Stewart Organization, Inc. v. Ricoh Corp

487 U.S. 22, 108 S. Ct. 2239 (1988)

 

RULE:

The flexible and individualized analysis prescribed in 28 U.S.C.S. § 1404(a) encompasses consideration of the parties' private expression of their venue preferences.

FACTS:

Relying on the parties' contractual forum-selection clause, the nationwide manufacturer filed a motion to transfer petitioner company's action under 28 U.S.C.S. § 1404(a). The district court denied the motion, reasoning that state law controlled the motion and that state law disfavored contractual forum-selection clauses. The intermediate appellate court reversed the district court's order and remanded with instructions that the case be transferred. The intermediate appellate court held that the choice of forum clause in the contract was enforceable as a matter of federal law. Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of certiorari. The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed, on different grounds, the intermediate appellate court's decision. The case was remanded so that the district court could determine the appropriate effect under federal law of the parties' forum-selection clause on the motion to transfer.

ISSUE:

In an action where both parties were bound by a contractual forum-selection clause, would 28 U.S.C.S. § 1404(a) be a valid basis for one party’s motion to transfer such action?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

28 U.S.C.S. § 1404(a) was intended to place discretion in the district court to adjudicate motions for transfer according to an individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness. A motion to transfer under § 1404(a), thus, called on the district court to weigh in the balance a number of case-specific factors. The presence of a forum-selection clause was a significant factor that figured centrally in the district court's calculus.

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