Royal Caribbean has scored another victory against an injured passenger. She had sued the cruise line after slipping and falling in a puddle of water aboard one of RCCL’s ships during a cruise to Bermuda. She broke her hip in the fall. Her suit was dismissed simply because she filed her claim in the wrong court and outside the one-year statute of limitations that applies to cruise ship passenger injury claims.
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We did not represent this passenger, but according to records from the United States District Court for New Jersey, the passenger and her lawyers sued Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines in Federal Court in New Jersey two years after the incident, rather than in Miami’s Federal Court within the one-year deadline required by the passenger ticket. Her lawsuit against RCCL included claims for negligence, breach of contract, tortious interference with contractual relations, breach of good faith and fair dealing, and violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (NJCFA).
She testified under oath in her deposition that she did not recall receiving the ticket as her eldest daughter had arranged the cruise. In response, RCCL testified that all passengers are required to sign an acknowledgment of having received the ticket and then physically hand it to RCCL crewmembers prior to boarding.
The New Jersey court dismissed her case, and she appealed. A three-judge federal appellate court sided with RCCL, largely on the basis of the ticket’s wording. RCCL’s ticket states the following:
TIME LIMITS FOR PERSONAL INJURY/ILLNESS/DEATH CLAIMS: NO SUIT SHALL BE MAINTAINABLE AGAINST CARRIER, THE VESSEL OR THE TRANSPORT FOR PERSONAL INJURY, ILLNESS OR DEATH OF ANY PASSENGER UNLESS WRITTEN NOTICE OF THE CLAIM, WITH FULL PARTICULARS, SHALL BE DELIVERED TO CARRIER AT ITS PRINCIPAL OFFICE WITHIN SIX (6) MONTHS FROM THE DATE OF THE INJURY, ILLNESS OR DEATH AND SUIT IS COMMENCED (FILED) WITHIN ONE (1) YEAR FROM THE DATE OF SUCH INJURY, ILLNESS OR DEATH AND PROCESS SERVED WITHIN 120 DAYS AFTER FILING, NOTWITHSTANDING ANY PROVISION OF LAW OF ANY STATE OR COUNTRY TO THE CONTRARY.
The passenger argued that the record contains two disputes of material fact, including most importantly whether she received a ticket from Royal Caribbean, which is relevant to whether or not she was bound by the limitations clause of the ticket agreement.
Courts have routinely found that cruise ship passengers are bound by a contractual limitations clause in cruise tickets if the clause language is “reasonably communicated to the passenger.” Any passenger who has possession of a cruise ticket is charged with knowledge of the terms of the ticket, even if the passenger has not read them. In the appeal of the dismissal, the passenger denied receiving a ticket and pointed to her deposition testimony in support. However, her testimony actually revealed that she never truly denied receiving a ticket; rather, she testified that she did not remember having received a ticket.
Since RCCL passengers must sign the acknowledgment form portion of the cruise ticket before boarding, she could not have boarded without acknowledging receipt of her ticket. Even if the daughter had possession of her ticket at all times, the passenger is still charged under the law with “constructive notice” of its terms.
This case serves as a strong warning to anyone hurt on a cruise ship and to the lawyers who try to take on cruise lines like RCCL without knowledge of the intricacies of maritime litigation: All claims against cruise lines must be litigated within the strict confines of the terms of the passenger ticket—namely, cases must be filed within one year of the date of the incident in Federal Court in Miami.
Injured on Royal Caribbean Ship
Since 1991 our cruise ship accident law firm has focused on the rights of passengers who have been injured on Royal Caribbean ships as well as other major cruise lines such as Carnival, Norwegian, and Celebrity. We offer a free initial consultation to anyone around the world who may have a potential claim. Call us toll-free at 1-866-597-4529 or at 305-441-0440, or reach us by email at [email protected] or SKYPE. We urge you to contact us as soon as possible—even while still on board the ship—so that we can begin to investigate and analyze the facts of your unique case.
Cruise lines utilize very talented and experienced maritime injury lawyers to defend their interest and keep their profits. You deserve passionate and committed representation to protect your legal rights and to obtain fair and reasonable monetary compensation for your lost wages, medical expenses, loss of enjoyment of your cruise, transportation reimbursement, and pain and suffering. Call us today—we are ready to help.