More and more courts are finding cruise line’s personal injury arbitration agreements unenforceable when it comes to American crewmembers. The latest case comes from the Middle District of Florida wherein an American ice skater employed by Royal Caribbean Cruises was injured while performing aboard the Voyager of the Seas off the coast of Mexico. The injured seafarer filed a lawsuit against the cruise line asserting claims for Jones Act negligence, Unseaworthienss and Failure to Provide Maintenance and Cure in a Florida state court. As typical with employee claims, Royal Caribbean removed the case to Federal court located in Tampa and filed a motion to compel enforcement of an agreement to arbitration pursuant to the United National Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.
In order for a cruise line to compel arbitration under the U.N. Convention, it must show (1) there exists a written agreement to arbitrate; (2) the agreement provides for arbitration in the territory of a signatory of the Convention; (3) the agreement arises out of a commercial legal relationship; and (4) a party to the agreement must not be an American citizen, or the commercial relationship must have some reasonable relation with one or more foreign countries.