As published in the column "Ask the Attorney" for a monthly publication.

A client used his home computer to travel buy tickets on a cruise ship that left out of California and traveled to the Panama Canal. He was injured on the trip while at sea due to the cruise ship's fault. Since he bought the trip using his home computer in Connecticut can he sue the cruise line in Connecticut? The cruise line has no offices or properties in Connecticut.

The short answer is: Very unlikely. It has long been an industry standard that airlines, cruise lines, resorts and the like include a restrictive clause in your ticket or reservations. This clause used to be found in small print on the back of the multi-page tickets you received. You probably never bothered to read the half-toned back pages but your rights to sue the cruise line were detailed there.

With the growth of the internet and ticket free traveling these restrictions are now included online. When you purchased the tickets you were required to agree to a EULA (End User Licensing Agreement) that you probably also never read. By agreeing to the purchase you waived the right to sue the cruise line anywhere but at a location stated in the EULA. Usually the carrier lists a single State that is favorable to the travel industry (Florida is a big favorite) where the cruise line may be sued. The travel industry figures that if they are sued in a State that relies on tourism money the local court and jury would favor the cruise line. They are right. Despite this the courts have strongly supported this restrictive clause.

Allowing a cruise line to be sued in any state would be unduly burdensome on the travel industry. The services they offered would be subject to laws created in states far from where it does business. When the restrictive clause is extended to cruise ships and airlines it is made clearer. Every state and country they pass through or stopover at would subject them to new laws. Lawyers would have to be kept on retainer by the airline in every state and locality. The cost of doing business would be excessive.

To promote companies to enter into the travel industry the courts allow these clauses despite their not being clearly represented (it is usually lost amongst a long page of restrictions) when you make your purchase. It is very important that you always read everything before you sign. The court plays a balancing act of your rights compared to the cost of companies to do business.

Another reason for the court's supporting the restriction on where you can sue the travel industry is to insure your right to sue when the cruise line is owned by an international company. When you sue someone you can not collect against them unless they have some asset in that state. International corporations that restrict where they may be sued would either be insured or bonded to cover any judgment against them in the state where they allow themselves to be sued.