Eleventh Circuit Decides Arbitration Clause in Seafarer’s Agreement Governs Employee’s Jones Act Claim

In Martinez v. Carnival Corp. No. 12-15164 (Feb. 24, 2014), the Eleventh Circuit decided whether a Jones Act claim brought by an individual against his employer was governed by an arbitration clause in his Seafarer’s Agreement.

Martinez was a Honduran citizen working on a Carnival cruise ship, who developed severe back pain and other related ailments as a result of his work duties. Carnival sent Martinez to Florida to undergo back surgery, and later Martinez filed a claim in Florida state court asserting Jones Act negligence, among other claims. Martinez asserted that the physician chosen by Carnival negligently performed his back surgery.

As a condition of his employment, Martinez agreed to a Seafarer’s Agreement. The Seafarer’s Agreement included an arbitration clause, which stated, “any and all disputes arising out of or in connection with this Agreement, including any question regarding its existence, validity, or termination, or Seafarer’s service on the vessel, shall be referred to and finally resolved by arbitration.”

First, the Court found that it had jurisdiction to hear the appeal because the case had not been “finished,” even though the case had been “administratively closed” as opposed to “dismissed” in the lower court.

Next, the court found that Martinez’s dispute “arose out of or in connection with” the Seafarer’s Agreement, even though the Seafarer’s Agreement may have terminated upon his arrival in Florida for medical care. Additionally, the “clear and unmistakable” language of the contract indicated that the parties intended for this dispute to be decided by arbitration, not by the court.

Therefore, the Eleventh Circuit found that arbitration was required, and affirmed the district court’s order compelling arbitration.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email