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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:This appeal presents the question whether Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) applies to foreign flagged cruise ships. HOLDING:The court sustains the district court’s dismissal of the disabled plaintiffs’ barrier removal claims. The court reverses the district court to the extent that any Title III ADA claims remained, including those of the nondisabled plaintiffs, and remands for further proceedings consistent herewith. Benz v. Compania Naviera Hidalgo S.A., 353 U.S. 138 (1957), and McCulloch v. Sociedad Nacional de Marineros de Honduras, 372 U.S. 10 (1963), prohibit United States courts from applying domestic statutes to foreign-flagged ships without specific evidence of congressional intent. Under the Supreme Court’s framework, Congress may enact legislation that governs foreign-flagged cruise ships operating within United States waters, but it must clearly indicate its intention to do so. EEOC v. Arabian American Oil Co., 499 U.S. 244 (1991) ( ARAMCO), applies the same clear statement requirement to gauge the extraterritorial application of statutes. There is no indication, either in the statutory text or in the ADA’s extensive legislative history, that Congress intended Title III to apply to foreign-flagged cruise ships. If Congress had so intended, as ARAMCOnotes, “it would have addressed the subject of conflicts with foreign laws and procedures.” Congress’ silence cannot be read to express an intent to legislate where issues touching on other nations’ sovereignty are involved. Furthermore, an act of Congress “ought never to be construed to violate the law of nations, if any other possible construction remains[.]” Murray v. The Schooner Charming Betsy, 6 U.S. 64, 118 (1804). Thus “[b]ecause Congress legislates against the backdrop that includes those international norms that guide comity analysis, absent a contrary legislative direction the doctrine may properly be used to interpret any statute.” In Re: Maxwell Communication Corp., 93 F.3d 1036 (2d Cir. 1996). Because the Title III barrier removal provisions may govern the finest details of maritime architecture in the quest to render ships fully accessible to disabled passengers, those provisions pose a stark likelihood of conflicts with the standards set out in the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). Therefore, as a matter of statutory construction, Title III must be narrowly construed in a manner that avoids these potential conflicts. The plaintiffs offer several counter arguments. First, the plaintiffs contend that because the ADA applies to cruise ships generally, it presumptively applies to foreign-flagged cruise ships, absent a specific exemption. Plaintiffs rely primarily on Cunard S.S. Co. v. Mellon, 262 U.S. 100 (1923), to support this argument. Potential conflicts with transnational or international law mandate that the court construes the statute narrowly to avoid international discord. Cunard does not control. The plaintiffs next rely upon the Eleventh Circuit’s decision in Stevens v. Premier Cruises Inc., 215 F.3d 1237 (11th Cir. 2000), reh’g denied, 284 F.3d 1187 (11th Cir. 2002). In Stevens, the court found that Title III applies to those aspects of cruise ships (restaurants, retail stores, health spas, etc.) that qualify as public accommodations. The court finds Stevens unpersuasive. In Stevens, the court maintained that Congress’ silence as to cruise ships meant not only that Title III applied to cruise ships, a contention the court does not comment upon, but that the coverage of cruise ships necessarily implied coverage of foreign-flag cruise ships. This latter inference disregards the Supreme Court’s admonition that before applying domestic law in the “delicate field of international relations,” Congress must clearly express its intent. The plaintiffs rely on the opinions of the Department of Justice and the Department of Transportation that Title III applies to foreign-flagged cruise ships. These informal administrative opinions are not entitled to Chevrondeference. OPINION:Jones, J.; Reavley, Jones and Clement, JJ.

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