Passage Contract Provisions Case Law

It long ago was held that a contract for the transportation of passengers over the high seas is a maritime contract. (The Moses Taylor (1866) 71 U.S. 411.) Thus, "a passage contract on a cruise ship is a maritime contract, and its interpretation is governed exclusively by maritime or admiralty law. The validity of a passage contract provision is to be interpreted by the general maritime law of the United States, not state law. State courts, however, have concurrent jurisdiction with federal courts to entertain actions governed by maritime law." (Hayman v. Sitmar Cruises, Inc. (1993) 14 Cal.App.4th 1499, 1504; accord, Hodes v. S.N.C. Achille Lauro ed Altri-Gestione (3d Cir. 1988) 858 F.2d 905, 909, overruled on another ground in Lauro Lines s.r.1. v. Chasser (1989) 490 U.S. 495, 104 L. Ed. 2d 548, 109 S. Ct. 1976.) The United States Supreme Court, and lower federal courts, consistently have upheld this principle. Citing Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute, the court in Colby v. Norwegian Cruise Lines, Inc. (D.Conn. 1996) 921 F. Supp. 86 stated: "Courts have uniformly held that the validity and effect of the provisions of a passenger cruise ticket are to be determined based on federal maritime law. Moreover, federal law applies even though the suit arises from an accident that took place on shore. " (At p. 88; accord, Milanovich v. Costa Crociere, S.P.A. (D.C. Cir. 1992) 293 U.S. App. D.C. 332, 954 F.2d 763, 766; see Roszak v. Princess Cruises, Inc. (1993) 90 Ohio App.3d 109 628 N.E.2d 77, 80.) Sharpe v. West Indian Co., Ltd. (D. Virgin Islands 2000) 118 F. Supp. 2d 646 involved a limitations provision in a cruise line ticket. The court "applied maritime law to the contract dispute, because the subject matter of the contract was maritime in nature." (At p. 648.) It noted that the question whether a limitations provision in a contract applies is contractual in nature. Therefore, "whether the underlying tort is a maritime tort is irrelevant" to resolution of the question. (Id. at pp. 648-649, fn. 1.)