Carnival Corp Lifetime Ban Over Cruise Ship Artwork Auction Lawsuit

A United States Federal Maritime Commission judge ordered Princess Cruise Lines to end its blacklisting of Lisa Cornell, of Weston, Florida.  Administrative Law Judge Clay Guthridge found the company violated US law by banning Cornell, a top-tier member of Princess’s loyalty program, for reasons other than safety or security.

The blacklisting was over a $585.00 lawsuit related to buying art on a Carnival Cruise Lines sailing.

Cornell was blacklisted from Carnival Corp cruise travel after she  was placed on a “do-not-book”  list. Carnival products include Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises, Fathom,  P&O Cruises,  Cunard,  Holland America Line and  Seabourn Cruises.

“Princess has not articulated any legitimate transportation-related factors that would support its refusal to allow Lisa Cornell to sail on its cruise ships,” Guthridge wrote in a 74-page decision.

The dispute began on a  2007 cruise,  when Lisa Cornell bought two lithographs (not oil paintings) and had the pieces of art shipped home. What she said arrived the artwork was different artwork from she bought during the cruise, so she cancelled the sale.

Cornell sued after Princess Cruises kept 15 per cent of the artwork sale price, which was clearly stated in the terms of the sale.  Cornell said the term violated an advertised money-back guarantee and she won the lawsuit.

History: 

In February 2007 Lisa Cornell was a passenger on Carnival Imagination. During an onboard art auction run by Carnival  concession Global Fine Arts (GFA), Lisa Cornell purchased two limited edition lithographs from  Cuban artist Alexandra Nichita, dubbed by the media as “the petite Picasso.”

After bidding on the two items at the auction Lisa Cornell was presented with written agreements which were required to be signed before the sale was deemed consummated.  Lisa Cornell signed both contracts.

The contracts signed by Lisa Cornell both specifically stated that the items shown onboard were “samples” and that the actual print sent may be fulfilled through a shoreside warehouse and that the purchases were refundable, excluding the buyer’s premium which was  added to each auction price.

In an auction the buyer’s premium is typically a percentage of the bid price which is added onto the cost of the item to reimburse the auction house for the costs of the auction and auctioneer. The two pieces purchased by Lisa Cornell had a total sale price including tax shipping and the buyer premiums of $2422.05 each. The non refundable premium was identified on each contract.

After returning home from the cruise and prior to receiving her purchased art Lisa Cornell cancelled the order GPA promptly refunded Lisa Cornell the full purchase price including shipping charges and taxes exactly as stipulated in the purchase contracts.  Lisa Cornell had signed GPA contract stating refunds would reduced by retaining only the buyer’s premium.

Unhappy that GFA had enforced the contractual agreement by retaining the $585 buyer’s premium Lisa Cornell filed a lawsuit, Lisa Anne Cornell v. Global Fine Arts,  in Florida State Court under Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and engaged in a protracted cross country litigation war, which was file by her husband, who was  a California attorney, Warc Cornell.

In order to avoid spending legal fees early in the litigation GFA made a statutory offer of judgment to Lisa Cornell in the amount of $2500,  pursuant to Florida Statute. A statutory offer of judgment in Florida entitles the party making the offer to recover their attorneys fees from the point the offer was made through the conclusion of the case if the party rejecting the offer fails to obtain a verdict at least 25% above the offer.

The lawsuit states, “After settlement had been agreed but before the agreement was signed, Lisa Cornell raised the issue of whether she would be allowed to cruise in the future. GFA which provides art auctions on cruise ships but does not own or operate any cruise ships on its own was unaware of whether any cruise lines had banned her from sailing but was concerned some lines may have already done, so based on the fact the Complainants had a clear history as vexatious litigants, a proven record of ignoring contractual agreements and had threatened at least one Carnival affiliated company to “litigate this matter to the end of time.”

In the settlement it was stated, “GLOBAL FINE ARTS INC GFA agrees that from this date forward it will not take any action to encourage or entice any cruise line to refuse to grant either Lisa Cornell or Ware Cornell passage on any guise ship. It is expressly agreed and acknowledged by the Cornell Parties that GFA is not it cruise line and does not control the booking policies and practices of any cruise line. Under the express written terms of the Settlement Agreement GFA made it clear that it could not guarantee that any cruise line would want Cornell as a customer in the future and promised only that from the date of the settlement forward it would not take any action to encourage any cruise line to bar Lisa Cornell from sailing. All parties signed the Settlement Agreement and Complainants dismissed the Original Lawsuit with prejudice on October 8 2010.”

But, it didn’t end there and the litigation went on and on. When Cornell tried to booked a cruise through Princess Cruises and made a $100 deposit, the ticket was cancelled and a refund was not made to her.  Thus beginning the next wave of litigation.

It concluded, “Nonetheless even if the Settlement Agreement were interpreted to only apply to claims arising from or related to the original dispute Princess decision not to sell a cruise to Lisa Cornell is based entirely upon events which directly relate to and arose from that dispute including her history of ignoring signed written agreements,  her history of vexatious litigation tactics and her threats of future litigation.  It is rather ironic that this new FMC Complaint is yet another example of the Complainants refusing to acknowledge and abide by the terms of contracts they have signed.

While the Federal Maritime Commission plays an important role in regulating maritime commerce it lacks:

1. Subject matter jurisdiction for this dispute and therefore should summarily dismiss Complainants FMC Complaint Further the FMC Complaint should be dismissed because

2.  as there is no statute basis for the claims raised by the Complainants

3.  the Complaint is barred by the doctrines of collateral estoloppel and res judicular, and

4. Princess has the legal right to refuse to sell a vacation cruise to Lisa Cornell given her six year history of vexatious litigation threats and refusal to honor contracts has signed In the alternative

Respondents are all entitled to summary judgment because:

1.  the claims raised in this FMC Complaint have already been released by the Complainants

2. neither PLC or Carnival have ever taken any action to restrict the ability of either Mr or Mrs Cornell to vacation on their cruise ships

3. None of the Respondents have ever restricted the ability of G Ware Cornell Jr to vacation on their cruise ships and

4. the $100 deposit has been refunded.

 

Editor’s Footnote: 

In research over the past 12 years related to cruise ship artwork auctions, I’ve found that in general: 1. alcohol is involved 2. auctions increase adrenaline 3. the artwork is not an investment 4. it is common for artwork to end well over actual artwork value  5. resale of the purchased artwork will end in a disappointing low resale value.

Cruise Ship Artwork, would generally speaking,  not be considered to be a “good investment”.  Research the document sold price history of any artwork before purchase. These are typically not good buys as an “investment”, but there are exceptions.  Buy the piece because you like it, not as an investment. Watch the video playlist below to learn more.

Resources:

Painting bought at sea proves to be no treasure

Ebay Auctions for Cuban artist Alexandra Nichita Artwork

Huffington Post – Alexandra Nichita:“The most I’ve ever sold a painting for, I think, is somewhere around $400,000,” she says.

Video Playlist: Cruise Ship Art Auctions