QCR Autumn 2021: Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings v. Rivkees
Cruise Line successfully sought injunctive relief from Florida’s New COVID-19 Documentation Statute
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (“NCLH”) sought injunctive relief from the new Florida law, Fla. Stat. § 381.00316, which prohibits businesses in Florida from requiring customers to provide any documentation certifying their COVID-19 vaccination or their post-infection recovery “to gain access to, entry upon, or services from the business operations in this state.”
In preparation for resuming cruises from Florida, NCLH implemented a policy requiring all passengers on its vessels to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and to provide documentation confirming their vaccination status. Therefore, Florida’s new statute was in conflict with NCLH’s COVID-19 policy.
NCLH argued that the statute violated the First Amendment of the US Constitution and argued that communicating a vaccination status is a form of speech. NCLH also argued that the statute violated the Dormant Commerce Clause Doctrine which provides that states cannot interfere with the federal government’s right to regulate commerce between states and foreign countries.
On August 8, 2021, The Southern District of Florida found that NCLH satisfied the elements for the preliminary injunction holding that:
- NCLH was likely to prevail on both of the aforementioned constitutional arguments;
- NCLH would likely be irreparably injured if required to comply with the statute; and
- the equities and public interest weighed in favor of an injunction.
The Court therefore granted NCLH’s request for injunctive relief.
The State of Florida has appealed the ruling by the District Court. So, there will be more to come on this issue. In the meantime, however, even though the decision has been appealed and is only applicable to NCLH, the arguments nevertheless provide other entities including other cruises lines with a roadmap to challenge Florida’s new statute. The strategy employed could also potentially be applied to similar statutes and orders in other states.