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Forum Selection Clauses, Personal Jurisdiction

Personal jurisdiction is the authority of a court to render a judgment or decision about an individual or entity. For personal jurisdiction to exist, there must generally be some connection between a party and the state or forum rendering the judgment or decision. In may contracts or agreements, there are provisions designating where litigation must occur should a dispute arise. This is a typically called a forum selection clause in that it designates the venue in which a lawsuit is to be tried. Boquette v. Suggs, 928 S.W.2d 412, 413 (Mo. Ct. App. 1996). 

Practically, parties typically do not pay much attention to forum selection clauses when negotiating a contract. Furthermore, they can have the real effect of neutralizing the threat of litigation depending on the party and circumstances. For example, if a California party makes an agreement with a Florida company requiring that all litigation occur in Florida, the California company may not wish to go through the time, expense and effort of engaging in litigation on the other side of the country. 

In Missouri, freely negotiated forum selection clauses are enforceable and permissible so long as “doing so is neither unfair nor unreasonable.” High Life Sales Co. v. BrownForman Corp., 823 S.W.2d 493, 497 (Mo. 1992). If a party is contesting the legality of a forum selection clause, he/she must convince the court that the contractual provision is unfair or unreasonable. 

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