386 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2004), 04-1183, Reynolds-Naughton v. Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd.

Docket Nº:04-1183.
Citation:386 F.3d 1
Party Name:Linda REYNOLDS-NAUGHTON, Plaintiff, Appellant, v. NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE LIMITED, d/b/a Norwegian Cruise Line, Defendant, Appellee.
Case Date:September 14, 2004
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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386 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2004)

Linda REYNOLDS-NAUGHTON, Plaintiff, Appellant,

v.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE LIMITED, d/b/a Norwegian Cruise Line, Defendant, Appellee.

No. 04-1183.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

September 14, 2004

Heard Aug. 6, 2004

Vincent Galvin with whom Malcolm P. Galvin, III was on brief for appellant.

Peter A. Junge with whom Lambos & Junge was on brief for appellee.

Before BOUDIN, Chief Judge, TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge, and SARIS, [*] District Judge.

BOUDIN, Chief Judge.

While on a cruise from Boston to Bermuda aboard the Norwegian Majesty in May 2002, Linda Reynolds-Naughton was injured (according to her later complaint) by a passenger door that closed unexpectedly on her hand. The injury resulted in the loss of the top third of her right middle finger. In May 2003 Reynolds-Naughton filed a negligence claim in admiralty in Massachusetts federal district court against the owner of the vessel, Norwegian Cruise Line Limited, a Bermuda corporation headquartered in Miami, Florida.

Reynolds-Naughton's passenger-ticket contract contained various limits on the cruise line's liability, including a forum selection clause. This clause stated that "any and all claims, disputes or controversies whatsoever arising from or in connection with this Contract and the transportation furnished hereunder shall be commenced, filed and litigated, if at all, before a court of proper jurisdiction located in Dade County, Florida, U.S.A." Anticipating a defense based on this clause, Reynolds-Naughton filed suit concurrently in the Southern District of Florida.

In September 2003, Norwegian Cruise Lines filed a motion to dismiss the Massachusetts case pursuant to the forum selection clause. Reynolds-Naughton opposed the motion but not on the ground that the

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clause failed as an unfair contract of adhesion or that she lacked proper notice. Rather, she claimed that the forum selection clause was invalid under the Limitation of Vessel Owner's Liability Act, 46 U.S.C. app. § 183c (2000). In December 2003, the district court granted the motion to dismiss and this appeal followed.

The Act, as it stood both at the time of Reynolds-Naughton's trip and at the time the district court ruled, provided in pertinent part that the owner of a vessel transporting persons from or to United States ports could neither limit by contract its liability for personal injury due to negligence, nor offer any contract terms purporting to

lessen, weaken, or avoid the right of any claimant to a trial by court of competent jurisdiction on the question of liability for such loss or injury, or the measure of damages therefor.

46 U.S.C. app. § 183c(a) (emphasis added). Any such limitations were explicitly declared null and void. Id.

If the issue were open, one might read the above-quoted language in several different ways. But in Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute, 499 U.S. 585, 596, 111 S.Ct. 1522, 113 L.Ed.2d 622 (1991), the Supreme Court read it as allowing forum selection clauses that limited the passenger's choice of venue, so long as a "court of competent jurisdiction" remained available to the passenger. In this case, the district court thought Shute controlling, as have other courts that have addressed the same problem since Shute. 1

Reynolds-Naughton's argument to the contrary is inventive but ultimately unpersuasive. It rests upon the fact that in October 1992, Congress altered the above-quoted language by inserting the word "any" before the phrase "court of competent jurisdiction," and that in November 1993, Congress again amended the Act by deleting "any" and restoring the original text. How this happened and what was said by legislative spokesmen bear recounting.

The October 1992 amendment adding the word "any" originated in the House version of the Oceans Act of 1992, Pub.L. No. 102-587, § 3006, 106 Stat. 5039, 5068, sponsored by Gerry E. Studds of Massachusetts. Until the day of its adoption, this amendment had not been mentioned in debates or in a congressional report; it was apparently offered after both houses had completed their reports on the bill, and was first mentioned early on the morning of October 6, 1992, immediately before the House passed the statute and one day before the Senate did so (and three days before Congress recessed for three months).

Nevertheless, Congressman Studds said on the House floor prior to enactment that the purpose of the amendment was to "overturn the result in Carnival " and allow injured passengers to "choose the forum" and sue "in any court of competent jurisdiction." 138 Cong. Rec. H11,785 (daily ed. Oct. 5, 1992) (statement of Rep. Studds). Taking the change of language together with this legislative history, we agree that Reynolds-Naughton's suit could be maintained in Massachusetts if the 1992 amendment governed this case. But well before the district court acted, the law had changed again.

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This time the amendment came from the Senate. As another piece of maritime legislation was making its way through Congress, Senators Ted Stevens and Ernest F. Hollings offered an amendment to the House bill, replacing everything after the enacting clause with new text. The new text included a provision deleting the word "any" from the Limitation Act paragraph in dispute in this case. 2 The Senate passed this substitute on the day the amendment was offered, and the House passed the same version less than 10 hours later. Three days later Congress recessed.

If this were all that had happened, the outcome in this case would be obvious. The natural inference would be that by striking "any" Congress was expressing an intention to go back to the precise language construed in Shute and, indeed, to enact the Supreme Court's gloss. See Lorillard v. Pons, 434 U.S. 575, 580-81, 98 S.Ct. 866, 55 L.Ed.2d 40 (1978). Even without this latter inference, Shute's interpretation would certainly bind lower courts once Congress had re-adopted the glossed language. At least, this would all be so in the absence of powerful legislative history giving a different spin to the 1993 amendment.

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