Judge Rules for Carnival in Cuba Case

Last week a Southern District of Florida Miami Division judge handed down the first-ever ruling in a Helms-Burton Act case in Javier Garcia-Bengochea vs. Carnival Corporation.

The case is the first time a judge has ruled on the statue related to U.S. citizens who own Cuban-based property.

The decision also clears the way for dismissal, or at least a favorable ruling, for the other approximately dozen similar cases in the process against other cruise lines.

Members of law firm Jones Walker LLP’s Latin America team in Miami handled the case on behalf of Carnival.

“As counsel to Carnival on this case and longtime counsel to the cruise industry, we are very pleased with the ruling,” said Luis Llamas, head of the Miami office of Jones Walker LLP, who handled the case along with his colleague George J. Fowler, III. “We believe the Court correctly interpreted and applied the requirement in section 6082 of the Helms-Burton Act that a plaintiff suing on property confiscated before March 12, 1996 must have acquired his/her claim before that date.

“We felt it was vital to focus the argument on this straightforward requirement. In fact, my partner George J. Fowler, III raised this issue at least three times during the oral argument because it was such an important threshold issue.

“The decision is precedent setting and will affect not only other Helms-Burton Act cases against Cruise Lines, but will stand as a decision that all Helms-Burton litigants will come to know. “

On May 2, 2019, Javier Garcia-Bengochea, a U.S. citizen and resident of Jacksonville, Florida, filed this action against Carnival Corporation under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act. In the Complaint,  Garcia-Bengochea alleged that he owns a claim to commercial waterfront real property in the Port of Santiago in Cuba; that this property was confiscated by the Cuban Government in October 1960; and that Carnival “trafficked” in the property, in violation of the Act, by using the docks for its commercial
cruise line business.

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