974 F.2d 221 (1st Cir. 1992), 91-2083, Jimenez v. Peninsular & Oriental Steam Nav. Co.

Docket Nº:91-2083.
Citation:974 F.2d 221
Party Name:Carmen J. JIMENEZ, Plaintiff, Appellant, v. PENINSULAR & ORIENTAL STEAM NAVIGATION COMPANY, et al., Defendants, Appellees.
Case Date:September 08, 1992
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

Page 221

974 F.2d 221 (1st Cir. 1992)

Carmen J. JIMENEZ, Plaintiff, Appellant,

v.

PENINSULAR & ORIENTAL STEAM NAVIGATION COMPANY, et al.,

Defendants, Appellees.

No. 91-2083.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

September 8, 1992

Heard March 3, 1992.

Wilfredo Segarra Miranda with whom Carlo & Troncoso, San Juan, P.R., were on brief for appellant.

Gustavo A. Gelpi with whom Feldstein, Gelpi & Gotay, Old San Juan, P.R., were on brief for appellees.

Before BREYER, Chief Judge, SELYA and CYR, Circuit Judges.

CYR, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff Carmen Jimenez appeals the summary judgment entered in favor of P & O Cruises Ltd. and P & O Lines (Shipowners) Ltd., appellees, on the ground that her tort claims are time-barred under the one-year limitations period prescribed in the passenger ticket she purchased before

Page 222

boarding the ship on which she was injured during her Caribbean cruise. We affirm.

I

BACKGROUND

On January 30, 1988, Jimenez boarded the Pacific Princess in Miami, Florida, for a Caribbean cruise. On February 3, she disembarked for an excursion to the island of Mayreau. As there was no suitable berthing for the Pacific Princess, small boats were used to ferry Jimenez and her fellow passengers to and from the island. Jimenez was injured upon reboarding the cruise ship.

Sometime in December 1988, Jimenez consulted legal counsel. On January 25, 1989, a complaint was filed against "Pacific and Oriental Lines d/b/a P & O Princess Cruises, Inc.," there being no party in interest so named. See infra note 1. In May, Peninsular and Oriental Lines, Ltd., was joined as a defendant, and service eventually was completed on appellee P & O Cruises Ltd., which answered the complaint notwithstanding the erroneous designation. Not until May 1990 was appellee P & O Lines (Shipowners) Ltd. finally added as a party defendant. 1 In April 1991, the appellees, P & O Cruises Ltd. and P & O Lines (Shipowners) Ltd., moved for summary judgment on the ground that the present action had not been brought within one year from the date the cause of action arose as required in the passenger ticket issued to Jimenez. Summary judgment was granted on September 19, 1991, and Jimenez appealed.

II

DISCUSSION

We review de novo to ensure that no genuine issue of material fact respecting Jimenez' three appellate claims has been overlooked and that defendants were entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. 2 See, e.g., Milton v. Van Dorn Co., 961 F.2d 965, 969 (1st Cir.1992).

1. Ambiguity in Limitations Provision

First, Jimenez asserts that an ambiguity in the terms of the time-bar precluded summary judgment. Paragraph 25 of the passenger ticket contract reads:

25. Notwithstanding any other provision contained herein, neither P & O nor any of its agents, servants, employees or ships shall be under any liability either in rem or in personam in respect of any claim whatsoever unless written notice of the claim is presented to P & O within six (6) months from the date on which the claim arose, and unless each suit or action specifically naming P & O, its agents, servants, employees or the ship as a defendant is brought or filed within one (1) year from the date on which the claim arose and valid service of process is effected within thirty (30) days thereafter. (Emphasis added.) 3

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The legal determination whether a term in a maritime contract is ambiguous is for the court. 4 See United States ex rel. Eastern Gulf, Inc. v. Metzger Towing, Inc., 910 F.2d 775, 779 (11th Cir.1990) ("general rules of contract interpretation" govern construction of maritime contract for towage services); Garza v. Marine Transp. Lines, Inc., 861 F.2d 23, 27 (2d Cir.1988) (construing maritime "red-letter" clauses); Atlantic Dry Dock Corp. v. United States, 773 F.Supp. 335, 337-38 (M.D.Fla.1991) (applying federal maritime law); see also Carriers Container Council, Inc. v. Mobile S.S. Ass'n, 896 F.2d 1330, 1337, 1339 (11th Cir.) (non-maritime federal common law), as amended, 904 F.2d 28, cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 111 S.Ct. 308, 112 L.Ed.2d 261 (1990); cf. ITT Corp. v. LTX Corp., 926 F.2d 1258, 1261 (1st Cir.1991) (diversity case applying Massachusetts contract law); In re Navigation Technology Corp., 880 F.2d 1491, 1495 (1st Cir.1989) (applying New Hampshire law).

The operative language provides that neither P & O (i.e., appellee P & O Cruises Ltd.), nor the associated persons and entities referenced in paragraph 25, can be held liable unless "each suit or action specifically naming" any such person or entity is brought within one year. (Emphasis added.) 5 Jimenez contends that the disjunctive "or," within the listing of the referenced functionaries and entities associated with P & O, 6 contemplates that any referenced functionary or entity encompassed within the listing may be held liable in an action brought beyond the one-year period, provided suit has been brought against at least one such functionary or entity before the one-year period expires.

The term "each suit or action" would not be accorded reasonable meaning, or indeed any significant meaning, were we to read the disjunctive "or" as permitting all listed entities to be sued beyond the one-year limitations period as long as at least one had been sued within the limitations period. In construing contract language, we endeavor to render no term meaningless. See Cohen v. Steve's Franchise Co., 927 F.2d 26...

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