Former Navy Pilot Wins Pro Se Appeal: Triable Issue of Fact Existed re Enforceability of Saudi Arabian Forum Selection Clause

Museum of Aviation at Robins AFB.

Museum of Aviation at Robins AFB. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, the Ninth Circuit issued a per curiam opinion in Petersen v. Boeing Company, No. 11-18075, __ F.3d __ (9th Cir. Apr. 26, 2013).  Plaintiff Robin P. Petersen is a former Navy pilot recruited to work in Saudi Arabia for Boeing International Support Services.  Plaintiff alleged he was required to sign a preliminary employment agreement that did not contain a forum selection clause, but that on arrival in Saudi Arabia, he was forced to sign a second employment agreement—which he was not given time to read and which he was told he must sign or else return immediately to the United States at his own expense. The agreement contained a forum selection clause requiring any contractual disputes to be resolved in the Labor Courts of Saudi Arabia.  Petersen alleged he signed the second agreement without reading it, his passport was then confiscated, and he was effectively imprisoned in his housing compound.

Plaintiff submitted evidence that he could not afford to travel to Saudi Arabia for litigation, that he was afraid to return there because he had been kept a virtual prisoner during his employment, and that his ability to obtain a fair trial there was in question because he was a foreigner, an employee challenging a powerful employer, and a non-Muslim.  

The district court dismissed on the basis of the forum selection clause without holding an evidentiary hearing as to whether Petersen was induced to assent to the forum selection clause through fraud or overreaching.

The Ninth Circuit panel held that the evidence submitted and the allegations made by Petersen were more than sufficient to create a triable issue of fact as to whether the forum selection clause at issue is enforceable, and reversed the district court.

Judges & Attorneys

Circuit Judges Harry Pregerson, Stephen Reinhardt, and William A. Fletcher.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Arizona, Chief District Judge Roslyn O. Silver, Presiding.

Robin P. Petersen, pro se, Warner Robins, Georgia, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Geoffrey M.T. Sturr, Thomas L. Hudson, and Kathleen Brody O’Meara, Osborn Maledon, P.A., Phoenix, Arizona, for Defendants-Appellees.

By CHARLES H. JUNG

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2 thoughts on “Former Navy Pilot Wins Pro Se Appeal: Triable Issue of Fact Existed re Enforceability of Saudi Arabian Forum Selection Clause

  1. […] In Petersen v. Boeing Company, No. 11-18075, __ F.3d __ (9th Cir. Apr. 26, 2013), a district court dismissed plaintiff’s case on the basis of a Saudi forum selection clause without holding an evidentiary hearing as to whether plaintiff was induced to assent to the forum selection clause through fraud or overreaching.  The Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that a triable issue of fact existed as to whether the forum selection clause was enforceable.  […]

  2. […] Ninth Circuit issued an opinion today in Petersen v. Boeing Company, No. 11-18075, __ F.3d __ (9th Cir. Apr. 26, 2013).  The district court dismissed […]

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