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Maritime Law--3d DCA Allows Class Action by Doctors Against Celebrity Cruises

In Celebrity Cruises, Inc. v. Rankin, et al, No. 3D14-3137 (Fla. 3d DCA Sept. 16, 2015), Celebrity failed to stave off a class certification case filed by a group of cruise ship doctors suing the company for breach of contract. The Third District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court decision certifying a class of about 41 doctors who claim they are owed commissions from medication sales.

The Miami-based cruise line owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. argued each doctor's understanding of the contract would overwhelm issues common to the class. The court disagreed, finding that common issues dominated individual issues because the class members were all "beneficiaries of [an] identical written contractual provision."

The order included an excerpt from Celebrity management's internal emails that stated, "According to the signed contracts, physicians' commission should be on total medical revenue (procedure and medication sales) as opposed to commission on procedure only." The doctors claim they are paid only for medical services and revenue from medication was improperly omitted from their pay calculations.

The class includes ship doctors who worked under Celebrity contracts from September 2004 to December 2009.
This is a big win for the doctors, as the appellate court clearly found that because all the doctors were subject to the same contract, this meant that Celebrity intended to treat them in a similar or common way. The cruise lines are notorious for having all personnel that serve aboard sign contracts of employment and in this instance, having the same category of personnel signing the same contract has seemingly worked against them in this instance.
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