Sterling, a partner with Vandeventer Black LLP, Norfolk, Va., says, “It lends some certainty [that] in every district court, in every circuit of the U.S. federal courts, you’re going to know how those provisions are going to be interpreted.”
Sterling adds that from the standpoint of his client, AMC, the decision is “a complete victory.”
But attorney Eric Travers, who filed a pro-J-Crew friend of the court brief on behalf of the American Subcontractors Association, has a different take on the decision.
Travers, a director with the law firm Kegler Brown Hill + Ritter, Columbus, Ohio, points to the portion of the decision that “says to the district courts, ‘You can consider public policy interests.’” He notes that the ASA brief focused on such policy interests and said 24 states have found forum-selection clauses invalid. Thus from ASA’s perspective, Travers says the high court's language dealing with public policy factors is “a huge victory.”
He adds that rather than having a decision that says parties must "litigate in State X….now the court can look at it and say: ‘What is the state law? What is the legislature of this state saying about this contract clause? Is this an enforceable contract clause?’ If not, that clause ought not be enforceable.”
Mike Kennedy, Associated General Contractors of America general counsel, has yet another point of view about the ruling. He says, “I believe that the facts of this case have attracted a lot of attention and led people to portray it as some kind of conflict between general contractors and subcontractors. And quite frankly, it is nothing of the kind.”
AGC did not take part in the case or submit a brief.
Kennedy adds, “What the court held here is that the relevant statute requires the federal courts to defer to the decisions that the parties have privately made, of their own volition, at the time they negotiated their contract.”
He also says, “The court did say fairly clearly that public interest factors could change the analysis, but...neither of the parties’ private interests are going to be a factor.”
The high court also directed the lower courts to decide whether public-interest factors support denying AMC's request to transfer the contract-dispute case to Virginia.