Beware of One Year Time Limitation to File a Lawsuit Involving Cruise Ship Passengers

By Brett Rivkind, Esquire on March 19, 2012 1:40 PM |

I continue to receive phone calls on regular basis from attorneys throughout the United States asking whether the one year statute of limitations to file a lawsuit for a cruise ship passenger who has been injured onboard a cruise ship (which include those operated by Carnival Corporation (Carnival Cruise Lines), Celebrity Cruise Lines, Costa Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), Regent-Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCL), and Silver Sea Cruises).

This one year time limitation to file a lawsuit for a cruise ship passenger that has been injured onboard a cruise ship is authorized by a Federal statute. The passenger tickets that contain this one year limitation to file a lawsuit has been held enforceable by our Supreme Court of the United States. Frequently, I receive a phone call from an attorney who wants to refer a cruise ship passenger case but has failed to recognize the one year time limitation, and it has been too late to help the cruise ship passenger. Other times I have received a phone call that an attorney has learned the hard way about the one year time limit when a lawsuit that has been filed is met with a motion to dismiss on statute of limitations grounds.

Not only is there a one year time limitation to file a lawsuit by a cruise ship passenger, there are also conditions in the passenger ticket requiring notice to be given to the cruise ship company of the claim, prior to commencement of the lawsuit. Typically, this a six month notice requirement. In addition, the passenger tickets contain a forum selection clause, requiring the passenger to file their lawsuit in venues chosen by the cruise ship company. The Miami based cruise ship companies, Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean, require the lawsuits to be filed in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Most of the time, the passenger ticket requires the lawsuit to be filed in Federal court.

In the case of Costa, they have two types of passenger tickets for their cruises. One involves cruises that depart from the United States. They require the lawsuits to be filed in Broward County, Florida. For those cruises that do not touch a United States port, and sail in the European countries, the lawsuit must be filed in Genoa, Italy. Passengers who were onboard the Costa Concordia are faced with a passenger ticket that requires a lawsuit to be filed within one year, as well as for the lawsuit to be filed in Genoa, Italy.

In addition to the many other terms and conditions contained in the passenger contract that will affect the rights of the cruise ship passenger in pursuing an action for personal injury or wrongful death against a cruise ship company, there are also terms and conditions with respect to any claims for baggage loss, or contractual disputes that may exist.

If you are contacted by a cruise ship passenger for a potential personal injury or wrongful death case against the cruise line companies, you must immediately review the passenger ticket to learn of all the terms and conditions. If the passenger does not have his ticket, the passenger tickets can be found online on the websites of the individual cruise ship companies. Sometimes it takes a little navigating to find the tickets, but they are on the websites.

Our firm is a Miami based maritime and admiralty cruise ship and boating accident law firm. I've been handling maritime cases for approximately 30 years.