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Haasbroek v. Princess Cruise Lines, Ltd.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

December 12, 2017

Michelle Haasbroek, Plaintiff,
v.
Princess Cruise Lines, Ltd., Steiner Transocean Limited, Steiner Leisure Limited, Steiner Transocean U.S., Inc., and Eddie Yamile Santa Cruz Reyes, Defendants.

          OMNIBUS ORDER

          K. MICHAEL MOORE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS CAUSE came before the Court upon Defendants Princess Cruise Lines, Ltd. (“Princess”), Steiner Transocean Limited, Steiner Leisure Limited, and Steiner Transocean U.S., Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss and Compel Arbitration (ECF No. 8) (the “Arbitration Motion”) and Plaintiff Michelle Haasbroek's Response in Opposition and Motion for Remand (ECF No. 12) (the “Remand Motion” or “Opp.”). Both motions are now ripe for review. For the reasons that follow, both motions are GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Michelle Haasbroek (“Plaintiff”), a South African citizen, was a spa facialist employed by Steiner Transocean Limited, Steiner Leisure Limited, and/or Steiner Transocean U.S., Inc. (collectively, the “Steiner Defendants”). See Notice of Removal Ex. 1 (ECF No. 1-1) (the “Complaint”) ¶¶ 6, 8. On April 4, 2014, Plaintiff and Steiner Transocean Limited, a Bahamas company, executed an agreement labeled the Shipboard Employment Agreement (the “SEA”). See Notice of Removal Ex. 2 (ECF No. 1-2) (“SEA”).

         The SEA is governed by the laws of the Bahamas. See SEA at Article 16(a) (p. 11). The SEA also contains an arbitration clause (hereinafter, the “Arbitration Clause”), which reads in relevant part:

[A]ny and all disputes, claims or controversies whatsoever, whether in contract, regulatory, tort or otherwise, including but not limited to, constitutional, statutory, common law, intentional tort and equitable claims, as well as Jones Act and Wage Act claims, claims for negligence, unseaworthiness, maintenance and cure, failure to provide prompt, proper and adequate medical care, personal injury, death or property damage and whether accruing prior to, during or after the expiration of this Agreement (collectively “Disputes”), shall be resolved by final and binding arbitration. In addition, Employee agrees to arbitrate any and all disputes regarding the existence, validity, termination or enforceability of any term or provision in this Agreement. All arbitration between the parties shall be referred to and finally administered and resolved in Nassau, The Bahamas and administered by the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”) under its international dispute resolution procedures. . . .

Id. at Article 16(b) (p. 11).

         On or about June 9, 2014, Plaintiff was employed as a spa facialist aboard the M/S Crown Princess (the “Vessel”). See Complaint ¶¶ 6-8. The Vessel was owned, operated, managed, maintained, and/or controlled by Princess. See Complaint ¶ 6. During the course of her employment, Plaintiff lived aboard the Vessel. Id. ¶ 10. On or about June 9, 2014, Defendant Eddie Yamile Santa Cruz Reyes, a Princess employee working aboard the vessel, allegedly raped Plaintiff. Id. ¶¶ 10-13, 42. As a result of the rape, Plaintiff became pregnant and gave birth to a child. Id. ¶¶ 14-15.

         On or about May 17, 2017, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit in the Circuit Court for the 11th Judicial Circuit in and for Miami Dade County, Florida. See generally Id. at 1-2. The action was originally titled Michelle Haasbroek v. Princess Cruise Lines, Ltd., et al., case number 2017-011830-CA-01. Id.

         In the Complaint-which is still the operative complaint in this action-Plaintiff lodges eight claims against Princess, the Steiner Defendants, and Reyes (collectively, “Defendants”). See Id. These claims arise under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30104. See Id. ¶ 4. Specifically, in Counts I and II, Plaintiff brings negligence claims against the Steiner Defendants and Princess, respectively, for, inter alia, their failure to provide Plaintiff a safe place to work and reside aboard the Vessel and for their failure to assist Plaintiff in the aftermath of the rape. See Id. ¶¶ 16-27. In Count III, Plaintiff lodges a claim of unseaworthiness against Princess on the grounds that the Vessel, inter alia, did not have a properly trained, instructed, or supervised crew, and did not have adequate security, security equipment, or policies to prevent rapes and/or sexual assaults. See Id. ¶¶ 28-33. Plaintiff also lodges claims for the intentional tort of sexual assault against both Princess (Count V) and Reyes (Count VII), along with a claim of vicarious liability against Princess (Count IV) premised on the same conduct. See Id. ¶¶ 34-43, 50-52. In Count VI, Plaintiff lodges a claim against the Steiner Defendants for failing to provide maintenance and cure to Plaintiff. See Id. ¶¶ 44-49. In Count VIII, Plaintiff lodges a claim against all Defendants for wrongful birth, which was allegedly due to the Reyes's sexual assault, for which Princess is vicariously responsible, the negligence of the Steiner Defendants and/or Princess, and the unseaworthiness of Princess's vessel. See Id. ¶¶ 53-58. All eight counts arise from the June 9, 2014 rape aboard the Vessel.

         On June 26, 2017, the Steiner Defendants timely removed the action to federal court on the grounds that this matter is subject to arbitration pursuant to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the “Convention”).[1] See Notice of Removal (ECF No. 1); see also 9 U.S.C. § 205 (“Where the subject matter of an action or proceeding pending in a State court relates to an arbitration agreement or award falling under the Convention, the defendant or the defendants may . . . remove such action . . . .”). Subsequently, Princess and the Steiner Defendants (collectively, the “Moving Defendants”) moved to dismiss and compel arbitration in the Bahamas pursuant to the SEA. See Arbitration Motion (ECF No. 8) at 2-5.

         Plaintiff opposes the Arbitration Motion, primarily on the ground that the Arbitration Clause within the SEA does not cover the subject matter of this action. See Opp. 3-14. Plaintiff concludes that because the Arbitration Clause is inapplicable, the Defendants have no other grounds for removal and this matter should be remanded. Id. at 14. In the alternative, Plaintiff argues that even if the Arbitration Clause covered claims against the Steiner Defendants, claims against Princess are not subject to arbitration and should be remanded because Princess is not a party to the SEA, and thus it may not compel arbitration under the Arbitration Clause. See Opp. 3-14.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The Convention requires courts of signatory nations, such as the United States, to give effect to private arbitration agreements and to enforce arbitral awards made in signatory nations. See United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, art. I(1), June 10, 1958, 21 U.S.T. 2517, 330 U.N.T.S. 3; see also Sierra v. Cruise Ships Catering & Servs. Int'l, N.V., 631 Fed.Appx. 714, 715-16 (11th Cir. 2015). The United States enforces its agreement to the Convention's terms through Chapter 2 of the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”). See 9 U.S.C. §§ 201-208 (hereinafter, the “Convention Act”).

         The Convention Act “generally establishes a strong presumption in favor of arbitration of international commercial disputes.” Trifonov v. MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co. SA, 590 F. App'x 842, 843 (11th Cir. 2014) (citation and quotation marks omitted). Relatedly, the FAA “establishes that, as a matter of federal law, any doubts concerning the scope of arbitrable issues should be resolved in favor of arbitration.” Doe v. Princess Cruise Lines, Ltd., 657 F.3d 1204, 1213 (11th Cir. 2011) (citation and quotation marks omitted).

         In ruling on a motion to enforce an arbitration agreement under the Convention, a district court conducts a “very limited inquiry.” Bautista v. Star Cruises, 396 F.3d 1289, 1294-95 (11th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). As a threshold matter, “[u]nder both the FAA and the Convention ‘the first task of a court asked to compel arbitration of a dispute is to determine whether the parties agreed to arbitrate' it.” Doe, 657 F.3d at 1213 n.9 (quoting Mitsubishi Motors Corp. v. Soler Chrysler-Plymouth, Inc., 473 U.S. 614, 626 (1985)). In other words, “the parties will not be required to arbitrate when they have not agreed to do so.” Id. at 1214 (quoting Goldberg v. Bear, Stearns & Co., 912 F.2d 1418, 1419 (11th Cir. 1990)). That determination is guided by FAA principles. Id. at 1213 n.9.

         Beyond that threshold consideration, a district court “must order arbitration” unless the four jurisdictional prerequisites are not met, or one of the Convention's affirmative defenses applies.[2] Bautista, 396 F.3d at 1294-95. The jurisdictional prerequisites require that “(1) there is an agreement in writing within the meaning of the Convention; (2) the agreement provides for arbitration in the territory of a signatory of the Convention; (3) the agreement arises out of a legal relationship, whether contractual or not, which is considered commercial; and (4) a party to the agreement is not an American citizen, or that the commercial relationship has some reasonable relation with one or more foreign states.” Id.

         III. DISCUSSION

         “Subject matter jurisdiction in this case is ultimately dependent on the applicability of the” Arbitration Clause in the SEA.[3]See Wexler v. Solemates Marine, Ltd., No. 16-CV-62704, 2017 WL 979212, at *3 (S.D. Fla. Mar. 14, 2017). If the arbitration clause in the SEA is applicable to all of the claims at issue, including the claims made against the other Defendants, then the Court has subject matter jurisdiction to compel arbitration of all of those claims pursuant to the Convention and the Convention Act, 9 U.S.C. §§ 201-208. See, e.g., Pysarenko v. Carnival Corp., No. 14-20010-CIV, 2014 WL 1745048, at *8 (S.D. Fla. Apr. 30, 2014), aff'd, 581 F. App'x 844 (11th Cir. 2014). If, on the other hand, the arbitration clause of the SEA is not applicable to some or all of the claims at issue, then the Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction of those claims and those claims must be remanded. See Wexler, 2017 WL 979212 at *3; see also, e.g., Florian v. Carnival Corp., No. 10-CV-20721, 2010 WL ...


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