Many people do not realize that a ticket to board a passenger ship is a binding contract, subject to certain limitations. One of the contract clauses courts will enforce is the “forum selection clause” on the ticket. Another clause courts will enforce is the requirement to notify the company in writing of any claim for personal injuries within a certain time frame. Also, courts enforce the contractual one-year statute of limitations on personal injury lawsuits from injuries arising on cruise ships. As experienced cruise ship injury attorneys, we see a plaintiff’s failure to follow the contract clauses on their ticket can result in missing the opportunity to file a claim for personal injuries suffered on a cruise ship.
Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano has handled many cases involving a dispute about the contract terms on a passenger ticket for a cruise ship. They understand the importance of closely following the contract terms on the passenger ticket, so a judge does not throw their clients’ claims out of court.
In the recently decided case of Newell v. Carnival Cruise Lines, the district court judge considered Carnival Cruise’s motion to dismiss for failure of the plaintiff, Newell, to bring a lawsuit before the contractual statute of limitations ran on Newell’s claim for personal injuries. Newell suffered substantial personal injuries while leaving the ship and heading toward a customs post. She ran into a metal stand improperly placed in the walkway area. This collision and fall caused her substantial personal injuries.
Newell’s ticket contained more information than allowing her passage on the ship. Newell’s ticket was also a contract. Carnival wrote contractual language on the ticket about the procedure an injured passenger must follow to make a claim for injuries against the cruise line. According to the ticket, the cruise line demanded that they receive notice of personal injuries, sickness, or death suffered on the cruise ship within 185 days from the date of injury. The ticket language bound the person claiming injuries to file a lawsuit within one year of the date of the injury, sickness, or death. Lastly, the contract language on the ticket demanded that all plaintiffs who file lawsuits against the cruise line must file them in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, located in Miami. This clause is called the “forum selection clause.”
The plaintiff, Newell, followed all of the obligations on the ticket regarding notice and filing her lawsuit timely. Newell failed, however, to follow the forum selection clause. Instead, Newell filed her claim in Circuit Court in Miami-Dade County. The cruise lines filed a motion to dismiss for improper venue. The circuit court judge allowed that motion. Carnival filed the motion two days after the one-year statute of limitations ran. The plaintiff filed an amended complaint, and the judge dismissed the amended complaint for improper venue as well. She appealed the decision to the Florida Court of Appeals and lost. She then filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Miami. Carnival moved to dismiss the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court claiming that the statute of limitations ran on her claim and therefore Newell could not sue for damages.
Courts have ruled that forum selection clauses are valid. The judge in the Newell case followed those previous decisions and ruled in her favor. The judge that dismissing the case for a violation of the statute of limitations would be inequitable, or unfair, to Newell who gave Carnival timely notice of her claim and sued Carnival within one year. The judge denied Carnival’s motion to dismiss and ordered Carnival to respond to the complaint. The case is still pending in court.
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