Cruises are intended to be memorable and fun. However, a frolic on the sea is not free of risk. Indeed, the facts of a recent decision from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Pettit v. Carnival Corp., show that sea voyages are not without potential mishaps.
The accident at issue in Pettit occurred on September 24, 2013. The plaintiff in this case was a passenger on the Carnival Breeze. While at sea, the plaintiff slipped and fell, leading to various physical injuries. Once back on the ground, the plaintiff brought suit against Carnival in a Florida state court in Miami-Dade County. However, the contractual terms on the plaintiff’s ticket, in particular the forum selection clause, required that she bring suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Two months afterward, the plaintiff finally served Carnival. Carnival then moved to dismiss the suit based on improper forum. Realizing the error, the plaintiff then filed the complaint in federal court. This, however, didn’t solve the plaintiff’s trouble. The ticket contract also included a statute of limitations provision that afforded passengers only one year to bring personal injury suits. The plaintiff had filed her state court suit only 12 days before the expiration of the contractual statute of limitations, and by the time the plaintiff filed suit in federal court the statute of limitations had long elapsed. Carnival moved for summary judgment, asserting the plaintiff’s claim was time-barred. The plaintiff opposed, arguing that the statute of limitations should be equitably tolled. Unfortunately for the plaintiff, the trial court concluded otherwise.