Florida Court Reminds Plaintiffs General Maritime Law Does Not Recognize a Loss of Consortium Cause of Action

The Southern District of Florida has dismissed a breach of contract and loss of consortium claim that was filed against a cruise ship company. In Friedhofer v. NCL Ltd., two women apparently suffered damage to their hair while traveling aboard a cruise ship. As a result, the women and their spouses filed a lawsuit against the owner of the cruise ship in the Southern District of Florida. According to their complaint, the cruise ship owner breached its contract and acted negligently when the water on board the ship caused damage to the passengers’ hair. In addition, the plaintiffs sought loss of consortium benefits.

In response to the lawsuit, the cruise line filed a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ breach of contract and loss of consortium claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Typically, such a motion is appropriate when a plaintiff does not plead sufficient facts to demonstrate he or she is entitled to legal relief. When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court must accept all of the facts included in the pleading as true and construe any inferences in favor of the non-moving party.

After reviewing the evidence offered to the court, the Southern District of Florida granted the company’s motion and dismissed the claims at issue. The Southern District of Florida said general maritime law governed the parties’ dispute. Since it is well settled that “general maritime law does not recognize a cause of action for loss of consortium” and the plaintiffs offered no precedent that would suggest otherwise, the court dismissed the plaintiffs’ case on this issue.

According to the court, the plaintiffs’ breach of contract claims were barred by the six-month statute of limitations included in the parties’ contract because they filed their lawsuit approximately one year after the alleged injury occurred. A statute of limitations is a specified period of time during which a lawsuit must be filed with a court. If a case is not filed before this time period expires, any claim for damages is typically barred forever regardless of merit.

The court then dismissed the plaintiffs’ argument that the statute of limitations included in their cruise ticket violated federal law and went against public policy. According to the plaintiffs, 46 U.S.C. § 30508(b) prohibits a limitations period that is shorter than one year. The federal court stated that, although the law prohibits a shortened statute of limitations in a negligence action, it does not apply to a breach of contract claim. The Southern District also dismissed the plaintiffs’ argument that the court should apply the law’s prohibition to their breach of contract claim because it was grounded in negligence, since the plaintiffs also maintained a separate negligence action that the cruise ship company did not move to dismiss.

Finally, the federal court said a six-month limitation period may apply to a cruise ship customer’s breach of contract claim as long as it is adequately communicated to each passenger in a reasonable fashion. The court found that the limitation period was reasonably communicated to the plaintiffs because it was included within their cruise contracts. The Southern District of Florida held that enforcing the terms of the contract does not run afoul of established public policy.

If you were hurt while traveling on a cruise ship, a seasoned personal injury lawyer may be able to help you recover damages related to your harm. To schedule a free consultation with a veteran cruise ship accident attorney, give the caring personal injury advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. a call today at (305) 448-8585 or contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

Friedhofer v. NCL Ltd., Dist. Court, SD Florida 2015

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