Are Cruise Ticket Forum Selection Clauses Always Enforceable?
Cruise tickets typically contain a forum selection clause, which stipulates where claims against the cruise line can be filed. For example, Carnival Cruise Lines includes in its ticket contract a section entitled “Jurisdiction, Venue, Arbitration and Time Limits for Claims.” This clause states that claims must be litigated in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, or if federal court is not appropriate, a court located in Miami-Dade County. In 1991, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the validity of Carnival’s forum selection clause in Carnival Cruise Lines Inc. v. Shute.
Cruise accident victims cannot simply ignore forum selection clauses. If they wish to file a lawsuit somewhere else, there must be legal grounds to do so. A forum selection clause may be unenforceable if:
- The forum was selected to discourage people with legitimate claims from filing lawsuits
- The clause is overreaching or fraudulent
- The passenger was not afforded reasonable notice of the selected forum or did not have reasonable opportunity to reject the ticket contract without penalty
The issue of enforceability must be decided by a court. In order to proceed with a claim somewhere else, the passenger will need to prove that one of the above scenarios exists and/or present other reasons why the clause should not be enforced. A qualified maritime attorney has the knowledge and skills to determine whether a forum selection clause may be unenforceable and to argue against its enforceability in court.
Filing a cruise accident lawsuit in the wrong court can be disastrous for the victim. Do you have a claim against a cruise line? Protect your rights by letting an experienced Boston maritime attorney review the facts of your case, including the fine print of the ticket contract. Because maritime law differs from land-based law, cruise accident victims need an attorney who specializes in maritime litigation.
Latti & Anderson LLP – Boston maritime trial lawyers