Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Forum Selection Clause Ruled Enforceable
A recent decision in a Florida appellate court should be a warning to all passengers who are injured on a cruise ship. The Florida decision upheld a forum selection clause contained in Royal Caribbean’s ticket. A forum selection clause is contained in most cruise ship passenger tickets, and requires that a claim for an injury on a cruise ship be made only in a certain location. For Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Lines, that location is Miami’s Federal Court.
The recent Florida cruise ship case was decided by the Court based upon a 1991 case that involved Eulala Shute, a Washington resident, who boarded the Carnival Ecstasy in Los Angeles for a cruise through Mexico. Mrs. Shute was injured when she slipped and fell on a deck mat when taking a tour of the ship’s galley. Mrs. Shute’s attorney decided to file suit in Washington state, ignoring the forum selection terms of Carnival’s ticket contract which requires a lawsuit for physical injuries on a cruise ship to be brought in Miami’s Federal Court.
Unfortunately, the Court of Appeals decided against Mrs. Shute and determined, like many other courts have, that forum selection clauses which are part of a cruise ship ticket, are valid and enforceable. Carnival, Royal Caribbean and many other cruise ship companies sail out of ports throughout the world. So it is a common mistake for a person that boards a ship in New Orleans, Los Angeles or Fort Lauderdale to think that when they’re injured on a cruise ship, their claim should be brought in the city where the ship departed.
However, a word to the wise cruise ship passenger – Read Your Ticket! There are many clauses similar to the forum selection clause that limit your rights of when, where and how you can bring a claim for a cruise ship injury.