Mandatory Forum-Selection Clauses are Not Absolute

Parties to a contract will often indicate the forum in which disputes are to be heard, in the event of litigation. The language usually reads something like this: “Any action resulting from any breach of this contract shall be brought in Orange County, Florida.” These are referred to as mandatory forum-selection clauses and they are extremely common in wide variety of contracts. However, such “mandatory” forum language doesn’t mean that a court has to abide by that clause.

In a recent ruling by the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeals, the Court noted, “As a general proposition, a mandatory forum selection clause contained in a contract should be enforced absent a showing that the clause is unreasonable or unjust. Walbridge Aldinger Co. v. Roberts Plumbing Contractors, Inc., 800 So. 2d 285, 287 (Fla. 3d DCA 2001). However, a court is not bound to abide by such an agreement where, as here, there are compelling reasons not to enforce it. Interval Mktg. Assocs. v. Sea Club Assocs. IV, 468 So. 2d 262, 263 (Fla. 2d DCA 1985).”

So, when you enter into a contract with someone who lives in Miami-Dade County, and you live in the panhandle and mandate that any lawsuit be conducted in the county where you reside, don’t assume that because the contract mandates the case be heard in a certain county, that the Court will be forced to abide by that clause. It isn’t, and that can ruin your whole day [and case] if you have to travel 8 hours across the state every time you need to show up in court.

Preparing a proper contract can make or break your ability to enforce your rights should things not go according to plan. Call (407) 205-2906 to speak personally with Attorney Matt DeBoard on a FREE and confidential case evaluation.

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