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Forum Selection Clause in Cruise Ship Tickets Must Be Followed, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. V. Clarke, 148 So.3d 155 (3rd DCA 2014)

Cruise ship passengers often ignore the fact that their tickets are, in fact, contractual agreements that contain specific provisions governing a wide variety of issues. A passenger’s failure to pay attention to these requirements may result in loss of rights or benefits under the ticket agreement. The case below illustrates this important issue, where a court dismisses a passenger’s case because she failed to follow the dispute resolution provisions of her ticket agreement.

In Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. v. Clarke, a cruise ship passenger aboard a Royal Caribbean Cruises ship was injured in a cruise ship accident. That passenger procured the services of a local attorney who filed a lawsuit several days before the one-year limitations period provided in the cruise ticket expired. However, the attorney filed the case in the Miami-Dade state courthouse instead of a federal court as required by the ticket’s terms. Accordingly, Royal Caribbean asked the state court to dismiss the case because the plaintiff filed suit in the wrong forum as provided for in the ticket, but the court denied the motion. Royal Caribbean appealed the denial.

The Third District Court of Appeals in Florida heard the case. In its decision, the Court began its discussion by discussing the terms of the ticket contract. The Court observed that the ticket indicated in bold, capitalized letters that ticket holders must pay attention to the forum selection clause. Under that section, all matters that arise under the ticket contract must be filed and litigated in the federal district court in Miami-Dade County. Additionally, the Court found that the cruise line communicated to the plaintiff that there were critical terms in the ticket contract before general boarding. According to the Court, Florida law requires that cruise ship operators communicate to passengers, in a reasonable manner, that the ticket contains important terms that may affect their legal rights. Florida law does not require that the cruise ship proves the passenger received and read the agreement in the ticket.

The Court also determined that the plaintiff paid attention to other provisions in the contract as shown by the fact that she timely filed the suit within the one-year limitations period. Therefore, she had notice of those requirements, including the forum selection condition. Additionally, the Court indicated that the plaintiff did not satisfy her burden of proving that the forum selection clause in the contract was not enforceable. Finally, the Court held that Royal Caribbean did not have any obligation to initiate removal of the case to federal court after the plaintiff mistakenly filed the suit in state court. Therefore, the Court reversed the trial court’s denial of the motion to dismiss, effectively dismissing the plaintiff’s case for failure to file in the proper forum.

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. 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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