Copyright (c) 1994 St. Thomas Law Review
St. Thomas Law Review
FORUM SELECTION CLAUSES IN FLORIDA
6 St. Thomas L. Rev. 247
Brian Mattis *
Because of an erroneous decision by its Supreme Court, Florida is one of the very few states in the country where lawyers cannot take full advantage of forum selection clauses in the contracts they negotiate or draft for their clients.
The purpose of this Article is to explore the status of Florida law with regard to forum selection clauses. In the past decade there have been many changes in this area of the law, and a recent decision by the United States Supreme Court will likely increase litigation over such clauses.
Forum selection clauses allow contracting parties to either expand or limit the number of courts where they may litigate disputes arising from the contract. 1 Typically, the parties to a transaction or relationship agree in advance to litigate all resultant controversies in a particular forum or forums. Such clauses can be used for the purpose of choosing a neutral forum, or for the purpose of giving one party the "home court" advantage. A forum selection clause is often coupled with a choice of law clause.
Prior to 1972, a majority of American courts refused to enforce forum selection clauses, reasoning that such clauses tended to "oust" courts of jurisdiction and were, therefore, against public policy. In 1972, the Supreme Court of the United States enforced a forum selection clause under its admiralty jurisdiction in M/S Bremen v. Zapata Off-Shore Co. 2 The Court held that when a contract involves an "arm's-length negotiation ...
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