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Carnival Corp., which operates Carnival Cruise Lines, has filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court Eastern District of Louisiana seeking damages for “economic losses and damages” it claims to have suffered as a result of the oil spill.

What strikes me as somewhat ironic is that Carnival, the largest cruise ship operator in the world, is part of a huge lobbying effort in Congress to restrict claimants who are seeking recovery for the death of their loved ones in a maritime disaster. As we have previously reported, a death that occurs on the high seas, is governed by the Death on the High Seas Act, which unfairly restricts the availability of damages survivors of the deceased may recover. The Death on the High Seas Act unfairly limits recovery to economic damages only in a wrongful death lawsuit. The oil rig explosion killed eleven (11) people. The family members have been pursuing changes in this harsh restriction on the availability of damages but have faced strong opposition from lobbyists, including those funded by the shipping industry, including the cruise ship industry.

Thus, while Carnival continues to fight in Congress to restrict people’s access to court and their rights to full and just compensation, at the same time they utilize the court system to seek recovery for what they claim are their “economic losses and damages” suffered as a result of the oil spill. I am sure Carnival would not want to see their claim for damages limited by any type of arbitrary cut off imposed by legislation, and if such legislation did exist which would restrict their rights to full and complete recovery for any losses they claim, they would be sending their lobbyists to Congress to attempt to amend such laws.

Carnival also inserts provisions into passenger tickets for pleasure cruises which severely hampers the rights and abilities of passengers to seek justice and claim full and complete compensation for injuries during a cruise. Carnival restricts the courts that the passengers can file suit in, and even tries to deny the passengers their right to a jury trial when they do bring a claim against Carnival. Carnival imposes strict limitations on the time in which to give them notice of a claim by the passenger, and in which to file a lawsuit against Carnival for any injuries arising out of an accident that occurs during a cruise. Many times these restrictions and conditions result in depriving a passenger of bringing a claim for personal injuries they suffer during a cruise.

Carnival is also attempting to severely restrict the rights of the crewmembers they hire to work onboard their cruise ships by attempting to contract away the crewmembers’ rights to bring claims under the United States laws for injuries they suffer during the course and scope of their employment aboard ship. The fact that Carnival is able to escape United States labor laws is not enough. Since the Supreme Court of the United States, in a well known opinion, Hellenic Lines Ltd. v. Rhoditis, 398 U.S. 306, 90 S. Ct. 1731, 27 L. Ed 2d 94 (1970), determined that a shipping company with a base of operations in the United States is subject to United States law for a claim by a crewmember for personal injury, notwithstanding the fact that the shipping company operates with foreign flags on their ships, and incorporates in a foreign country, Carnival is now attempting by contract to deprive the seamen of their only available course of action, which is to bring a claim for personal injuries under the Jones Act. The Jones Act is a statute enacted by Congress to protect crewmembers who work on ships. Carnival attempts by the employment agreements, which are one sided and take or leave it, to deny the seamen their rights under the Jones Act. Carnival actively opposes any legislation to prevent shipowners from contracting away their rights under the Jones Act.

This recent lawsuit by Carnival for damages arising out of the BP oil spill further illustrates the principle that if you are going to take advantage of the benefits of the United States laws and the United States courts, you should not at the same time be able to escape the obligations and responsibilities under the United States laws.

Our personal injury and wrongful death firm continues to fight for the rights of passengers and crewmembers who suffer injuries aboard ships, including the passenger cruise ships.

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