Liberty Woods International Inc. v. Motor Vessel Ocean Quartz, No. 16-4195 (3d Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
LWI sued for cargo damage sustained during a trip to Camden, New Jersey, on the Ocean Quartz (Vessel). Liability for the damage is governed by the carrier’s bill of lading, which contains a forum selection clause requiring suit to be brought in South Korea. LWI instead sought to bring an in rem suit against the Vessel in the District of New Jersey, arguing that the foreign forum selection clause violates the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (COGSA), 46 U.S.C. 30701, because South Korea does not allow in rem suits. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. While foreign forum selection clauses were originally disfavored under COGSA, the Supreme Court later adopted a policy that better reflected the need to respect the competence of foreign forums to resolve disputes. The court rejected an argument that that COGSA designates in rem suits as substantive rights, which are violated by the forum selection clause. LWI’s own willful limitation of alternatives, not the forum selection clause, has eliminated its ability to recover.