Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd.

United States Supreme Court
545 U.S. 119 (2005)


Facts

Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd. (NCL) (defendant) is a company operating cruise ships with its principal place of business in the United States. It primarily advertises for business in the U.S., and the majority of its passengers are U.S. citizens. Under the terms of its tickets, disputes between passengers and NCL are to be governed by U.S. law. However, despite all these contacts with the United States, most of NCL’s cruise ships are registered in other countries and fly foreign flags. In 1998 and 1999, Spector (plaintiff), a disabled person, and other disabled persons (all U.S. citizens) booked cruises on two of NCL’s ships: the Norwegian Sea and the Norwegian Star. Both ships were registered in the Bahamas. Spector brought a class action suit on behalf of all disabled persons similarly situated seeking declaratory and injunctive relief on the ground that NCL charged them higher fees and surcharges than other passengers, required them to travel with a companion, reserved the right to remove them from the ship if necessary for the “comfort” of other passengers, prevented them from enjoying all the amenities of the ships, and refused to make structural accommodations to the physical layout of the ships, including the safety barriers, for the purpose of making them more accessible to persons with disabilities. Spector alleged these actions violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The United States court of appeals dismissed the claim on the ground that general statutes do not apply to foreign-flag vessels in United States territory absent a clear indication of congressional intent.

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Holding and Reasoning (Kennedy, J.)

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