Judge Fallon Enforces Post-Accident Venue Selection Agreement in Jones Act Case

Venue selection agreements can provide maritime employers some certainty with respect to the venue where they will be subject to employee litigation. Judge Fallon of the Eastern District of Louisiana recently granted a motion to transfer venue in a Jones Act personal injury case involving two different venue selection agreements.

Pre-Accident and Post-Accident Agreements

In Kennedy v. Marquette Transp. Co., the plaintiff first entered into a venue selection agreement before his accident that required claims brought against his employer be filed in federal or state court of Paducah, Kentucky. The plaintiff also signed a supplemental benefits agreement after his accident which provided for payment to the plaintiff in exchange for his agreement to bring any legal actions against his employer in Kentucky.

Court Focuses on Post-Accident Agreement

The court’s analysis focused on the supplemental benefits agreement signed after the accident. The plaintiff sought to avoid that venue selection agreement, arguing it was obtained because of overreaching and that public interest factors precluded its enforcement. The court noted four other sections of the Eastern District that had upheld similar agreements and rejected similar arguments by plaintiffs in those cases. The court concluded that the agreement was not the result of fraud or overreaching.

The court also rejected the plaintiff’s argument that public interest factors weighed against enforcement of the venue selection agreement. The court found that the plaintiff presented only practical problems that favored proceeding in the Eastern District and did not identify any extraordinary circumstances unrelated to convenience sufficient to defeat the employer’s motion to transfer.

Because the court found the post-accident agreement enforceable, it did not analyze the enforceability of the pre-accident venue selection agreement.

Kennedy v. Marquette Transp. Co., LLC, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 210044 (E.D. La. Nov. 27, 2023)