LOCATION: Cuyahoga County Courthouse
DOCKET NO.: 89-1647
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1990-1991)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
CITATION: 499 US 585 (1991)
ARGUED: Jan 15, 1991
DECIDED: Apr 17, 1991
Gregory J. Wall - on behalf of the Respondents
Richard K. Willard - on behalf of the Petitioner
Facts of the case
Media for Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. ShuteAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 15, 1991 in Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 17, 1991 in Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute
William H. Rehnquist:
The opinion of the Court in No. 89-1647, Carnival Cruise Lines versus Shute will be announced by Justice Blackmun.
Harry A. Blackmun:
The respondents, Mr. and Mrs. Shute, live in the State of Washington and they had purchased passage for a pleasure cruise on a ship owned by the petitioner, Carnival Cruise Lines.
And the tickets contained a clause designating Florida Courts as the place for the resolution of any dispute.
The respondents boarded the cruise ship in Los Angeles, and on the cruise, Mrs. Shute was injured in a fall.
She filed suite in Federal Court in the State of Washington.
It granted summary judgment for the cruise line.
The Ninth Circuit reversed.
It held that the forum-selection clause should not be enforced because it was not freely bargained for and because the plaintiffs were physically and financially incapable in pursuing the litigation in Florida.
In an opinion filed today with the clerk, we reverse that judgment.
It is true that a freely negotiated forum-selection clause of course should be given full effect.
This clause, however, was not the subject of bargaining.
But nevertheless, a responsible forum clause in a forum contract of this kind may be permissible.
If this happens, a cruise could subject for lying to litigation in several places, so the cruise line has a special interest in limiting these fora.
Further, the clause is the helpful effect of sparing time and expense and determining where suits may be brought.
The present dispute does not an essentially a local one inherently more suited to resolution in Washington than in Florida.
The Shutes do not claim lack of notice of the clause.
They have not sustained, in our view, the heavy burden required to set aside the clause on grounds of inconvenience.
These clauses are subject to judicial scrutiny for fundamental fairness.
There is no indication here that petitioner selected Florida to discourage the pursuit of legitimate claims.
Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion and is joined therein by Justice Marshall.