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.