Not all cruise passengers read the fine print included with their ticket package. One clause that all passengers should know about is the forum selection clause. If you sustain an injury onboard a cruise ship, or if your loved one dies in a cruise ship accident, the forum selection clause dictates where you can file a claim against the cruise line. You may be required to file suit in Miami or Seattle, or even in a foreign country.
U.S. courts have upheld the validity of these clauses in numerous cases. One of the most notable is Carnival Cruise Lines Inc. v. Shute, in which the Supreme Court ruled that forum selection clauses are enforceable so long as they are fundamentally fair. Eulala Shute, who purchased her California-Mexico cruise ticket from a Washington travel agent, got hurt when she slipped on a deck mat while the ship was in international waters. She filed a federal lawsuit against Carnival in Washington, although the forum selection clause stipulated that all disputes were to be litigated in Florida. The Supreme Court determined that Carnival had not included the forum selection clause in bad faith and deemed it enforceable.
Because cruise tickets involve lots of fine print, including stipulations as to where passengers can file claims, it is important for injured passengers to contact a qualified maritime attorney promptly after their accident. An experienced maritime attorney can determine whether you have a case against the cruise line as well as where your claim needs to be filed. There may be circumstances that could render the forum selection clause unenforceable, in which case a skilled maritime attorney can challenge the clause in court.
Did you get hurt while on a cruise? Contact a Boston maritime attorney today to learn about your rights under maritime law.
Latti & Anderson LLP – Boston maritime trial lawyers