We’ve discussed a lot about cruise tickets, and the burdens they put on cruise passengers who are seeking to sue a cruise line for damages and injuries. A recent case has come out that has unfortunately said nothing new, again emphasizing how restrictive the terms of cruise tickets can be.
Passenger Sues in Wrong Venue
The case involved a passenger who was seeking to sue Royal Caribbean for injuries she sustained on a cruise. Her cruise ticket had a one-year statute of limitations to bring such actions, and she narrowly beat that deadline.
However, she sued in Miami-Dade circuit (state) court—not federal court, as the cruise ticket requires. This seems like a minor distinction. But legally, it can, and did, have a huge impact.
In the lower court, the passenger successfully argued that the provisions of the ticket shouldn’t be enforced against her, since she did not actually read the ticket (and practically, the cruise ticket can be extraordinarily long and complex to read).
But on appeal, the appellate court determined that the question was not whether a passenger has read the cruise ticket, it’s only whether the disclosures were posted prominently on the cruise ticket. In other words, whether disclosures were made is based on an “objective” test, not “subjective” test.
Based on that test, the disclosures were made to the passenger, and she was bound by them, regardless of whether she actually read them. That includes being bound by the forum selection clause, which required the case be filed in Federal Court.
The passenger also presented no other argument why the forum selection clause in the ticket was unconscionable, or why it shouldn’t be enforced. In such situations, forum selection clauses are almost always enforced.
Mistake in Venue Has Major Impact
Ordinarily, it isn’t such a big deal whether a case is filed in state or federal court. But in this case, the mistake was a crucial one.
That’s because the case was filed just short of the one-year statute of limitations. That means that when the case was dismissed from state court, the claim was too old to be re-filed in federal court. In other words, the filing mistake leading to the dismissal ended up preventing the case from ever being filed, anywhere.
The passenger attempted to argue that the wrong filing should simply lead to a transfer from state to federal court. That would not be a dismissal, and thus, there would be no statute of limitations issue. But the court disagreed, stating that when a ticket has a “forum selection clause,” as this one did, that dismissal, and not transfer, was the proper way to deal with the problem.
From the case, there’s no way to know why the passenger chose state and not federal court. This seems to be a pretty clear requirement. Perhaps the attorney believed that nobody would notice, or that at worst, the case would just be transferred. As it ended up, the mistake seems to have completely barred the client’s claim.
When it comes to complex federal maritime laws, details count. Talk to the Florida cruise ship accident attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. for a free consultation to discuss your case.