JONES ACT SEAFARER WHO WAS A U.S. CITIZEN IS NOT COMPELLED TO ARBITRATION UNDER THE CONVENTION BECAUSE THE CRUISE LINE FAILED TO SATISFY THE PREREQUISITES UNDER BAUTISTA.
Tashe SMITH-VARGA, Plaintiff, v. ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES, LTD., a foreign corporation, Defendant.
United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division.
No. 8:13-cv-00198-EAK-TBM. | June 18, 2013.
Jones Act seafarer’s claims removed to federal court and Shipowner moved to compel arbitration.
Plaintiff, Tashe Smith-Varga, a Jones Act seafarer, was an ice skater aboard the ship who sustained an injury during a performance aboard the Voyager of the Seas. Plaintiff filed her complaint against Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. in state court in Hillsborough County, Florida, alleging negligence under the Jones Act, and failure to provide prompt medical care and also maintenance and cure under General Maritime Law. These claims arose from an injury sustained during a performance as an ice skater pursuant to a Sign On Employment Agreement. That agreement contained an arbitration procedure. The case was removed to federal court and Defendant moved to Compel Arbitration. Plaintiff moved to Remand and for Attorneys’ Fees, and opposed arbitration. The court analyzed the issue under the Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards; and under the limited inquiry under Bautista v. Star Cruises, 396 F.3d 1289, 1294 (11th Cir.2005). As stated, the Court must consider whether four jurisdictional prerequisites are met: there must be an agreement in writing within the meaning of the Convention; the agreement must provide for arbitration in the territory of a signatory of the Convention; the agreement must arise out of a commercial legal relationship; and a party to the agreement must not be not an American citizen, or the commercial relationship must have some reasonable relation with one or more foreign states. Only the fourth prerequisite was at issue; and after analyzing the issue, the court held that the relationship between Plaintiff and Defendant involved no property located abroad, envisaged no significant performance or enforcement abroad, and had no reasonable relationship with one or more foreign states. Accordingly, the Court found that the fourth jurisdictional requirement was not met and, therefore, the Court remanded the case.
Defendant’s motion to compel arbitration was denied and the matter was remanded.
WHERE HANDICAPPED CRUISE SHIP PASSENGER WAS INJURED IN CABIN BY A RAMP ALLEGEDLY DESIGNED BY PRINCESS, PLAINTIFF WAS ALLOWED TO PROCEED WITH THEORY OF STRICT PRODUCTS LIABILTY IN TORT.
Debra COX and Ted Cox, Plaintiffs, v. PRINCESS CRUISE LINES, LTD., and Does I through L, inclusive, Defendants.
United States District Court, C.D. California.
No. CV 13-01765 RSWL (JEMx). | June 25, 2013.
Before the Court is Defendant Princess Cruise Lines, Ltd.’s Motion to Dismiss Portions of Plaintiffs’ Complaint.
Plaintiffs were cruise ship passengers on Defendant’s vessel. Plaintiff Debra Cox has a disability consisting of a below-the-right-knee leg amputation, and she relies on a mobility scooter for transportation. Prior to embarking on the cruise, Plaintiffs advised Defendant of Debra’s disability and of her need for a handicap accessible room. Defendant accommodated Debra by placing Plaintiffs in a wheelchair-accessible cabin with a balcony. In order that disabled passengers might obtain access to the balcony from the cabin, Defendant purportedly designed, manufactured, installed, and maintained a ramp that allowed wheelchairs and mobility scooters to go over the cabin door threshold and outside to the balcony. Plaintiffs allege that two days into their cruise, on October 26, 2012, Debra used the ramp to go outside the cabin onto the balcony. On her way back into the cabin, the handicap ramp failed, separating under the load, and caused Debra’s mobility scooter to trip over, resulting in a displaced intertrochanteric fracture of Debra’s right femur. Plaintiff filed suit alleging (1) negligence, (2) strict liability in tort, (3) common carrier negligence, and (4) loss of consortium. Only two claims were at issue in Defendant’s Motion to dismiss: strict liability in tort and common carrier negligence. Plaintiffs allege Defendant, as a corporation, fulfills various roles, two of which form the bases of Debra’s claims-the role of designer and manufacturer of the handicap accessible ramp that was placed in Plaintiffs’ Golden Princess cabin, and the role of a common carrier for the transport of paying passengers. Defendant argues that Debra’s claim for strict liability in tort must be dismissed because shipowners generally owe only a duty of reasonable care to passengers, and courts only apply strict liability in maritime passenger personal injury cases when a crew member commits an intentional tort or crime toward a passenger. The court rejected this argument and relied on case law which stands for the position that “[g]eneral maritime law incorporates strict liability and negligence principles of products liability.” As such, the Court denied Defendant’s request to dismiss Debra’s claim for strict liability in tort. As to the claim for ‘common carrier negligence, Plaintiff attempts to hold Defendant to a higher “common carrier” standard rather than a “reasonable care” standard. Court held that because this is a maritime tort action for negligence, Defendant may only be held to a standard of reasonable care, not to the higher standard for common carriers. Lastly, Defendant asks the Court to dismiss Plaintiffs’ “claim” for punitive damages. Defendant acknowledges that punitive damages are available under federal maritime law for “wanton, willful, or outrageous conduct,” Defendant contends that the facts as alleged in relation to Plaintiffs’ strict liability claim do not rise to a level justifying the imposition of punitive damages. Court held this was an issue of fact not properly decided at the motion to dismiss stage.
The Motion to Dismiss was granted in part and denied in part.