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Caron v. NCL (Bahamas), Ltd.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

December 13, 2018

OLIVIER CARON, Plaintiff - Appellant,
NCL (BAHAMAS), LTD., A Bermuda Company d.b.a. Norwegian Cruise Line, Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida No. 1:16-cv-23065-RNS

          Before TJOFLAT, MARTIN, and JILL PRYOR, Circuit Judges.


         This case arises from a drunken tumble down an escape hatch on a cruise ship. Olivier Caron, a Canadian citizen, was injured while a passenger on the Star, a vessel owned and operated by NCL. On the second day of his Baltic cruise, Caron bought an all-inclusive package, which allowed him unlimited beer and wine while on the cruise, and proceeded to drink beer late into the night. After leaving the bar, instead of returning to his room, Caron entered an area that was clearly marked with signs reading "CREW ONLY" and "RESTRICTED, CREW ACCESS ONLY." Pressing on, Caron entered another door labeled "CAUTION Only authorized crew beyond this sign," and fell several feet through an emergency-exit hatch, causing injuries for which he now seeks to recover. He filed suit in the District Court, claiming the cruise line was negligent in allowing him to fall down the hatch and in over-serving alcohol to him, which led to his fall. The District Court dismissed the over-service claim and granted summary judgment for NCL on the other negligence claim. Plaintiff appeals both rulings. After careful consideration, we affirm.


         This opinion is organized as follows. We discuss the facts and procedural history of the case in Part I, the subject-matter jurisdiction of the District Court in Part II, the dismissed over-service claim in Part III, and the other negligence claim in Part IV. Part V concludes.


         Olivier Caron spent the evening of July 15, 2015, drinking with his fellow passengers aboard the Star. He became intoxicated to the point that he felt "completely disoriented." At about 3:37 a.m. on July 16, Caron descended a midship flight of stairs into a passenger-elevator area. But instead of continuing on to his room on the ship, Caron opened a clearly marked crew-only door and proceeded into a restricted area of the ship. He walked down a hallway, where he was seen by two crewmembers who tried to talk to him; he did not respond. While the crewmembers called security, Caron moved away from them, such that they did not see where he went. He opened and walked through another door with obvious crew-only markings, where he fell into a hole, hitting the deck below and suffering an injury to his foot. The hole was an escape hatch from the bow-thruster room below, and the hole would have been clearly visible once the door was opened. Caron fell down the hole approximately four minutes after entering the crew-only area. About four and a half hours later, Caron climbed out of the hatch and, with assistance, went to the ship's medical center, where his injuries were treated.


         On July 14, 2016, Caron filed suit against NCL in the Southern District of Florida, asserting jurisdiction on the basis of diversity of citizenship and admiralty jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(2), §1333(1).[1] His complaint made no mention of being served alcohol, but he did allege several other theories of negligence. He claimed, among other things, that NCL had failed to maintain its walkways and manholes in a safe condition, to remedy a known dangerous condition, and to warn Caron of a danger that was not open or obvious. Caron demanded a jury trial, and one was scheduled. Although Caron alleged that admiralty jurisdiction was proper, he did not make a Rule 9(h) election for his claim to proceed in admiralty. Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(h).

         On September 30, 2016, Caron amended his complaint, adding an allegation that NCL was negligent in over-serving alcohol to him. NCL moved to dismiss this claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and strike the allegation of over-service on the basis of a limitations provision in Caron's ticket contract, which required any personal-injury suits against NCL to be brought within one year of the incident giving rise to the injury. The District Court granted the motion, finding that the over-service claim was contractually barred and did not relate back to the initial complaint.

         On November 3, 2017, the District Court granted NCL's Motion for Summary Judgment on the remaining negligence theories. It found that Caron had not met his burden of production, as he had failed to produce evidence of the dangerousness of the escape hatch, of NCL's knowledge of such dangerousness, or of the unreasonableness of the crew's behavior in letting Caron escape further into the restricted area. This appeal followed.


         Whether subject matter jurisdiction exists is an issue of law that we review de novo. Molinos Valle Del Cibao, C. por A. v. Lama, 633 F.3d 1330, 1340 (11th Cir. 2011). The party seeking federal jurisdiction must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, facts supporting the exercise of jurisdiction. McCormick v. Aderholt, 293 F.3d 1254, 1257 (11th Cir. 2002).


         The parties disagree as to whether the District Court had subject-matter jurisdiction. Caron contends that the alienage-diversity provision, which governs suits between aliens and citizens of a State, applies, and that the District Court thus entertained jurisdiction under this provision. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(2). Since Caron is a Canadian citizen and NCL is a Bermuda corporation with its principal place of business in Florida, Caron argues that NCL should be deemed a Florida citizen for diversity purposes. And even if alienage-diversity jurisdiction fails, Caron argues, as a fallback, that he sufficiently invoked the court's admiralty jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1333.

          NCL contends that Caron failed to adequately plead NCL's citizenship to invoke alienage-diversity jurisdiction, since he did not allege NCL's Bermuda citizenship or move to amend his complaint to do so. It also denies that admiralty jurisdiction is available, since Caron did not elect to proceed under admiralty per Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(h).

         Alienage diversity, like general diversity under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1), must be complete; an alien on both sides of a dispute will defeat jurisdiction. Lama, 633 F.3d at 1340; cf. Strawbridge v. Curtiss, 3 Cranch 267 (1806) (requiring complete diversity under the predecessor statute to § 1332(a)(1)). This Court has never explicitly decided whether dual-citizen corporations, incorporated under the laws of a foreign state but with their principal place of business in a U.S. state, count as aliens in order to defeat complete diversity in suits against other aliens. Every other circuit court of appeals to consider the issue has concluded that alienage diversity is lacking in these cases, defeating subject-matter jurisdiction. See, e.g., Vantage Drilling Co. v. Hsin-Chi Su, 741 F.3d 535, 537-38 (5th Cir. 2014); Slavchev v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., 559 F.3d 251, 254-55 (4th Cir. 2009); Peninsula Asset Mgmt. (Cayman) Ltd. v. Hankook Tire Co., 509 F.3d 271, 272-73 (6th Cir. 2007); Creaciones Con Idea, S.A. de C. V. v. Mashreqbank PSC, 232 F.3d 79, 82 (2d Cir. 2000).[2]

         The 2012 amendments to § 1332(c) bolster the rationale of these decisions. Section 1332(c) governs the citizenship of corporations for purposes of diversity jurisdiction. Previous versions of the statute referred only to corporations incorporated in, or with their principal place of business in, a "State." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c) (2006); see also Cabalceta v. Standard Fruit Co., 883 F.2d 1553, 1557 (11th Cir. 1989) (interpreting a prior version of § 1332). Before the recent amendments, the circuits were split on whether foreign states were "State[s]" within the meaning of the statute. Compare Cabalceta, 883 F.2d at 1557 with Nike, Inc. v. Comercial Iberica de Exclusivas Deportivas, S.A., 20 F.3d 987, 990 (9th Cir. 1994).

         In contrast, the 2012 amendments to § 1332(c) explicitly impute to corporations citizenship in every State or foreign state where the company is incorporated and in the State or foreign state where the company has its worldwide principal place of business. § 1332(c)(1) (2012). So a corporation incorporated in a foreign state is specifically deemed a citizen of that foreign state when evaluating jurisdiction.

         We therefore hold that § 1332(a)(2) does not grant jurisdiction over a suit between a corporation incorporated solely in a foreign state and another alien, regardless of the corporation's principal place of business.[3]

         Here, Caron is a Canadian citizen, and NCL is a Bermuda company with its principal place of business in Florida. Since both Caron and NCL are aliens, § 1332(a)(2) does ...

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