Florida governor seeks favorable court for NCLH lawsuit

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants the same judge that sided with the state in its lawsuit against the CDC’s cruise restrictions to preside over Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ lawsuit against the state. 

NCLH sued Florida last month over its law prohibiting businesses from requiring customers to show proof of vaccination, which NCLH wants to do on its sailings from Florida. 

The state filed a motion to move the case from Miami, where U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams is scheduled to hear arguments in the case on Aug. 6, to Tampa, where Middle District of Florida U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday sided with Florida when it challenged the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order, which as a result is now nonbinding in the state. 

According to the Tampa Bay Times, attorneys for NCLH said that since the company is headquartered in Miami and plans to start cruising from Miami on Aug. 15 and has committed to the CDC that at least 95% of passengers and crew leaving from Miami will be fully vaccinated, “It is obvious that Miami (i.e., the Southern District of Florida) is the appropriate forum to adjudicate the legal violations and injuries this defendant (the state) is perpetrating upon NCLH’s (Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’) vessels and operations based in Miami.”

The NCLH attorneys said that the state was “forum shopping” by trying to find a more favorable court in Tampa. 

“[If] one particular venue were to be deemed suspect, it would be the Middle District,” the attorneys wrote. “Whereas this (Miami) court is, for irrefutable and irreproachable reasons, a natural choice to resolve this case, Florida’s decision to sue CDC in the Middle District is strongly suggestive (to say the least) of cynical forum shopping. Any notion that equity now commends transfer from this court to the Middle District is upside-down.”

In its July 16 motion for a transfer to the Middle District of Florida court, attorneys for the state said the case “presents the same issue that is being litigated” in the lawsuit against the CDC. 

On Sunday, Florida set a state record with 10,207 Covid-19 hospitalizations, according to data reported to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the Associated Press reported. The previous record was from July 23, 2020.

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