Choose a Topic

View Our Case Results
Kelley/Uustal Practice Areas

Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. v. Cox, Case No. 3D09-2712 (3rd DCA)

In Cox, the Third DCA ruled that Florida’s offer of judgment statute conflicts with, and is therefore not applicable in, maritime cases. Cox filed the underlying suit against Royal Caribbean to recover for injuries he sustained while employed aboard a Royal Caribbean vessel. He asserted claims for, among other things, Jones Act negligence. Cox served an offer of judgment pursuant to Fla. Stat. 768.79 and Rule 1.442 of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. Following trial, the jury found in favor of Cox, and the trial court later found Cox entitled to attorneys’ fees and costs per his offer of judgment.

Royal Caribbean argued that the fee award was impermissible because the award pursuant to Florida’s offer of judgment statute conflicts with maritime law. The Third DCA initially affirmed the fee award based upon Royal Caribbean Corp. v. Modesto, 614 So. 2d 517 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1992), in which the court ruled that that Florida’s offer of judgment rules did not conflict with federal admiralty law. On rehearing, Royal Caribbean asked that the Third DCA recede from its Modesto decision.

On rehearing, the Third DCA held that the application of the offer of judgment statute conflicts with and interferes with federal maritime law, and thus, the Third DCA receded from Modesto. “Federal substantive maritime law governs in seaman cases brought in state court.” Federal maritime law follows the American rule, which provides that ordinarily each party must pay its own attorney’s fees, absent an exception such as a federal statute, an enforceable contractual provision providing for fees, or a finding that the non-prevailing party engaged in bad-faith conduct. The Third DCA noted that none of the exceptions was present in the Cox case. Rather, the trial court awarded fees and costs pursuant to Florida’s offer of judgment statute. The Third DCA reviewed federal case law, and noted that federal courts have consistently concluded that application of state-fee shifting statutes conflicts with maritime law. Based upon that federal case law, the Third DCA concluded that Florida’s offer of judgment statute conflicts with the general rule of federal maritime law that parties pay their own fees absent an exception, which was not applicable in Cox.

Recognized as One of the Nation's Best Law Firms

Don't just take our word for it. See it for yourself.

Client Reviews & Testimonials
  • AV Peer Review Rated
  • Florida Super Lawyers
  • South Florida Top Rated Lawyers
  • Best Law Firms
  • The Best Lawyers in America
  • The National Trial Lawyers - Top 100 Trial Lawyers
  • South Florida Business Journal - 2017  Best Places to Work
  • Sun Sentinel - 2017 Top Work Places
© 2014 All Rights Reserved The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.