Skip to main content

Prior Opinions Precluding Arbitration of Seaman's Suits Continue


In ESTIBEIRO v. CARNIVAL CORPORATION, 23 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. D375a (S.D. Fla. Oct. 2, 2012) (J.Seitz), the Southern District of Florida has again found that an arbitration clause in a seaman's employment contract, which required that the arbitration of claims must be held in Bermuda, unless the Bermuda venue provision is found legally unenforceable, was valid and enforceable. A seaman had brought his Jones Act claims and claims for maintenance and cure against his cruise ship employer, alleging he sustained damage to his heart muscle as result of an alleged failure to administer medication in a timely manner after he suffered a heart attack while working on cruise ship. The plaintiff brought the case in federal court, alleging that the amendment to the Jones Act which deleted the statute's venue provision rendered the Bermuda forum selection clause unlawful and contrary to public policy. The district court disagreed and found that the arbitration clause was neither substantively nor procedurally unconscionable.
 
Of course, this case follows on the Eleventh Circuit's opinion which reinforced its prior adherence to the enforceability of arbitration provisions in seamen's contracts, which significantly limited the effect of its prior decision invalidating such clauses where they precluded a seaman from seeking recovery under a statutorily defined remedy. In Lindo v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd., 652 F.3d 1257 (11th Cir. 2011), a 2-to-1 panel decision held that arbitration provisions were enforceable even as to statutory claims, such as those arising under the Jones Act.
 
Previously, the Eleventh Circuit had followed the Fifth Circuit's earlier recognition of the validity of such provisions in Bautista v. Star Cruises, 396 F.3d 1289 (11th Cir. 2005). Subsequently, however, the court cast some doubt on the ultimate enforceability of such clauses in its later opinion in Thomas v. Carnival Corp., 573 F.3d 1113 (11th Cir. 2009), a case which I blogged on previously and received some rather interesting commentary. Thomas refused to give effect to an arbitration agreement which would have precluded the plaintiff's statutory Seaman's Wage Act claim by requiring the application of Panamianian law. In a lengthy opinion in Lindo, the majority sought to harmonize its prior decisions.
 
Estibero now gives some additional guidance. The Plaintiff in Estibero invited the district court to   follow Thomas and find that the arbitration clause is unenforceable as against public policy. The district court refused to do so for three reasons. First, the court found that Thomas is distinguishable from the instant case. Second, the court found that Thomas is of limited precedential value. Third, the court found that the plaintiff failed to make a showing that his remedies under Bermuda law are inadequate. The court gave a clear roadmap of what a plaintiff would have to show in meeting his burden that the remedies in the foreign forum are inadequate.
 
If you are interested in receiving a complete copy of this decision or wish to reach me, please feel free to contact me at mov@chaloslaw.com.

Comments

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Maritime Law--U.S. Crewmember Required to Arbitrate Claims Applying Norwegian Law

In Alberts v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., No. 15-14775 (11th Cir. Aug. 23, 2016), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that a U.S. citizen, working aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship is required to arbitrate his claims against Royal Caribbean.
Plaintiff, a United States citizen, worked as the lead trumpeter on a passenger Royal Caribbean cruise ship. The ship is a Bahamian flagged vessel with a home port in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Royal Caribbean, the operator of the vessel, is a Liberian corporation with its principal place of business in Florida. After plaintiff became ill while working for Royal Caribbean, he filed suit alleging unseaworthiness, negligence, negligence under the Jones Act, maintenance and cure, and seaman’s wages and penalties. Royal Caribbean moved to compel arbitration, and the district court granted the motion. This appeal presented an issue of first impression: Whether a seaman’s work in international waters on a cruise ship that calls o…

Maritime Law--Tour Boat Captain Implicated in Tragedy Off Nicaragua

As reported in the Daily Business Review on January 25, 2016, Nicaragua's police, army and navy will investigate the captain of a tourist boat and his assistant for the deaths of 13 Costa Rican passengers killed on January 23rd when the vessel capsized in bad weather. The Reina del Caribe, Spanish for "Caribbean Queen," was carrying 33 people when it went down Saturday amid rain and strong winds as it ferried between the Corn Islands, a popular tourist destination, off Nicaragua's Caribbean coast. The Daily Business Review article can be accessed here=> Daily Business Review article.

The government clarified on the 24th that the boat was carrying 25 Costa Ricans, two Americans, two British citizens, a Brazilian and three Nicaraguans. Previous reports had said there were 32 people on board, including four Americans. All the dead were Costa Ricans.

Nicaragua's naval commander for the southern Caribbean region said the boat's captain was detained because the …

Maritime Law--Lawsuits Filed Over RCCL's "Storm Cruise"

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd ("RCCL") faces lawsuits by passengers accusing the company of negligently endangering their lives by letting Anthem of the Seas sail into a February 7, 2016 storm.  One class action lawsuit filed in federal court in Miami specifically states that RCCL should be required to pay punitive damages to passengers on its ship for "knowingly sailing directly into" a strong winter storm with 120-mph winds. It is also alleged that people aboard the ship were "subjected to hours of sheer terror as the gigantic cruise ship was battered by hurricane-force winds and more than 30-foot waves."

The vessel reportedly encountered 100 mph winds and 30-foot waves, and RCCL said the storm was more severe than expected. RCCL later turned the ship around, and it returned to New Jersey on February 10. Anthem of the Seas’ port azipod reportedly burnt through “all four clutches” during the storm. RCCL reported four minor injuries among more than 6,000 p…