Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute

499 U.S. 585 (1991)


The Shutes (P), Washington state residents, purchased tickets on a Carnival Cruise (D) from a Washington travel agent. D's principal place of business was in Florida. The travel agent forwarded the monies to D. P received the tickets in the mail. The tickets referred to the terms of the contract printed on the back of the tickets. The face of each ticket, at its left-hand lower corner, contained this admonition: SUBJECT TO CONDITIONS OF CONTRACT ON LAST PAGES IMPORTANT! PLEASE READ CONTRACT - ON LAST PAGES 1, 2, 3' App. 15. The following appeared on 'contract page 1' of each ticket: 'TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF PASSAGE CONTRACT TICKET' 3. (a) The acceptance of this ticket by the person or persons named hereon as passengers shall be deemed to be an acceptance and agreement by each of them of all of the terms and conditions of this Passage Contract Ticket. 8. It is agreed by and between the passenger and the Carrier that all disputes and matters whatsoever arising under, in connection with or incident to this Contract shall be litigated, if at all, in and before a Court located in the State of Florida, U.S.A. to the exclusion of the Courts of any other state or country. The last quoted paragraph is the forum selection clause at issue. That contract included a forum selection clause requiring that all litigation be brought in Florida. Ps boarded the Tropicale in Los Angeles and sailed to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and then returned to Los Angeles. In international waters off the Mexican coast, Mrs. Shute P1 was injured when she slipped on a deck mat during a guided tour of the ship's galley. Ps sued D in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, claiming that P1's injuries had been caused by the negligence of D and its employees. D moved for a summary judgment, and the district court dismissed the suit for lack of personal jurisdiction. The court of appeals reversed; the forum selection clause was enforceable because but for the solicitation of business there would not have been an injury. With respect to the forum selection clause, the Court of Appeals held that it was not freely bargained for and therefore was invalid. As an 'independent justification' for refusing to enforce the clause, the Court of Appeals noted that there was evidence in the record to indicate that 'the Shutes are physically and financially incapable of pursuing this litigation in Florida,' and that the enforcement of the clause would operate to deprive them of their day in court, and thereby contravene the Supreme Court’s holding in The Bremen. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide the issue of the forum selection clause.