Mobile Partner John Kavanagh authors “Admiralty” 2019 Eleventh Circuit Survey for the Mercer Law Review.
The cases discussed herein represent decisions the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued in 2018 and 2019. While not an all-inclusive list of maritime decisions from the court during that timeframe, the Author identified and provided summaries of key cases that should be of interest to the maritime practitioner.1
I. CRUISE LINE PASSENGER CLAIMS
“This case arises from a drunken tumble down an escape hatch on a cruise ship.”2 So begins the decision involving Plaintiff Olivier Caron’s personal injury, which occurred while Caron was a passenger on the M/V STAR. Caron, a Canadian citizen, bought an all-inclusive package allowing him to drink unlimited beer and wine while on his cruise. During the early morning hours (3:37 a.m.) of July 16, 2015, Caron descended to a midship area of the vessel and proceeded through a door marked “CREW ONLY” into a restricted area. Two crewmembers tried to stop him, but Caron ran away when confronted. Caron then walked through another door marked “CREW ONLY,” where he fell into a hole, which served as the escape hatch from the bow thruster room below.3
The suit was originally filed asserting both diversity of citizenship and admiralty jurisdiction.4 Caron’s original complaint did not mention anything about alcohol, instead made allegations premised on general theories of negligence. Later, Caron amended his complaint adding an allegation that the cruise line was negligent in overserving alcohol to him. The district court granted a motion to dismiss this amended complaint (overserving alcohol) because it was time-barred, filed outside the one-year limitation period contained in the passenger ticket contract.5
The cruise line moved for summary judgment and the district court granted the same. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit addressed three issues: (1) Whether the court had subject matter jurisdiction in the first instance, (2) whether the negligent “over-service of alcohol” claim was contractually barred or related back to the original filing, and (3) whether or not a summary judgment on the negligence claim was proper6. In an apparent case of first impression following the 2012 amendments to the subject matter jurisdiction statutes, the appellate court held that the district court did not have diversity jurisdiction for this suit filed by Caron (a Canadian citizen) and NCL (Bahamas), Ltd., a Bermuda corporation with its principal place of business in Florida.7 The federal diversity statute requires complete diversity; this is the case whether or not the contest is between citizens of different U.S. states or suits between two aliens (individuals or corporate entities).8
Nonetheless, the appellate court agreed with Caron that alternative subject matter jurisdiction did exist based on the federal court’s admiralty jurisdiction.9 The plaintiff’s claim of a maritime tort sufficed to invoke the court’s jurisdiction in that regard.10
To read the full review, please download “Admiralty” written by John P. Kavanagh, Jr.