Sinatra may have found success in the city that never sleeps, but a California court has just made it more difficult for any party doing business with a California resident to do the same. At least, when it comes to resolving disputes without a jury in a New York courtroom, or in the courtroom of any other jurisdiction that enforces pre-dispute jury trial waivers. This case will be of major interest to commercial lenders, and other businesses, who prefer to use New York as their jurisdiction of choice for governing law and adjudicating disputes.
While it is well-settled law in California that pre-dispute contractual jury waivers are unenforceable (see, e.g., Grafton Partners L.P. v. Superior Court (2005) 36 Cal. 4th 944 (“Grafton”)), in most instances forum selection and choice-of-law provisions have been respected by California courts. However, the Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District recently expanded upon Grafton in Handoush v. Lease Financing Group, LLC. The Court dealt a commercial equipment lessor a significant blow by holding that the equipment lessee who signed a lease agreement with the lessor that was governed by New York law, identified New York as the appropriate forum for resolving disputes and included a pre-dispute jury waiver (which is enforceable under New York law), was nevertheless entitled to a trial by jury in California. Continue Reading