KATHLEEN KAY, Magistrate Judge.
Before the court is a Motion to Transfer Venue [doc. 6] filed by plaintiff Daniel Gonzales Llagas pursuant to 28 U.S.C § 1404. The defendants oppose the motion. Doc. 20. For the reasons stated below, the motion is hereby
The plaintiff, a citizen of the Phillipines, filed suit individually and as a putative class representative in the Fourteenth Judicial District, Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, on March 17, 2017. Doc. 1, att. 1, pp. 2-10. As defendants he named Sealift Holdings, Inc.; Sealift, Inc.; Black Eagle Shipping, LLC; Sagamore Shipping, LLC; Fortune Maritime, LLC; Sealift Tankships, LLC; and Remington Shipping, LLC (collectively, "defendants"). Id. at 2-3. He alleges that the defendants operate as a single business enterprise and that they own various ships which he identifies as the "Sealift Fleet." Id. at 3. Plaintiff stated that he was employed as a seaman aboard the Sealift Fleet from 2015 to 2017, and brings claims for unpaid wages on behalf of himself and a putative class against the defendants under the U.S. law and general maritime law. Id. at 3-5.
After the suit was filed, the state court issued a Writ of Foreign Attachment on the plaintiff's behalf on one vessel from the Sealift Fleet, the M/V Black Eagle ("the vessel"). Id. at 8, 20-23. Defense counsel Daniel Tadros, who has enrolled on behalf of all defendants in this matter, then called plaintiff's counsel, Michael Colomb, to negotiate the vessel's release and they discussed the possibility of transfer to the Middle District or Eastern District of Louisiana in the event that the case was removed to federal court. Doc. 20, att. 1, pp. 1-2. Following the telephone call, Colomb sent Tadros an email on March 19, 2017, listing proposed terms for the vessel's release and related discovery. Id. at 2, 4-5. These were:
Id. at 4-5. Colomb closed by asking Tadros to contact him after he had "had the opportunity to discuss this matter with [Tadros's] clients." Id. at 5. Tadros replied the same day:
I will get back to you as soon as I have answers and authority for the rest.
Id. at 4. Tadros and Colomb had another telephone conversation that evening, during which Tadros declares that he "again stressed that [he] had not received authority regarding the proposed transfer of the case to the Middle District of Louisiana." Id. at 2. Colomb maintains that, through this conversation, they "negotiated various terms of the proposed release agreement, including those for discovery of the crew members, discovery depositions of the corporate defendants, as well as production of documents from the vessel prior to the vessel leaving the jurisdiction of the 14th Judicial District Court." Doc. 6, att. 2, p. 2. He also declares that they had discussed the matter of the transfer (though it is not clear if this discussion was part of the same telephone call) and agreed "that it would be more convenient to all of the parties if this matter were to be litigated in the Middle District of Louisiana."
After the phone conversation, Colomb sent Tadros another email, stating:
Doc. 20, att. 1, p. 6 (emphasis added). Colomb declares that he received no objection from Tadros or anyone else on behalf of the defendants. Doc. 6, att. 2, p. 2.
On March 29, 2017, the defendants removed the action to this court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, federal question jurisdiction, and the Convention on the Enforcement of Foreign Arbitration Awards. Doc. 1. The plaintiff then filed a motion to transfer, arguing that a forum selection clause exists pursuant to the parties' stipulated terms of release, supra, and should be enforced by this court. Doc. 6. The defendants oppose transfer, maintaining that they did not ultimately agree to that term. Doc. 20.
LAW & ANALYSIS
As a threshold matter we must determine whether a binding agreement existed between the parties based on the terms exchanged in the emails above. The plaintiff refers to the term as a "stipulation" which is defined as "[a] promise or agreement with reference to a pending judicial proceeding, made by a party to the proceeding or his attorney," which is "binding without consideration."
Here venue was made one of the proposed terms of release from the beginning of the exchange; however, this does not change the fact that Tadros mentioned multiple times that he had not received authority from his clients for that provision. Moreover, although the last communication on the terms stated that "[o]ur agreement for this release is as set forth in [Colomb's] earlier email," it also stated that plaintiff's counsel had requested release of the vessel "[a]s per our telephone conversation this evening," at which time Tadros had made it clear that he did not yet have consent from his clients to agree to the venue term. Doc. 20, att. 1, p. 6.
We reject the plaintiff's assertion that these exchanges could have yielded an agreement on venue. As there is no agreement on that term, it cannot give rise to a binding forum selection clause between the parties in this matter. The parties have made no other arguments in support of transfer under 28 U.S.C. § 1404, and so the motion must be denied.
For the reasons stated above, the plaintiff's Motion to Transfer Venue [doc. 6] to the Middle District of Louisiana is hereby