Last month we posted an article explaining that every major cruise lines’ boarding pass contains a provision requiring injured passengers to bring their lawsuits in a certain city. Under maritime law, cruises that originate from or terminate at a U.S. port must provide injured passengers someplace in the United States to bring a claim. This same right is not afforded to passengers sailing on cruises which exclusively touch foreign ports. This is true even though the particular cruise line’s corporate offices are in the United States.
The recent case of Seung v. Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Inc. shows how restrictive cruises lines boarding passes can be. In that case, an elderly woman sailed aboard a Regent cruise and suffered an accident. Her lawyers brought suit in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida — the location of Regent’s corporate offices. The boarding pass, however, required the filing of any personal injury claim in Paris, France. The passenger argued that requiring her to bring suit in Paris is unfair because she is financially unable to bring a lawsuit half way across the world; she is a California resident with medical limitations, due in part to her shipboard injury, that prevent her from traveling to Paris; and, Paris is a remote, alien forum chosen merely as a means of discouraging passengers from bringing legitimate claims. The court, while sympathetic to the passenger, held maritime law allows cruise lines to force their passengers to bring personal injury suits in foreign countries when the subject cruise did not call on a U.S. port.
Though cruise lines can require passengers traveling on foreign cruises to bring their personal injury claims in foreign cities, many still allow for claims to be filed in selected U.S. court. Below are the current forum selections of the major cruise lines for foreign cruises:
- Carnival Cruises, Miami, Florida Federal Court.
- Celebrity Cruises, Miami, Florida Federal Court.
- Cunard Lines, Paris, France.
- MSC Cruise, Naples, Italy.
- Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL), Miami, Florida Federal Court.
- Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Paris, France.
- Royal Caribbean Cruises, Miami, Florida Federal Court.