Arbitration agreements are prevalent in cruise line seafarer contracts today. This practice deprives the injured crewmembers of the fundamental right of a jury and sometimes precludes them of their statutory negligence causes of action provided to them under the Jones Act. However, given the unique nature of maritime employment, in certain situations seafarers can avoid arbitrating personal injury despite the employment contracts requiring arbitration.
Facts of the Case
Recently a Florida Federal Court held that an arbitration provision found in a cruise line seafarer’s employment contract did not govern her on-the-job personal injury dispute. In this case, the seafarer’s contract employer was not the owner or operator of the cruise ship. In other words, the seafarer contracted with one company and then sent to work aboard a cruise ship owned and operated by other companies. Once the seafarer started working aboard the cruise ship, she was managed and directed by the cruise ship’s owner and operator not the company of which she was technically employed by. This unique set of facts allowed the seafarer to allege she was the borrowed servant of the cruise ship owner and operator who were not parties to the employment contract which contained the arbitration provision.