A forum selection clause in a contract refers to language which requires that when there is a dispute or litigation relating to the contract that it be resolved or litigated in a certain state, county or other “forum.” These clauses are not always upheld by the Courts. Furthermore, there is sometimes uncertainty that arises when there is a dispute that develops between the parties that does not necessarily relate directly to the contract. The issue then becomes whether the forum selection clause is broad enough to cover these other disputes.
Generally, the existence of a forum selection clause in a contract that requires contractual disputes to be litigated in a specific forum does not require tort claims between the same parties to be litigated in that forum absent precise language to that effect. Jitterswing, Inc. v. Francorp, Inc., 311 S.W.3d 828, 830 (Mo. Ct. App. 2010). At the same time, though, Missouri courts have found that whether the language reaches “non-contract claims depends on whether the resolution of the claims relates to the interpretation of the contract.” Major v. McCallister, 302 S.W.3d 227, 231 (Mo. Ct. App. 2009). Accordingly, the analysis turns on whether the tort claim is independent of the contract terms, whether the claim referenced required reference to the underlying contract, and whether the claim arose during the parties’ agreement. Id.