When a Court is considering whether to apply the law of a foreign country, as permitted by Rule 44.1 of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure:
- The Court has "[b]road authority to conduct [its] own independent research to determine foreign law," but no duty to so.
- Both parties have the burden to "raisethe issue that foreign law may apply in an action, and the burden of adequately proving foreign law to enable the court to apply it in a particular case."
- When the "parties fail to satisfy either burden the court will ordinarily apply the forum’s law."
The Business Court applied North Carolina law, because the parties hadn’t provided the Court "with any authority or evidence from which it might discern how French law would evaluate the validity and scope of the forum selection clause in the" Agreements.
The Court also enforced a forum selection clause, even though the party asserting the benefit of it [Swift] hadn’t signed the agreement. Judge Diaz reasoned that the only signature required should be that of "the party to be charged therewith," that Swift had signed the Agreement, and that the Agreements spoke to Swift’s obligations to the party seeking enforcement of the forum selection clause. He also relied on cases involving arbitration provisions, which are often enforced against non-signatories when the claims are "intimately founded in and intertwined with the underlying contract obligations." The Judge also noted the "strong seal of approval that our Supreme Court has given to contract clauses requiring litigation in a foreign jurisdiction."
The Court rejected the public policy argument that it simply wasn’t fair for Swift to have to litigate its claims in France. Swift said it would "be deprived of the full scope of discovery that would otherwise be available in" the Business Court. Judge Diaz said there was "no authority . . . for the proposition that merely requiring a party to litigate in a forum with substantially different discovery rules than those applied in a U.S. court is sufficient cause to override the parties’ choice of forum." Swift was neither "deprive[d] of its day in court" nor "without an adequate remedy."