Four of the world’s largest cruise lines are asking a US judge to limit potentially massive, nine-figure damages stemming from their calls to Cuba.
Carnival Corp, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Lines and MSC Cruises filed papers asking US district Judge Beth Bloom to confirm their ongoing legal battle with Havana Docks Corp is subject to the “one-satisfaction rule”, where a plaintiff is to recover damages for an alleged loss only once.
“Congress did not design the Helms-Burton Act to be a perpetual income stream, compensating plaintiffs over and over again and allowing collection of payments in orders of magnitude greater than their loss,” the cruise lines argued.
All four were sued in 2020 in the US federal court for the southern district of Florida by the 105-year-old Havana Docks Corp.
It is a brass plate company registered in Delaware that held a government concession to build port facilities in Havana later nationalised following the 1959 revolution that put Cuba’s communist party in power.
The lines were accused of engaging in trafficking as defined by title III of the Helms-Burton Act, which bars companies from using confiscated property with assessed penalties tripled.
A federal panel in 1972 valued the Havana Docks Corp’s concession as worth $9.2m, though the property could be valued by a special master or by market value.
The cruise lines, which made their filing in June, said those damages could jump twelvefold as the company could recover $9.2m times three from all four. They said if the one-satisfaction rule is not applied, Havana Docks Corp could even go after individual cruise passengers.
In response, the company filed papers on 15 July arguing the one-satisfaction rule only applies after a trial or judgement, that the language of the law precludes the application of the rule and that it suffered every time a cruiseship called on the port.
It argues the law says “any person” who traffics in property “shall be liable” and that the law exists to be both compensatory and a deterrent.
The company said allowing the rule would gut the foreign policy portion of the law.
Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, also known as the Cuban Liberty and Solidarity Act of 1996, allows US nationals to bring lawsuits against companies alleged to have used nationalised property.
It was suspended by every US president since its passage until former President Donald Trump allowed lawsuits to go forward.
There are potentially thousands of claims from Cubans who defected to the US and their families post-revolution.
In addition to the cruise lines, Maersk, Seaboard Marine, Crowley Marine, CMA CGM and BBC Chartering have all been sued.