Judge dismisses Cuba-related lawsuits against MSC, Norwegian

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The Norwegian Sky in Havana in 2017.
The Norwegian Sky in Havana in 2017.

A federal judge this week dismissed lawsuits against MSC Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings that sought damages for docking at Cuba’s largest seaport. 

Havana Docks Corp., the company that owned the cruise terminal in Havana prior to its 1960 confiscation by the Castro government, filed the suits pursuant to the Libertad Act, also known as the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, after the Trump administration last May ended a longstanding policy suspending the right to sue under the act’s provisions, clearing the way for lawsuits.

The 1996 act was intended to prevent companies from “trafficking” in property confiscated by the Castro government after the Cuban revolution.

Judge Beth Bloom of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida dismissed suits against MSC and NCLH, ruling in both cases that because the plaintiff’s property interest was a lease that expired in 2004 and since the lawsuit is based on use since 2018, “the defendant could only ‘traffic’ in Plaintiff’s confiscated property if it undertook one of the prohibited activities before Plaintiff’s interest in the property expired.” 

Similar lawsuits against Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. could also be dismissed using the same arguments, said John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. He added that the first two dismissals are “almost identical.”

However, Kavulich thinks the suits will be appealed. 

“A different judge may interpret the Libertad Act language differently,” he said. “Also, there may be an effort by a member of Congress to introduce legislation to make certain that issues such as expired leases are addressed to the benefit of the plaintiff.”

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