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Lawyers Weigh in On Cruise Line Litigation as DeSantis Threatens to Sue CDC , by Michael A. Mora

Whether cruise lines operate within the next couple of weeks as Gov. Ron DeSantis demands or when the no-sail order expires, Spencer Aronfeld said cruise lines have little to fear about any new litigation that could seriously impact the bottom line of their business.

Florida’s Republican governor threatened to file a lawsuit against the federal government unless the national public health agency lifted its conditional sailing order on cruise lines within the next couple of weeks so these companies can resume operation.

On Friday, DeSantis, along with Attorney General Ashley Moody, pointed to a steadily increasing number of people receiving one of the coronavirus vaccines, and to safety plans issued by cruise companies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on their ships once the conditional sail order is lifted. They also called out the CDC for withholding technical guidance to meet its extensive compliance demands.

The CDC implemented restrictions for cruise lines a little over a year ago. Many passengers on these ships were becoming infected by the coronavirus, leading to deaths in some cases. The CDC has ordered that all cruise lines remain docked through November 2021, which will continue to adversely impact the Florida economy to the tune of several billion dollars.

“The federal government is acting outside its authority in singling out and docking the cruise industry while other tourism-based businesses continue to operate in accordance with health guidelines,” Moody argued.

Now, Spencer Aronfeld, a Coral Gables attorney with a private practice, said it is unlikely CDC Director Rochelle Walensky would change her mind, especially in light of her warning Monday about a possible fourth surge of the coronavirus.

However, whether cruise lines operate within the next couple of weeks as DeSantis demands or when the no-sail order expires, Aronfeld said cruise lines have little to fear about any new litigation that could seriously impact the bottom line of the business coming their way.

“Federal maritime law says cruise lines have to be reasonable under the circumstances — that is the safety rule,” Aronfeld said. “The problem at first was it appeared that most of these cruise lines did not have a system in place to manage a rapidly spreading virus.”

Aronfeld, who has been involved in litigation against cruise companies constantly during his 30-year career, said these companies should feel a degree of comfort because so far, cases against them are being dismissed one after another.

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