranean in October, 1985. Petitioner Lauro Lines s.r.1., an Italian company, owns the Achille Lauro. Respondents filed suits against Lauro Lines in the District Court for the Southern District of New York to recover damages for injuries sustained as a result of the hijacking and for the wrongful death of passenger Leon Klinghoffer. Lauro Lines moved before trial to dismiss the actions, citing the forum-selection clause printed on each passenger ticket. This clause purported to obligate the passenger to institute any suit arising in connection with the contract in Naples, Italy, and to renounce the right to sue elsewhere.

Page 497

The District Court denied petitioner's motions to dismiss, holding that the ticket as a whole did not give reasonable notice to passengers that they were waiving the opportunity to sue in a domestic forum. Without moving for certification for immediate appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b), Lauro Lines sought to appeal the District Court's orders. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit dismissed petitioner's appeal on the ground that the District Court's orders denying petitioner's motions to dismiss were interlocutory, and not appealable under § 1291. The court held that the orders did not fall within the exception to the rule of nonappealability carved out for collateral final orders in Cohen v. Beneficial Industrial Loan Corp., 337 U.S. 541 (1949). 844 F.2d 50 (1988). We granted certiorari to resolve a disagreement among the Courts of Appeals. 488 U.S. 887 (1988). Compare, e.g., 844 F.2d 50 (1988); Rohrer, Hibler & Replogle, Inc. v. Perkins, 728 F.2d 860, 862-863 (CA7), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 890 (1984) (holding prejudgment denial of motion to dismiss on basis of forum-selection clause not to be immediately appealable under § 1291), with Hodes v. S. N. C. Achille Lauro ed Altri-Gestione, 858 F.2d 905, 908 (CA3 1988), cert. dism'd, 490 U.S. 1001 (1989); Sterling Forest Associates, Ltd. v. Barnett-Range Corp., 840 F.2d 249, 253 (CA4 1988); Farmland Industries, Inc. v. Frazier-Parrott Commodities, Inc., 806 F.2d 848, 851 (CA8 1986) (holding such denial to be an immediately appealable collateral final order). We now affirm.

[109 S.Ct. 1978] II

Title 28 U.S.C. § 1291 provides for appeal to the courts of appeals only from "final decisions of the district courts of the United States." For purposes of § 1291, a final judgment is generally regarded as "a decision by the district court that `ends the litigation on the merits and leaves nothing for the court to do but execute the judgment.'" Van Cauwenberghe v. Biard, 486 U.S. 517, 521 (1988), quoting Catlin v. United

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States, 324 U.S. 229, 233 (1945). An order denying a motion to dismiss a civil action on the ground that a contractual forum-selection clause requires that such suit be brought in another jurisdiction is not a decision on the merits that ends the litigation. On the contrary, such an order "ensures that litigation will continue in the District Court." Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. v. Mayacamas Corp., 485 U.S. 271, 275 (1988). Section 1291 thus permits an appeal only if an order denying a motion to dismiss based upon a forum-selection clause falls within the "narrow exception to the normal application of the final judgment rule [that] has come to be known as the collateral order doctrine." Midland Asphalt Corp. v. United States, 489 U.S. 794, 798 (1989). That exception is for a "small class" of prejudgment orders...

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