Have you ever been on a cruise, purchased your ticket and then stuck it in your bags without reading it? Think again. Anyone who is ready to take a cruise should read the entire ticket contract for passage thoroughly. This document spells out the cruise line’s rights and responsibilities as well as those of the passenger. Anyone injured aboard a cruise ship has a limited amount of time and is designated a specific jurisdiction to bring a lawsuit or make a claim against the cruise line.
Typically, the statute of limitations in cruise line injury cases
is one year. Most cruise lines require that the lawsuit be filed in the Southern District Federal Court of Florida. The exact location is set forth in the ticket. Admiralty law applies to these types of cases.
Within admiralty law, litigants are not generally afforded a jury trial. However, in federal court a jury trial may be allowed to take place if diversity of citizenship exists between the plaintiff and the defendant.
What does this mean? Simply put, a Florida resident is not entitled to a jury trial if the resident is suing a cruise line in a Florida court. However, by alleging diversity of citizenship, a resident of any other state will be able to obtain a jury trial by exercising his or her right to one.
Does this seem fair? Clearly not. But the issue has been litigated, and the courts have ruled that there are no violations of equal protection or due process because the relationship between the passenger and the cruise line is contractual in nature.
As a practical matter, most cruise lines are not forcing Florida residents into a non-jury posture. But there is a growing trend that the federal magistrates and judges are striking jury demands for Florida residents in order to speed up the docket. While this may not seem fair, it is the law.