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Florida Court May Not Exercise Jurisdiction Over Foreign Company that Provided Shore Excursions for Cruise Ship, Carmouche v. Carnival Corporation,  366 F. Supp. 3d 1335 (11th Cir. 2014)

Jurisdiction is a very complex issue in any case in litigation. Cruise ship litigation compounds the complexity of the case because such litigation often involves multiple companies that are registered in different states or, as the case below illustrates, different countries. Filing a suit in the wrong jurisdiction may result in dismissal of a case. Plaintiffs must take care to ensure that lawsuits are filed in a court that can exercise jurisdiction over a defendant.

In Carmouche v. Carnival Corporation, the plaintiff was a passenger that suffered injuries on a Carnival cruise ship during a shore excursion in Belize. Another company that provided excursions for passengers on board Carnival cruise ships in Belize, Tamborlee Management, operated the excursion. The plaintiff filed suit for negligence against Carnival and Tamborlee in a federal district court in Florida. However, Tamborlee asked the court to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction, which the court granted. The plaintiff appealed.

Tamborlee is a Panamanian corporation that never provided excursions for tourists in Florida. The company has never advertised its services to potential Florida customers and has never owned a license to operate in Florida. Tamborlee had executed insurance policies with a few Florida insurance companies, had an active bank account in Miami, and was a member of a Florida cruise ship association. Tamborlee had a contract with Carnival to provide shore excursions in which Tamborlee consented to jurisdiction in Florida district court about suits related to the shore excursions it operated. 

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals heard the case. The Court observed that for a U.S. federal court in Florida to exercise jurisdiction over a foreign company, it has to find that the company’s affiliations with Florida are systematic and continuous enough as to render the company in essence at home in the state. However, the Court found that Tamborlee’s minimal connections in Florida were not systematic and continuous enough for jurisdiction. The Court said that even if it accepted all of the plaintiff’s allegations as correct, the company’s contact with Florida was limited to owning a bank account in the state, a post-office box, an insurance policy with Florida companies, and membership in a Florida trade union. According to the Court, these were not sufficiently substantial to allow a court to exercise jurisdiction over the company without violating the requirements of due process. The plaintiff contended that Tamborlee’s agreement with Carnival should be enough of a connection for jurisdictional purposes. However, the Court disagreed and affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s complaint because of the lack of jurisdiction.

Cruise ship passengers must pay attention to the terms contained in their tickets. These tickets are contracts that have provisions that determine the rights of the parties and how they must resolve disputes arising under the ticket. These terms may include provisions relating to where suits must be filed, and limitations to the company’s liability. If you were injured on a cruise ship, the Miami cruise ship accident lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano offer the assistance you need to obtain the results you desire.  With over 130 combined years of experience representing cruise ship injury clients across South Florida, our firm provides legal representation of unmatched excellence.  Contact our firm as soon as possible to start on the road to protecting your legal rights.  Our firm received an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and was ranked as a top firm in South Florida by the Miami Herald.   Put our exceptional personal injury attorneys to work on your case.  Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or you can visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.

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