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Why Do Cruise Lines Funnel Cases Through Federal Courts?


If you’ve ever tried to sue a cruise line, then you know that the ticket has a forum selection clause that ensures that all cases are heard by federal and not state courts. There are a number of good reasons why the cruise line would prefer a federal forum over a state forum. Until very recently, Florida had some of the most permissive rules regarding plaintiffs and it was very difficult for a defendant to get a case dismissed in pretrial. Now, with new rules set forth by the Governor, it is a bit harder to sue and plaintiffs have less power in these suits. Nonetheless, cruise lines will continue to route cases through the federal courts. Below, we’ll discuss why.


Cruise lines will prefer federal courts over state courts because it allows them the consistency of a uniform code. The predictability of the legal environment at the federal level means that juries will have less maneuverability to “tax” the cruise lines. It also means less legal work for the cruise lines’ defense counsel. Federal courts tend to apply rules and regulations consistently across multiple jurisdictions.

Federal courts are better equipped to handle maritime cases 

Federal courts have established precedents when it comes to maritime lawsuits. The judges would have likely heard maritime cases before and will apply precedent in a predictable way. Cruise lines generally believe that federal judges are better equipped to handle maritime lawsuits and are more knowledgeable about maritime law. This allows them to apply a uniform standard when adjudicating claims.

Specific federal rules benefit cruise lines 

The rules of federal courts, including the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851, benefit cruise lines in actions against plaintiffs. The Limitation of Liability Act allows a cruise line to cap damages to the value of the boat. This means that even if one of their boats sinks and everyone on board dies, the plaintiffs in these lawsuits could recover no more than the estimated value of the boat.

Can plaintiffs challenge the forum selection clause in the ticket? 

They can, but they are almost never successful in attempting to move the forum to the state courts. While state courts adjudicate claims related to boats in some cases, federal rules tend to favor defendants and cruise lines benefit from selecting federal courts as their primary forum. Plaintiffs that challenge the forum selection clause have not been successful.

That being said, moving the jurisdiction to federal court is not a panacea for cruise lines. They can still lose big in federal court and sometimes, they do. While they benefit from consistent standards, federal courts still hear plaintiffs’ cases, and juries still render verdicts against cruise lines.

Talk to a Miami Cruise Ship Injury Lawyer Today

 Miami admiralty & maritime lawyer Michael F. Guilford represents the interests of those who have been injured aboard cruise ships. Call our Miami office today to schedule a free consultation and we can begin discussing your claim immediately.

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Contact the Law Offices of Michael F. Guilford, P.A. for a free initial consultation with Michael Guilford. Flexible appointment times are available. If you can't come to us, we will come to you. Call toll free 866-473-2636 or describe your injuries in an email.

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Michael F. Guilford, P.A.

Courthouse Tower, Suite 750
44 West Flagler St.
Miami, FL 33130

Toll Free: 866-473-2636
Phone: 305-539-1999
Fax: 305-539-1998