August 30, 2019 Practice Points

Southern District of Florida Upholds Unavailability of Punitive Damages in Maritime Personal Injury Actions

The case involves an Arizona family's allegations of sexual assault on an 11-year-old cruise ship passenger.

By David Y. Loh

On August 29, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida issued an order dismissing plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages in a case entitled Jane Doe v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd., under Docket No. 19-cv-21486. 

This judgment arises from a petition filed by Shanghai Lan Cai Asset Management Co, Ltd. (SLC) for confirmation of an arbitration award issued by the Beijing Arbitration Commission.

In issuing the judgment, the presiding judge did not provide a well-reasoned decision to explain his reasoning. In fact, the judge simply adopted the proposed final judgment prepared by SLC’s counsel. As a result, we do not gain any insight into the court’s thinking as to why it issued the judgment.

Having said that, this decision is interesting because it effectively confirms a Chinese arbitration award. In the United States, we tend to question the impartiality of the Chinese legal system, and it is unusual to see Chinese arbitration awards or civil judgments being confirmed or enforced in the United States. By comparison, the undersigned is unaware of any U.S. arbitration award or civil judgment being enforced in a Chinese proceeding. Perhaps Chinese judges will, in the future, be more willing to consider enforcing a U.S. award or judgment.

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David Y. Loh is a member with Cozen O'Connor in New York City, New York.

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