A topic of controversy and litigation over the years has been the ways in which cruise lines get their customers to agree to certain terms by merely purchasing a ticket to go on a vacation on one of their ships. There are a number of issues that can arise during the course of a cruise, even if it only lasts a few days. It is always helpful to know where to get legal help before deciding to travel with one of the major cruise lines.


Carnival forces passengers to agree to their terms


In one of the most well known cases involving a cruise line, Carnival attempted to make certain passengers agree to unfavorable terms such as agreeing to have any matters litigated in South Florida, regardless of where the ticket was purchased. Needless to say, this caused a number of problems and one case regarding the agreement attached to the tickets made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.


In the case of Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute, the plaintiffs were a couple that suffered injuries on one of Carinval’s ships while it was in international waters off the coast of California. Mrs. Shute slipped on a wet spot on one of the outdoor decks during the cruise and was hurt. The ticket they purchased to board the cruise contained a forum selection clause that would force them to sue and litigate the case in the federal Southern District of Florida courts, near Carnival’s headquarters in Miami. Because they had lived in the state of Washington and purchased the tickets there, they argued that going to Florida to litigate any matters would create a severe burden on them.


The court ended up siding with Carnival, stating that the plaintiffs were able to read the contract with the ticket during the time of purchase and they had the option to not travel with the cruise line if they did not agree to all of the terms. Carnival was also able to choose a single venue in the place where their company headquarters was located, as it was more convenient and reasonable to have all lawsuits against them litigated in the same place considering they were a national company with cruises leaving from many ports around the country.


Two of the justices dissented from the majority opinion, stating that the cruise line has an unfair advantage over its customers through much greater bargaining power. The dissent also mentioned the fact that it seems unrealistic to expect people to scour the language of a contract when they are buying a ticket for a cruise, as they would essentially need to have an attorney review the ticket contract before traveling.


What can someone do to prevent this from happening?


Situations such as this demonstrate the need to retain a lawyer who is experienced in dealing with cruise lines and related principles of law. Only a legal expert can successfully navigate these kinds of cases and find a solution for their client, as some of the issues that come into play regarding international waters and jurisdiction can be very different from normal civil cases related to similar issues on land. The outcome of the Shute case also shows that unfavorable outcomes are possible, and people who have problems with cruise lines should take some measures to protect themselves such as viewing any contractual terms related to the purchase of tickets, as this can be a significant source of problems at a later time if an accident happens. As terrible as it may sound, a brief search can uncover numerous problems cruise lines have had over the years, and it is best to know where to find the right kind of legal help when planning a cruise.


The right lawyer can make a huge difference


Trying to sue a cruise line after an injury or other common problems is no easy task. As the opinion above mentioned, most of these cruise lines are large businesses with their own teams of lawyers and they have much greater resources than the average passenger who trusts them when they take a vacation. There are also jurisdiction issues that can become complex. Aside from the ticket contract mentioned above, some cruise ships will sail under the flag of another country rather than the United States. This other country’s laws may apply to accidents that occur while the ship is sailing in international waters.


Only entrust your safety on a cruise to a specialist


Fortunately, there are expert attorneys who specialize in maritime law and related areas in Miami. They can discuss any potential issues regarding cruise lines and their procedures and file lawsuits if necessary.