The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issues a significant ruling today in a lawsuit brought by an injured passenger against a cruise line. In the case, known as Krupski v. Costa Crociere S. p. A.
, the petitionner initially brought suit against "Costa Cruise Lines" (the name printed on the front of the cruise ticket) rather than against "Costa Crociere S. p. A." (the name of the Italian corporation that actually operated the cruise) for an injury suffered aboard one of the line's cruise ships even though the fine print in the cruise contract stipulated that suits had to be brought against the latter. The plaintiff subsequently moved to correct the legal name of the defendant after
expiration of the period stipulated in the cruise contract for bringing suits under the guise that Costa Crociere S. p. A. and Costa Cruise Lines are distinct legal entities (the latter being a wholly owned subsidiary of the former that markets cruises in the United States). In today's decision, SCOTUS ruled that the procedural rules require the district court to allow the correction of the name on the filing, as it was clearly a mistate on the part of the plaintiff. The case will now go back to the district court for trial on its merits.
This ruling is good news for consumers, as it means that cruise companies cannot use their complex hierarchies of corporate structures to evade legal liability. Nonetheless, the errant name has cost the plaintiff substantial time and money while the issue of correction of the name on the filing has gone through the Circuit Court of Appeals and SCOTUS. Had the original filing been correct, the district court would have proceeded to try the case on its merit about two years ago.
So if you are bringing a suit against a cruise line for injuries sustained during a cruise, make sure that you use the correct legal name as it appears in the fine print of the cruise contract!