S.C. Supreme Court Dismisses Cruise Case
Lawsuit Filed Against Carnival Cruise Lines Thrown Out of High Court
The state Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit alleging Carnival Cruise Lines' operations in Charleston are unlawful or a nuisance to citizens.
In the South Carolina Supreme Court opinion published this morning, the Court stated, "Lacking from these allegations is any claim that the Plaintiffs themselves or their members have suffered from a particularized harm...These allegations are simply complaints about inconveniences suffered broadly by all persons residing in or passing through the City of Charleston and therefore, Plaintiffs fail to establish the first element of standing."
The opinion concluded that the Plaintiffs' lack of standing did not provide the fundamental prerequisites required for the Court to consider other issues, and it granted the Petitioners' motion to dismiss.
"This was an unprecedented lawsuit brought against a global brand and customer of our port," said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA). "Given the public interest in this case, we are gratified that the State Supreme Court, in its original jurisdiction, affirms that Carnival has been operating responsibly and lawfully in Charleston at Union Pier Terminal."
The SCPA and the City of Charleston, which joined the lawsuit on Carnival's behalf in mid-2011, petitioned the South Carolina Supreme Court to take the case in its original jurisdiction. The Court agreed in January 2012 to take the case and later appointed Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman to hear the SCPA's and the City's motions to dismiss.
"We have contended from day one that this was an improper lawsuit and an assault on jobs and economic growth all across our state," said SCPA Chairman Bill Stern. "Clearly, the Supreme Court gave thorough consideration to the issues and concluded that they were indeed without standing."
"Cruise ships represent the diversification of the port's business and are a vital component of our statutory mission to develop maritime commerce," Newsome said. "With this legal challenge decided, we look forward to continuing to welcome cruise ships to our port, in scale with the city and pursuant to our voluntary cruise management plan, which has the approval of Mayor Riley and City Council. Additionally, we hope to renew long-term contract discussions with Carnival that were almost finalized when this lawsuit was filed nearly two years ago."
Carnival began home-porting its ship, the Fantasy, at the SCPA's Union Pier Terminal in May 2010, offering 5- and 7-day embarkation cruises from the Holy City.
Union Pier hosted 88 cruise ships that carried 188,082 passengers during 2013, and current plans call for 88 cruise ships to visit Charleston this year.
In the fall of 2009, the SCPA began a public engagement and planning process for the cruise terminal facility, enlisting the help of world-renowned firm Cooper Robertson and Partners. After more than 100 meetings with external stakeholders and neighborhood groups, the resulting Union Pier Concept Plan called for a new cruise terminal on the north end of Union Pier Terminal. This relocation allows for the unprecedented opportunity to redevelop 35 acres of waterfront property in the heart of downtown Charleston for non-maritime, mixed-use development, including new public access to the water's edge.
With the state permit in hand and ongoing dialogue with the Corps regarding the federal permit, the SCPA will continue to move forward with relocating Charleston's cruise terminal from its current location near the end of Market Street to an existing structure at the north end of Union Pier Terminal.