Baldwin Haspel Burke & Mayer LLC

Maritime Update: Court Enforces One-Year Limitation on Cruise Line Ticket

Bill Schwartz - 

On November 6, 2020 in an unpublished decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in the case of Melancon vs. Carnival Corporation affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff passenger’s personal injury claim against a cruise line. Plaintiff filed the action three years after the injury was incurred. The ticket (“contract of carriage”) included a one-year period of limitation for bringing actions. The district court and now the Court of Appeals upheld the one year period and dismissed the suit.

The Facts:

In 2016, Melancon took a cruise on the CARNIVAL DREAM after executing a ticket contract. The contract had two pertinent parts. First, it imposed a one-year period of limitations for claims. Second, it contained a forum selection clause requiring that plaintiff bring claims in the Southern District of Florida. On April 24, 2016, Melancon was on the ship as it remained docked in New Orleans. Melancon slipped on a “foreign substance” on the deck, injuring her hip, leg, and other parts of her body. The injuries required surgery. Exactly three years later, Melancon sued Carnival in the Eastern District of Louisiana. Melancon alleged negligence and claimed that Carnival had breached its duty to provide a seaworthy vessel and to keep its deck in a safe condition.

The Ruling:

Carnival moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), citing the ticket contract’s one-year period of limitations. Melancon, in turn, averred that the contract was unenforceable, because she lacked capacity to enter into it. Melancon is “deaf and mute, visually impaired and functionally illiterate.” She is legally blind and uses American Sign Language (“ASL”) as her primary form of communication.

The district court and appellate court noted Melancon failed to establish that an alleged ADA violation vitiated her contractual capacity. Since Melancon pointed to no other doctrine rendering the ticket contract unenforceable, she was bound by the contract requiring her to bring suit “within one year” of any injury. Because Melancon sued outside of the one year limitation, the district court granted Carnival’s motion to dismiss, finding Melancon’s claims untimely.

Click here to read the ruling in its entirety.


If you have any questions regarding this maritime matter, please contact Bill Schwartz at (504) 569-2900 or wschwartz@bhbmlaw.com.


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