South Florida Court Dismisses Jones Act Case for Lack of Jurisdiction

In Tarasewicz v. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., a welder and pipefitter who was a Polish national suffered an ischemic stroke while working aboard a cruise ship off the coast of Florida. Although the man was apparently misdiagnosed initially, he was later removed from the ship and treated at a Fort Lauderdale hospital.

Less than two years later, the man and his wife filed a lawsuit against the owner of the vessel, the ship’s captain, and others in the Southern District of Florida. According to the couple’s complaint, the Polish man suffered the stroke as a direct result of the unsafe working conditions aboard the cruise ship. Because of this, the man asked the court to award him damages for negligence, breach of implied warranty, negligence under the Jones Act, failure to provide maintenance and cure, and other claims. In response, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the man’s lawsuit because it was filed in an improper forum. According to the defendants, the United States court lacked admiralty jurisdiction.

According to the Southern District of Florida, forum non conveniens is a threshold issue that may be determined prior to subject matter or personal jurisdiction. Next, the federal court stated a lawsuit may not be dismissed on such grounds if U.S. law applies. The court then discussed the eight factors that should be considered when determining whether U.S. admiralty law should be applied to a case. The court added that the plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating U.S. maritime law applies.

Since most of the acts alleged in the couple’s lawsuit took place overseas or in international waters, the Florida court found that there was no aspect of the defendants’ purportedly wrongful conduct that took place in the U.S. In addition, the court said the activities the man claimed caused his harm were not intended to occur in the country because they were prohibited from being performed at a Florida port.

Next, the court found it significant that the ship at issue was owned by a Liberian company and flew a Bahamian flag. The court said the fact that none of the parties were U.S citizens also disfavored the application of federal maritime law. Likewise, each contract executed between the parties at issue was governed by foreign law. The court then dismissed the couple’s claim that a foreign forum was inaccessible and stated the final two factors did not support applying U.S. admiralty law to the case.

The Southern District of Florida turned to the traditional forum non conveniens analysis before ruling that an available and adequate foreign forum was available to the couple. Ultimately, the court held that dismissal of the plaintiffs’ lawsuit based on forum non conveniens was appropriate.

If you were injured while at sea, you should discuss your rights with a caring South Florida personal injury attorney as soon as you are able. To speak with a seasoned Miami admiralty and maritime law lawyer today, give the knowledgeable advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. a call at (305) 448-8585 or contact us online.

Additional Resources:

Tarasewicz v. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Dist. Court, SD Florida 2015

More Blog Posts:

Florida Court Finds Injured Woman’s Request to Amend Her Premises Liability Complaint Must be Reconsidered, June 25, 2015, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

Southern District of Florida Refuses to Dismiss Negligence Case Filed Against Cruise Ship After Child Was Apparently Injured Onboard, June 22, 2015, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

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