Seaman had Retaliatory Discharge Claim Against Vessel Owner by Reason of Being Fired for Refusing to Lie Under Oath for the Shipping Company

Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Landmark Cases

BAITON v. CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES, INC 61 So. 2d 313 (Fla. App. 3rd 1995)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: Appeal from the judgment of Circuit Court of Dade County (Florida), dismissing plaintiff’s case for failure to state a cause of action, plaintiff arguing that he established a basis for suing defendant for retaliatory discharge under federal maritime law and the state whistle-blower statute.

OVERVIEW: Plaintiff was a seaman employed by defendant as an at-will employee. Plaintiff alleged that defendant discharged him in retaliation for his agreement to testify for another employee against defendant in a personal injury case, and for his refusal to give a false statement. Plaintiff sued defendant for retaliatory discharge under federal maritime law and under the state whistle-blower statute, Fla. Stat. ch. 448.101-105 (1993). The trial court dismissed plaintiff’s complaint. The appellate court held that allowing plaintiff to be subjected to retaliatory discharge would have constituted an abuse of defendant’s absolute right to terminate plaintiff, because utilization of the right contravened the established public policy of requiring truthful testimony in the adjudicatory process. Finally, plaintiff also established a cause of action under the state whistle-blower statute.

OUTCOME: The order dismissing the complaint was reversed because plaintiff alleged proper causes of action against defendant for retaliatory discharge under the federal maritime law, and under the state whistle-blower statute, Fla. Stat. ch. 448.101-105 (1993).