Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd.

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Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd.
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued February 28, 2005
Decided June 6, 2005
Citations 545 U.S. 119 (more)
545 U.S. ___ (2005)
Title III applies to foreign-flag cruise ships in U.S. waters; Title III did not apply to foreign ships' internal affairs, because there was no "clear congressional statement" showing an intent to do so. A clear statement was necessary before a general law could interfere with a foreign-vessel's internal affairs.[1]
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Justice Kennedy, Justice Stevens, Justice Souter, and Justice Thomas join.
Concurrence Justice Ginsburg, Justice Breyer
Laws applied

Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd., 545 U.S. 119 (2005), was a United States Supreme Court decision that determined (in a 6-3 decision) that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to foreign cruise ships in American waters. The case was argued February 28, 2005 and decided June 6, 2005.

Prior history[edit]

Douglas Spector and the four other disabled plaintiffs use mobility scooters and wheelchairs. They sued Norwegian Cruise Line under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act after traveling aboard cruise ships (the Norwegian Sea and the Norwegian Star) registered in the Bahamas. Spector had purchased premium tickets, which were marketed as more handicap friendly. However, the ship was not easily accessible. He had limited or no access to swimming pools, restaurants, elevators, and public restrooms because of physical barriers. The premium room was of lower quality than less expensive non-wheelchair friendly rooms. He was not allowed to participate in emergency drills and no emergency exit plan was laid out for disabled persons. Norwegian Cruise Line argued that American laws did not apply to the cruise line because it was registered in the Bahamas. The cruise line's ships, however, were based out of Miami, Florida ports.

Spector first sued the cruise line in federal district court in Houston, Texas (Spector's home town). The court ruled against Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd. saying that despite their foreign flag they must abide by American laws when in American waters. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overturned the lower court and moved for the case to be dismissed. Spector appealed the case to the Supreme Court and it heard the case on February 28, 2005.

The bench[edit]

The Supreme Court gave its decision on June 6, 2005. The judgment of the Fifth Circuit was reversed and the case was remanded. The makeup of the Supreme Court and their opinions were:


  • Written by: Justice Kennedy
    • Joined by: Justice Stevens and Justice Souter


  • Written by: Justice Ginsburg
    • Joined by: Justice Breyer

Special Concurrence[edit]

  • Written by: Justice Thomas


  • Written by: Justice Scalia
    • Joined by: Justice Rehnquist and Justice O'Connor

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd. Text of decision.

External links[edit]