ON AN INTERLOCUTORY APPEAL UNIQUE TO ADMIRALTY LAW, ELEVENTH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS HELD JURISDICTION DID NOT EXIST PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(3) BECAUSE the district court did not determine the “rights and liabilities” of the PARTIES when it decided that A limitation-of-liability provision in the ticket contract was unenforceable.
Felix WAJNSTAT, v. OCEANIA CRUISES, INC.
United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.
684 F.3d 1153; No. 11–13670.
June 20, 2012.
After passenger became ill during a Black Sea Cruise, he brought action alleging that cruise line negligently hired, retained, and supervised the ship’s doctor. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, denied line’s motion for partial summary judgment but granted partial summary judgment to passenger as to line’s limitation-of-liability defense. Line filed interlocutory appeal.
Oceania Cruises, Inc., attempted to bring interlocutory appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(3), contending the district court erred when it held that a limitation-of-liability provision in Oceania’s ticket contract was unenforceable. The district court concluded the provision, which incorporated by reference portions of international treaties and the United States Code, was so confusing that it did not reasonably communicate to the passengers the cruise line’s liability limits. Wajnstat and his wife booked a cruise on a ship owned by Oceania. During that cruise, Wajnstat became ill and sought medical attention from the ship’s doctor. He was evacuated in the Ukraine, where he underwent three surgeries and allegedly received substandard care. Wajnstat then filed this lawsuit in district court, and claimed Oceania negligently hired, retained, and supervised the ship’s doctor. Oceania answered, and raised as an affirmative defense that its liability was limited by the Athens Convention as incorporated by reference into the limitation-of-liability provision in the ticket contract. Oceania filed a motion for partial summary judgment on its limitation-of-liability defense. The district court applied the “reasonable communicativeness” test and concluded the provision was not reasonably communicative. The court denied Oceania’s motion for partial summary judgment and instead granted partial summary judgment to Wajnstat on Oceania’s limitation-of-liability defense. On appeal, the Court inquired into its own jurisdiction. While generally precluded from hearing interlocutory appeals under the final judgment rule, in admiralty cases, there can be jurisdiction over interlocutory appeals “determining the rights and liabilities of the parties.” 28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(3). The Court held the instant appeal did not fit within the §1292(a)(3) exception to the final judgment rule because the district court did not determine the “rights and liabilities” of the parties when it decided that the limitation-of-liability provision in the contract was unenforceable and inapplicable.
The Court of Appeals, held that pretrial order determining applicability of limitation of liability provision in cruise ship ticket contract was not immediately appealable and dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.