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Showing posts from June, 2013

Maritime Law: Fla Supreme Court Weighs in On FNC Test

In Cortez v. Palace Resorts, Inc., Case No. SC11-1908 (Jun. 20, 2013), the Florida Supreme Court has provided excellent guidance on how a Florida court should handle a forum non conveniens defense. The issue, as succinctly phrased by the Court, is whether the forum non conveniens doctrine can force a United States citizen to litigate her negligence action in Mexico, when her lawsuit was filed against a corporation with its primary place of business in Florida and where the allegations of the complaint relate to an incident that took place in Mexico but center on conduct occurring in Florida. The Court answered this question in the negative. The Court explained that there is a strong presumption in favor of a plaintiff's choice of forum and this presumption does not apply to only Florida residents.  While this decision does not appear at first blush to assist foreign plaintiffs in asserting Florida as the appropriate forum for their disputes, the case does give excellent guidance o…

Maritime Law: Saving American Seafarer Jobs

Last year, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) introduced the Saving Essential American Sailors (SEAS) Act in an effort to repeal section 100125 of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act, which reduces the amount of U.S. food aid required to be carried on U.S.-flagged ships from 75 percent to 50 percent. Despite a bipartisan effort, the bill died in committee.

Without the implementation of SEAS and the repeal of the section of MAP-21, it is reported that as many as 2,000 American maritime jobs could be lost and as much as $90 million in lost revenues for U.S.-flag operators. These are figures from the U.S. Maritime Administration. If the offending section of MAP-21 is not repealed, we will have a situation where foreign-owned vessels would have to be depended on by the U.S. to delivery its cargo to our troops overseas. Without the U.S.-flagged sealift capacity, U.S. imports and exports would move solely on foreign shipping lines, many of which are stated-owne…

Maritime Law: Florida's Governor Signs Expert Witness Testimony Bill

Today, Governor Rick Scott of Florida reportedly signed a bill changing the state standard for accepting testimony from expert witnesses. This law is huge as it switches the state's Frye standard to the federal Daubert rule. Florida was only one of 10 states still using the Frye test, a standard established in 1923 that allowed expert testimony as long as it came from qualified experts who adhered to generally accepted scientific principles in their field. The Daubert standard, named for the 1993 U.S. Supreme Court decision Daubert v. Merrell Down Pharmaceuticals, focuses more on the scientific methodology and its relevance to the facts of the case. Experts under Daubert must have the training to give an opinion on a theory or technique that has been scientifically tested and published in peer-reviewed journals.

The bill, labeled HB 7015, was supported by the business community primarily to do away with what it derided as "junk science" testimony in personal injury and mal…

Maritime Law: Beware of the Boat That Comes to Help in an Emergency (English/Spanish)

I received a very frustrating phone call the other day from an individual that owned a small open fisherman that found himself in a predicament and he wanted my help. He was enjoying himself in the South Florida waters, when he found himself in an emergency situation and his vessel capsized; thankfully with no injury to himself or anyone else aboard. He did the right thing and called the U.S. Coast Guard on Channel 16 VHF-FM (156.8 MHz). Almost immediately, a commercial salvor arrived to help. This individual went on and continued to do the right thing by doing what most maritime lawyers recommend, negotiate the terms before the marine assistance company attempts to assist. This was done and agreed and the salvor tied his line to the vessel. Unfortunately, in the course of his assistance, the salvor grounded the vessel he was attempting to salve in a marine sanctuary. What he did next is astounding--he untied the vessel and took off, leaving this poor man worse off than when he first…

Maritime Law: Passengers Get Refunds After Cruise Fire

Five days after 25 major cruise companies adopted a passenger bills of rights which promises full refunds for trips that are cancelled due to mechanical failure, a fire broke out aboard a Royal Caribbean ship May 27, 2013.

Damage on the Royal Caribbean ship Grandeur of the Seas is pictured as the ship is docked in Freeport May 27, 2013. (Vandyke Hepburn, Reuters).

The fire caused so much damage that the rest of the cruise was cancelled and the 2,224 passengers were to be flown from the Bahamas back to Baltimore. Royal Caribbean said on its website that most public areas and staterooms were safe and that power, propulsion and communications systems were not interrupted. The bill of rights for passengers appears that it could not have come at a better time.

The bill of rights includes the following:

The right to disembark a docked ship if essential provisions such as food, water, restroom facilities and access to medical care cannot adequately be provided onboard, subject only to the Ma…