In the context of maritime law and U.S. federal court
jurisdiction, cruise line accident cases tend to
involve passengers and guests aboard cruise
ships, but not crew members. Whether it’s Royal
Caribbean Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line,
Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line or other
major ship operator, the facts and issues of
shipboard injury cases making their way into
American courts are from the customer side.

We don’t often see crew based litigation or
arbitration commenced in U.S. district court because
of jurisdictional issues, to wit, subject matter
jurisdiction. See different legal theories set forth for
different causes of action in
Cruise Ship Law. While
U.S. citizens and residents satisfy subject matter
jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction under the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in the event they
are injured, cruise ship employee claims fall under
adjudication set forth in employment agreements
that generally stipulate that accidents and injuries
suffered in the course of employment are to be
arbitrated, usually in the sovereign state where the
legal subject is domiciled.

A recent decision from the 11th Circuit Court of
Appeals served to confirm this doctrine of judicial
process (download a pdf of Circuit Court's decision
at Justia -
Martinez v. Carnival Corp., No. 12-15164
(11th Circuit Court of Appeals 2014). The appeals
court directed a Carnival employee to prosecute his
case under the terms of a seafarer’s agreement,
rather than in district court in the 11th Circuit. The
plaintiff sustained on on-the-job injury while in the
employment of Carnival Cruise Line aboard the
Carnival Fascination. His employment contract
stipulated that disputes other than those involving
wages were to be submitted to arbitration.

The plaintiff sued Carnival, developing his summons
and complaint for Florida state court. Carnival filed a
motion to remove the matter to federal court, where
a motion was served to mandate arbitration in
compliance with the terms of the employment
agreement. In other words, Carnival would not be
accepting the claim as a Jones Act seaman’s case
because the crew member was not a Jones Act
seaman under maritime law.

The district court held for the defendant cruise line,
compelling arbitration per the terms of the contract.
On appeal, the circuit court considered whether the
matter of medical malpractice, or negligence, were
subject to the arbitration clause. It determined they
were and ruled for the defendant cruise line on
both issues, the employment contract and the
ensuing negligence - medical malpractice lawsuit.

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