As previously reported, many cruise lines including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) have arbitration provisions in their crewmember / seafarer employment contracts. Depending upon the cruise line and when the employment contract was signed, the terms may impose foreign law to be applied to the crewmember / seafarer’s personal injury claim and require arbitration to be conducted in a foreign country.
A federal court in Miami, Florida recently found the Carnival Cruise Lines arbitration provision requiring the crewmember / seafarer to arbitrate his personal injury claim under Panamanian law in Panama violated his substantive Jones Act rights. Despite Carnival stipulating to United States law and having a clause written in the contract which severs (deletes) any language that is null and void, the Court declared the entire arbitration agreement. The import of this decision is that the entire case was referred back to state court to be tried before a jury. This case represents a recent trend by some courts to not enforce cruise line arbitration provisions instead allowing the crewmembers / seafarers to have their cases be decided by juries.