Maritime law is a very complicated area of law. So much so that in 1995 the Florida Supreme Court approved a maritime law board certification program for qualified lawyers. This program is designed to help the public make an informed decision when seeking and selecting a lawyer.
Florida maritime lawyers are constantly reviewing the ever changing boarding passes of various cruise lines for pitfalls contained in the fine print. Two such pitfalls found in many cruise boarding passes are the one year suit time provision and the Federal Court forum selection clause. Many lawyers who generally practice land based law have not idea these clauses exist. This lack of knowledge can prove fatal to a cruise passenger’s case.
The recent case of Crist v. Carnival Corp. illustrates this point. In that case, the lawyer filed a lawsuit on behalf of a passenger in Florida state court nine days before the accident’s one year anniversary unaware that Carnival’s boarding pass requires all personal injury cases to be filed in Federal Court located in Miami, Florida. After Carnival moved to dismiss the case based on the boarding pass’s Federal Court forum selection clause, the lawyer refiled the case in Federal Court. Along with a Federal Court forum selection clause, Carnival’s boarding pass contains a one year suit time provision. Unfortunately for the passenger, the case was refiled after one year from the accident’s date. The Federal Court dismissed the case because of its late filing.
Had the land based attorney known about the Federal Court forum selection clause, he would have timely filed the case in the appropriate court and the passenger’s case would have been decided on the merits. Since the lawyer did not know about the pitfalls contained in Carnival’s boarding pass, the passenger will not have her day in court.