Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Another victory for principals: are forum selection clauses enforceable in Law 75 cases?

Not automatically, but almost always. Puerto Rico Surgical Technologies, Inc. v. Applied Medical Distribution Corp., 2010 WL 4237927 (D.P.R. Oct. 26, 2010)(Pieras, J.) is no exception. There, the parties executed a distribution agreement with a California choice of law clause and a mandatory forum selection clause vesting California federal and state courts with exclusive jurisdiction. Plaintiff filed an action for damages under Law 75 in local court, which was then removed to federal court. Finding no difficulty in enforcing the forum selection clause under federal or Puerto Rico law, the court granted a motion to dismiss the complaint without prejudice. Distinguishing the First Circuit’s Combraco decision as dicta (reported in my previous blog) suggesting that Law 75’s public policy disfavoring litigation outside Puerto Rico may outweigh the federal interest in enforcing a forum selection clause, the district court held that enforcement of the forum selection clause in this case did not contravene an important public policy of Puerto Rico, was negotiated freely, and was not otherwise unreasonable. At least where the parties and the facts underlying the claims have a sufficiently close nexus to California, the court will not invalidate a forum selection clause simply because of Plaintiff’s inconvenience in litigating outside Puerto Rico.