CLASS ACTION LAWSUITS AGAINST CRUISE LINES
By Hermann Paul a/k/a HannaS77
Over the years we have cruised we have been notified by lawyers of a class action lawsuits, especially suits over port charges. We recollect being notified of class action suits against Holland America, Princess Cruises, and Royal Caribbean, all representing cruise lines we sailed with. In each case we opted-out not to participate. Our reasoning for opting out rests with the fact that the main monetary beneficiary of such suits are the lawyers. Attorneys usually handle the lawsuits on a contingency fee basis and prefer to have the case settled rather than undergoing a trial either before a judge or jury.
Cruise lines prefer to settle the lawsuit since it can be good for business and less expensive in the long run. The settlement is usually a monetary award to the lawyers and vouchers to the cruise line passengers. These vouchers can run from as low as $5 to $50 per eligible passenger. The vouchers invariable can only be applied to a future cruise with the particular cruise line and must be used during a period of time. Experience has shown that many passengers do not take advantage of this arrangement.
The suits against cruise lines must be subject to maritime law over which the federal courts have jurisdiction. Class action suits can be submitted to state courts but the state court must use apply federal maritime law. In the federal courts the cases are usually handled by a judge and jury trials are not frequent. The federal judges are not "to hot trot" on class action maritime lawsuits and may oppose such lawsuits where one passenger sues in behalf of all "similar passengers."Some class action suits have been dismissed for failure to file suit in accordance with the passenger ticket forum selection clause or the time limitation to file suit clause. The following are some representative class action lawsuits.
Yollin v. Holland America Lines, 468 NY Supp.2nd, 873. Plaintiffs filed class action suit as the result of change of the cruise itinerary and for not living up to what was described in the cruise line brochure. The New York Supreme Court refused to certify the suit as class action and the trial court had dismissed the suit as spurious.
Simon v. Cunard, 428 NY Supp.2nd 952 Plaintiff filed class action lawsuit in behalf of all passengers for inadequate and inferior service aboard the QE2, inadequate air conditioning, dirty and unhealthy conditions, etc, Suit was dismiss since majority of other passengers did not participate and were satisfied with offer made by Cunard.
In the class action suit involving port charges, Baron v. Princess Cruises ,a California Superior Court judge refused to approve the proposed settlement because the attorneys were to receive $1,000,000 whereas the participating passengers would receive vouchers worth from $5 to $24.. The judge held " the amount of the voucher is so small in relation to the amount that will have to be spent to use it, i.e. the passenger fare for a future cruise, that many will simply forgo the opportunity. The judge considered the use of voucher as a "sales gimmick." The case has been appealed(California Court of Appeal, 2nd Division,( Case #BC148448) but I have found is no published or unpublished decision to read for this appeal..
The writer is not a lawyer nor giving legal advice. This article is for educational purposes. Anyone wishing to learn more about class action lawsuits, go on the WEB via Keyword http://hometown.aoljudgetad/index.html
or Judgetad's Home Page for articles on the subject by Judge Thomas Dickerson.