Jurisdiction 101 in a Maritime Casualty Case Brought in the U.S.

November 9, 2017

Types : Alerts

This is a good case to tuck away in your files under U.S. “jurisdiction” law.  Following a fire aboard a Roll-On Roll-Off vessel damaging millions of dollars’ worth of expensive cars, the owners and insurers of the cars brought suit in federal court in New York against the shipper, the charterer, owner and other related entities.  The shipper, a Belgian corporation with headquarters in Antwerp, moved to dismiss claiming, among other things, lack of personal jurisdiction and forum non conveniens.

The Court denied the motion.  Regarding the lack-of-personal-jurisdiction argument, the court found the Bill of Lading’s forum selection clause, which provided for exclusive jurisdiction over all claims in New York federal court, to be valid and enforceable against the shipper.  In addition, the Court reasoned that Rule 4(k)(d) — the federal long-arm statute allowing nationwide jurisdiction in certain circumstances — permitted jurisdiction over the Belgian shipper here.

In light of the forum selection clause, and lacking any unusual circumstances or public interest, the shipper’s improper venue and forum non conveniens arguments likewise failed.

Nothing particularly new or surprising in the case, but it provides a very helpful outline and summary of U.S. law on jurisdiction, venue, and forum non conveniens.  BMW of North America, LLC v. M/C Courage, in rem et al, ____F.Supp. 3d___ (2017), 2017 A.M.C. 1751 (SDNY, May 19, 2017).



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