Florida Statutes section 381.00316 prohibits businesses in Florida from requiring consumers to provide documentary proof of COVID-19 vaccination to access businesses’ goods and services. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (“NCLH”) has recently challenged section 381.00316’s applicability to its cruise operations because NCLH believes that requiring its passengers to provide documentary proof of COVID-19 vaccination is the one constant that allows NCLH’s cruise ships to smoothly access foreign ports, which have differing COVID-19 protocols and rules. In Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Ltd. v. Rivkees, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida ruled in favor of NCLH on this challenge, stating that section 381.00316 violated NCLH’s First Amendment rights and the dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. This decision is now on appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
This Comment argues that NCLH could have brought another claim to deflect section 381.00316’s applicability to NCLH’s cruise operations: a claim of admiralty jurisdiction. A claim of admiralty jurisdiction would have likely led the court to determine that NCLH’s passenger ticket contract, which contains provisions that require passengers to provide documentary proof of COVID-19 vaccination before boarding NCLH’s ships, is a maritime contract that is subject only to federal maritime law and not Florida state law. Thus, section 381.00316 cannot prohibit NCLH’s requirement of passengers’ documentary proof of COVID-19 vaccination. This Comment discusses the value of bringing an admiralty jurisdiction claim in this context, and highlights how businesses that create and enter maritime contracts, particularly other cruise lines conducting cruises out of Florida, can take advantage of an admiralty jurisdiction claim to avoid compliance with state laws that burden their operations
Maritime Magic: How Cruise Lines Can Avoid State Law Compliance Through Passenger Contracts,
76 U. MIA L. Rev.
Available at: https://repository.law.miami.edu/umlr/vol76/iss4/6