Eleventh Circuit Enforces Cruise Line's Forum Selection Clause

Published date15 September 2021
Subject MatterLitigation, Mediation & Arbitration, Transport, Coronavirus (COVID-19), Marine/ Shipping, Class Actions, Trials & Appeals & Compensation, Personal Injury, Government Measures
Law FirmLane Powell
AuthorMs Katie Matison

On August 19, 2021, a panel of the Eleventh Circuit affirmed a district court dismissal of a putative class action filed by a cruise ship passenger against cruise ship operators for the alleged negligent failure to warn passengers of the danger of COVID-19, misleading advertisement, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and the intentional dismissal of emotional distress based upon the forum selection clause in the cruise contract. In Turner, on his own behalf and on behalf of others similarly situated passengers aboard the Costa Luminosa v. Costa Crociere S.P.A., Costa Cruise Lines, Inc., 2021 WL 3673727, __F.3d__ (11th Cir. 2021), the Panel held that Section 2(a) of the General Conditions of Passage Ticket Contract (the "Contract") required all passengers to file any suit arising out of the cruise in Genoa, Italy.

COVID-19 Transformed a Fairy Tale Cruise into a Nightmare

Plaintiff Paul Turner ("Plaintiff" or "Turner"), a resident of Wisconsin, booked a dream vacation aboard the Italian ship Costa Luminosa, for a transatlantic cruise to the Canary Islands scheduled to sail from Fort Lauderdale on March 5, 2020. Unknown to Plaintiff and other passengers, however, a 68 year old passenger on the preceding voyage fell ill with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and the ship diverted to the Cayman Islands to allow him to disembark. On March 8, 2020, the Defendants Costa Crociere S.P.A. and Costa Cruise Lines, Inc. (collectively "Costa") learned that the passenger'who subsequently died'had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

The evening before the March 5 sailing, Costa emailed all passengers, including Turner, advising that Costa was liaising with health authorities to be certain that the Costa Luminosa provided "the highest level of safety for its guests and crewmembers." Despite the fact that it did not retain any experts to assure that the vessel had been sufficiently cleaned, Costa promised passengers that the ship was safe. Three days after departure, the ship diverted to Puerto Rico to allow an Italian couple manifesting COVID-19 symptoms to disembark. Costa, however, did not advise passengers that the Italian couple had tested positive for COVID-19 until a day later when the ship was at sea. Notably, Costa did not mandate that passengers quarantine until several passengers appeared to have contracted COVID-19. On March 19 when the ship docked in France, 36 passengers'including Turner'of the 75 passengers aboard the Costa Luminosa tested positive for...

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