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Representing injured passengers against cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Disney, Celebrity, and Norwegian is expensive and difficult for the injured and their lawyers. However, it’s a lot easier than what injured crewmembers must face if they get hurt while working on a cruise ship. Take, for example, the case of Miguel Antonio Alvarado Castro, a Honduran injured while working as a cruise ship cabin steward aboard the Pullmantur Sovereign cruise ship.((MIGUEL ANTONIO ALVARADO CASTRO, Appellant, v. PULLMANTUR, S.A., PULLMANTUR CRUISES, S.L., PULLMANTUR CRUISES SOVEREIGN, a foreign corporation, and PULLMANTUR SHIP MANAGEMENT LTD., Appellees. 3rd District. Case No. 3D16-556. L.T. Case No. 14-21552. June 7, 2017.))  He was represented by another Miami maritime injury law firm in a Jones Act Claim((The Jones Act says: any seaman who suffers a personal injury in the course of his employment may, at his election, maintain a cause of action for damages at law, with the right to a trial by jury, and in such action all statutes of the United States modifying or extending the common law right or remedy in cases of personal injury to railway employees shall apply.  46 U.S.C. § 3010.)) against Pullmantur Cruises.

He also alleged unseaworthiness, failing to provide maintenance and cure, and failing to treat his injuries. The evidence in the case was Mr. Castro’s allegation that on September 7, 2013, while he was working on the Sovereign, he was severely injured because of the constant heavy lifting, bending, twisting, and turning he had to do as part of his responsibilities as a cabin steward.

He sued Pullmantur, a Spanish Cruise line–registered in the Bahamas, but owned by Royal Caribbean, headquartered in Miami, Florida–in Miami-Dade County’s state civil court. The cruise line moved to dismiss his claim, alleging that his employment contract specifically required him to bring any lawsuits against the cruise line in Malta.((As part of the employment contract, Castro agreed that his “employment aboard the vessel shall be governed by the Laws of the vessel’s flag state . . . and any disputes hereunder shall be adjudicated in that jurisdiction only.”))  Mr. Castro argued that forcing him to litigate his claims in Malta was too gravely expensive and burdensome, tantamount of depriving him of his civil rights.

The trial court concluded that the forum selection clause was valid and enforceable, and dismissed his case against Pullmantur. He appealed to Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal, which agreed and affirmed the dismissal based on an opinion from Florida’s Supreme Court stating that forum-selection clauses should be enforced unless a party clearly shows that enforcement would be unreasonable and unjust, or that the clause was invalid for such reasons as fraud or overreaching.(( Manrique, 493 So. 2d at 439 (alteration in original).))

The test for the injustice of a forum-selection clause is not “mere inconvenience or additional expense.” Rather, it is incumbent on the party seeking to escape the contract to show that trial in the contractual forum, Malta in this case, would be so gravely difficult and inconvenient that he would for all practical purposes be deprived of his day in court.

Unfortunately, Mr. Castro was unable to prove his inability to litigate in Malta even though the evidence in the case was that he lives in a rural part of Honduras, is unemployed, and does not have the financial means to travel to Malta to litigate his claim. The court was apparently not persuaded since he was somehow able to bring this particular claim in Miami, Florida, nearly 1000 miles from Honduras.

Either way, as a lawyer who regularly sues cruise lines on behalf of the injured, I am sure this is an outcome the cruise line had hoped for in picking Malta, of all places, as the venue for claim. We wish Mr. Castro and his attorneys the best of luck in their pursuit of justice in Malta.

How An Injured Crew Member Can File An ACCIDENT CLAIM AGAINST A CRUISE LINE- 1-866-597-4529

If you have had an accident during your cruise, we suggest you consult with an experienced maritime accident attorney as soon as possible. The cruise line security officers and medical staff are trained to investigate your potential claim the minute it happens, and often will have you sign, while receiving medical care, incriminating “passenger injury statements” and other innocent looking documents that they will use against you later if you decide to make a claim.

Our cruise claims attorneys at Aronfeld Trial Lawyers have over 30 years of combined legal experience helping people who have suffered onboard trip and falls, slip and falls, sexual assaults, medical misdiagnoses, and other kinds of injuries and accidents on cruise ships from around the world. We are passionate about holding the cruise lines accountable when they put their profits ahead of their passengers’ safety.  

We will help you recover from your accident, and obtain compensation from the cruise line for your lost time from work, medical expense reimbursement, travel costs, loss of cruise, and your pain and suffering. Call us today–we’re available 24/7 to consult with you toll-free, at 1-866-597-4529, or locally at 305-441-0440, by email at [email protected], or SKYPE.  We are ready to help.