U.S. Supreme Court
Lauro Lines v. Chasser, 490 U.S. 495 (1989)
Lauro Lines v. Chasser
Argued April 17, 1989
Decided May 22, 1989
490 U.S. 495
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 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 chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
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.