JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.
We granted certiorari to consider whether an interlocutory order of a United States District Court denying a defendant's motion to dismiss a damages action on the basis of a contractual forum-selection clause is immediately appealable under 28 U. S. C. § 1291 as a collateral final order. We hold that it is not.
The individual respondents were, or represent the estates of persons who were, passengers aboard the cruise ship Achille Lauro when it was hijacked by terrorists in the Mediterranean in October 1985. Petitioner Lauro Lines s.r.l., an Italian company, owns the Achille Lauro. Respondents filed suits against Lauro Lines in the District Court for the Southern District of New York to recover damages for injuries sustained as a result of the hijacking and for the wrongful death of passenger Leon Klinghoffer. Lauro Lines moved before trial to dismiss the actions, citing the forum-selection clause printed on each passenger ticket. This clause purported to obligate the passenger to institute any suit arising in connection with the contract in Naples, Italy, and to renounce the right to sue elsewhere.
Title 28 U. S. C. § 1291 provides for appeal to the courts of appeals only from "final decisions of the district courts of the United States." For purposes of § 1291, a final judgment is generally regarded as "a decision by the district court that `ends the litigation on the merits and leaves nothing for the court to do but execute the judgment.' " Van Cauwenberghe v. Biard, 486 U.S. 517, 521 (1988), quoting Catlin v. United
We recently reiterated the "general rule" that an order is "effectively unreviewable" only "where the order at issue
We have thus held in cases involving criminal prosecutions that the deprivation of a right not to be tried is effectively unreviewable after final judgment and is immediately appealable. Helstoski v. Meanor, 442 U.S. 500 (1979) (denial of motion to dismiss under the Speech or Debate Clause); Abney v. United States, 431 U.S. 651 (1977) (denial of motion to dismiss on double jeopardy grounds). See Midland Asphalt Corp., supra, at 801 ("A right not to be tried in the sense relevant to the Cohen exception rests upon an explicit statutory or constitutional guarantee that trial will not occur") (emphasis added). Similarly, in civil cases, we have held that the denial of a motion to dismiss based upon a claim of absolute immunity from suit is immediately appealable prior to final judgment, Nixon v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 731, 742-743 (1982), "for the essence of absolute immunity is its
On the other hand, we have declined to hold the collateral order doctrine applicable where a district court has denied a claim, not that the defendant has a right not to be sued at all, but that the suit against the defendant is not properly before the particular court because it lacks jurisdiction. In Van Cauwenberghe v. Biard, 486 U.S. 517 (1988), a civil defendant moved for dismissal on the ground that he had been immune from service of process because his presence in the United States had been compelled by extradition to face criminal charges. We noted that, after Mitchell, "[t]he critical question . . . is whether `the essence' of the claimed right is a right not to stand trial," 486 U. S., at 524, and held that the immunity from service of process defendant asserted did not amount to an immunity from suit — even though service was essential to the trial court's jurisdiction over the defendant. See also Catlin v. United States, 324 U. S., at 236 (order denying motion to dismiss petition for condemnation of land not immediately appealable, "even when the motion is based upon jurisdictional grounds").
Lauro Lines argues here that its contractual forum-selection clause provided it with a right to trial before a tribunal in Italy, and with a concomitant right not to be sued anywhere else. This "right not to be haled for trial before tribunals outside the agreed forum," petitioner claims, cannot effectively be vindicated by appeal after trial in an improper forum. Brief for Petitioner 38-39. There is no obviously correct way to characterize the right embodied in petitioner's forum-selection provision: "all litigants who have a meritorious pretrial claim for dismissal can reasonably claim a right not to stand trial." Van Cauwenberghe, supra,
Petitioner argues that there is a strong federal policy favoring the enforcement of foreign forum-selection clauses, citing The Bremen v. Zapata Off-Shore Co., 407 U.S. 1 (1972), and that "the essential concomitant of this strong federal policy . . . is the right of immediate appellate review of district court orders denying their enforcement." Brief for Petitioner 40-41. A policy favoring enforcement of forum-selection clauses, however, would go to the merits of petitioner's claim that its ticket agreement requires that any suit be filed in Italy and that the agreement should be enforced by the federal courts. Immediate appealability of a prejudgment order denying enforcement, insofar as it depends upon satisfaction of the third prong of the collateral order test, turns on the precise contours of the right asserted, and not upon the likelihood of eventual success on the merits. The Court of Appeals properly dismissed petitioner's appeal, and its judgment is
I join the opinion of the Court and write separately only to make express what seems to me implicit in its analysis.
The reason we say that the right not to be sued elsewhere than in Naples is "adequately vindicable," ante, at 501, by merely reversing any judgment obtained in violation of it is, quite simply, that the law does not deem the right important enough to be vindicated by, as it were, an injunction against its violation obtained through interlocutory appeal. The importance of the right asserted has always been a significant part of our collateral order doctrine. When first formulating that doctrine in Cohen v. Beneficial Industrial Loan Corp., 337 U.S. 541 (1949), we said that it permits interlocutory appeal of final determinations of claims that are not only "separable from, and collateral to, rights asserted in the action," but also, we immediately added, "too important to be denied review." Id., at 546 (emphasis added). Our later cases have retained that significant requirement. For example, in Abney v. United States, 431 U.S. 651 (1977), we said that in order to qualify for immediate appeal the order must involve "an important right which would be `lost, probably irreparably,' if review had to await final judgment." Id., at 658 (emphasis added), quoting Cohen, supra, at 546. And in Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay, 437 U.S. 463 (1978), we said that the order must "resolve an important issue completely separate from the merits of the action." Id., at 468 (emphasis added). See also Van Cauwenberghe v. Biard, 486 U.S. 517, 522-527 (1988); Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. v. Mayacamas Corp., 485 U.S. 271, 276-277 (1988); Richardson-Merrell Inc. v. Koller, 472 U.S. 424, 431 (1985); Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital v. Mercury Construction Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 12 (1983); Nixon v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 731, 742 (1982).
While it is true, therefore, that the "right not to be sued elsewhere than in Naples" is not fully vindicated — indeed, to be utterly frank, is positively destroyed — by permitting