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EFFRON v. SUN LINE CRUISES

July 22, 1994

NETTIE EFFRON, Plaintiff,
v.
SUN LINE CRUISES, INC. and SUN LINE GREECE SPECIAL SHIPPING CO., INC., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MIRIAM GOLDMAN CEDARBAUM

 CEDARBAUM, J.

 Plaintiff sues for injuries allegedly suffered on a South American cruise. The ship's owner moves to dismiss on the ground that the forum-selection clause in plaintiff's ticket requires that her claims be brought in Greece. The tour operator who sold plaintiff her ticket moves for summary judgment on the ground that at all times it acted as agent for a disclosed principal. For the reasons discussed below, the motions are denied.

 Facts

 The Stella Solaris, which sails under the Greek flag, is owned by defendant Sun Line Greece Special Shipping Co., Inc. ("Sun Line Greece"), a Greek corporation. The ship's home port is Piraeus, Greece, although it spends several months each year cruising in the Caribbean and off the coast of South America.

 Defendant Sun Line Cruises, Inc. ("Sun Line Cruises") is a New York corporation that markets cruises aboard the Stella Solaris and two sister ships, the Stella Oceanis and Stella Maris. Sun Line Cruises markets trips on the three ships. This name appears on the promotional materials distributed by defendants. A division of Sun Line Cruises called Sun Line Tours arranges air travel and issues airline tickets for customers taking particular cruises.

 Plaintiff Nettie Effron, a 74 year-old widow, is a resident of Florida. In February 1992, she was a passenger on the "Jewels of South America Cruise." She arranged her vacation through a Florida travel agent who dealt with Sun Line Cruises in New York. The trip included air travel from Miami to Manaus, Brazil on February 12, passage on the South American cruise of the Stella Solaris from February 12 to February 28, and air travel from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Miami on February 28. Plaintiff's airline tickets were provided by Sun Line Tours and listed Sun Line Cruises as the charterer. In arranging her trip, plaintiff had no contact with anyone in Greece.

 Plaintiff's ticket, which contains the passage contract on which defendant Sun Line Greece relies, is reproduced in its actual size in the Appendix to this opinion. The ticket consists of three double-sided leaves, each approximately 4" x 8 1/2". The Sun Line logo and the words "Sun Line Cruises" appear in large type on the face of the ticket. In much smaller type is an "important notice" which states:

 
Please read carefully the terms of this ticket beginning on page 1 and continuing through page 4. All these terms are an integral part of the contract between passengers and the Carrier. In accepting this contract, you agree to the terms. Attention is particularly drawn to the Carrier's right of exemption and limitation set forth in Clauses 12 and 13 (pages 3 and 4).

 It is only on the very last line of the ticket that Sun Line Greece is identified as the "operator and carrier," i.e. the putative contracting party.

 The forum-selection clause appears in clause 13 on page 4 of the ticket. It is printed in the same size type as the rest of the fine print. It reads as follows:

 
Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained herein, any action against the Carrier must be brought only before the courts of Athens Greece to the jurisdiction of which the Passenger submits himself formally excluding the jurisdiction of all and other court or courts of any other country or countries which court or courts otherwise would have been competent to deal with such action.

 Plaintiff states in an affidavit that she did not notice either the warning on the front of her ticket or the forum-selection clause itself. She also states that she was unaware that she was contracting with a Greek company ...


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