In Pettit v. Carnival Corp., a cruise ship passenger was apparently hurt when she slipped while on board the vessel in September 2013. Prior to her departure, the woman completed a contract stating any future personal injury lawsuits filed against the cruise company must be brought within one year in the Southern District of Florida. About two weeks before the statute of limitations expired, the injured woman filed a negligence lawsuit against the owner of the ship in Miami-Dade County. In addition, the hurt passenger failed to serve the cruise company until November 2014.
On December 1, 2014, the vessel owner filed a motion to dismiss the case based on the forum selection clause included in the passenger contract. About two weeks later, the woman filed her complaint with the Southern District of Florida. In response, the cruise company asked the federal court to enter summary judgment in its favor, based on the expiration of the statute of limitations. The woman countered that the period should be equitably tolled, since genuine issues of fact were in dispute.
In general, summary judgment is appropriate when there are no material facts in dispute and one party to a lawsuit is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. A party opposing summary judgment may not rely on the pleadings but instead must support his or her assertion that material facts are in dispute with sufficient evidence. Despite this, the burden for showing summary judgment is appropriate is on the moving party.
First, the federal court stated the injured woman admitted her case was filed outside the applicable statute of limitations. Despite this, the court said the woman attempted to ignore the obvious defect in her case by asking it to rule otherwise. According to the hurt woman, the cruise company’s inequitable acts caused her to file her negligence case with the wrong court.
Next, the Southern District of Florida said a court may equitably toll the statute of limitations if the other party caused an inequitable event that prevented the filing of a timely complaint. In such situations, the plaintiff is required to demonstrate equitable tolling is appropriate. After considering the facts of the case, the federal court ruled that tolling the statute of limitations was inappropriate because the forum selection clause in the parties’ contract clearly indicated any lawsuits must be filed in the Southern District of Florida. In addition, the injured woman failed to allege that the cruise company acted in a way that waived the forum selection clause, and she did not serve the company with notice of the lawsuit until nearly two months after she filed her case.
Since the statute of limitations expired before the hurt woman filed her personal injury lawsuit, and there was no unfair conduct on the part of the cruise company, the Southern District of Florida granted the vessel owner’s motion for summary judgment.
If you were injured while traveling as a passenger aboard a cruise ship, you should discuss your rights with a knowledgeable Miami personal injury attorney as soon as possible. To speak with a veteran South Florida workers’ compensation lawyer today, do not hesitate to call the dedicated advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. at (305) 448-8585 or contact us through our website.
Pettit v. Carnival Corp., Dist. Court, SD Florida 2015
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