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Date: 01-10-2023

Case Style:

Javier Garcia-Bengochea v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd.

Case Number: 1:12-cv-23592

Judge: James Lawrence King

Court: United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida (Miami-Dade County)

Plaintiff's Attorney:

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Defendant's Attorney: Sanford Lewis Bohrer and Scott Daniel Ponce

Description: Miami, Florida civil litigation lawyers represented Plaintiff who sued Defendant on a Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996 violaton theory claiming that Defendant was using property confiscated by the Cuban government that belongs to him.

The Cuban government nationalized, expropriated, and seized ownership of La Marítima on October 13, 1960, via Cuba’s Gazette Law 890, and maintains possession of the property today. It has not paid any compensation to Dr. Garcia-Bengochea or anyone else for its seizure or use and the claim to the property has not been resolved pursuant to an international claims settlement or other settlement procedure. Dr. Garcia-Bengochea has never abandoned his legitimate interest in the property. See CC D.E. 1 at ¶¶ 7–9; RC D.E. 1 at ¶ 8–10. The Foreign Claims Settlement Commission—pursuant to the International Claims Settlement Act—certified a portion of Dr. Garcia-Bengochea’s ownership interest in La Marítima when it adjudicated the claim of his cousin, Albert Parreño. This portion represents Dr. Garcia-Bengochea’s 32.5% interest in the property, and was valued by the Commission in 1970 at $289,549.92. See CC D.E. 1-1 at 6. The remaining portion of Dr. Garcia-Bengochea’s interest in the property is based upon an uncertified claim. See CC D.E. 1 at ¶¶ 10–11 & Ex. A; RC D.E. 1 at ¶¶ 11–12.3 Starting in May of 2016, Carnival knowingly and intentionally conducted its commercial cruise line business to Cuba using La Marítima by regularly embarking and disembarking its passengers there. In the summer of 2018, Royal Caribbean began doing the same. Both cruise lines have used the property without the authorization of Dr. Garcia-Bengochea or any other U.S. national who holds a claim to it. And both cruise lines have profited from the Cuban government’s possession of La Marítima, again without the authorization of or payment to Dr. Garcia-Bengochea (or any other U.S. national who holds a claim to the property). See CC D.E. 1 at ¶¶ 12–13; RC D.E. 1 at ¶¶ 13–14. According to the complaints, the knowing and intentional conduct of Carnival and Royal Caribbean constitutes trafficking under § 6023(13)(A). As a result, Dr. Garcia-Bengochea—who provided the cruise lines with written notice by certified mail of his intent to commence an action under Title III—claims that he is entitled to damages under § 6082. Those claimed damages are (a) the amount greater of (i) the amount certified by the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission, plus interest, or (ii) the amount determined by a special master pursuant to § 6083(a)(2), or (iii) the fair market value of the property, plus interest; and (b) treble damages of the amount determined above.

Outcome: Dr. Garcia-Bengochea has Article III standing to assert his Title III claims against Carnival and Royal Caribbean under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act. But those claims fail under § 6082(a)(4)(B) of the Act because the Cuban government confiscated La Marítima prior to March 12, 1996, and because Dr. GarciaBengochea acquired his interest in the property through inheritance after that date.

Affirmed by the Eleventh Circuit.

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