also alleged that defendant fraudulently concealed the results
of a Department of Health and Human Services sanitation
inspection from them. Plaintiffs have requested $34,000 on each
of the two causes of action.
The first question we must address is which law to apply.
Despite the plaintiffs having originally filed this action
under diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), we are
not constrained by Erie R.R. Co. v. Tompkins,
304 U.S. 64, 58 S.Ct. 817, 82 L.Ed. 1188 (1938), to apply state law.
Hodes v. S.N.C. Achille Lauro ed Altri-Gestione,
858 F.2d 905, 909 (3d Cir. 1988), cert. dismissed sub
nom., 490 U.S. 1001, 109 S.Ct. 1633, 104 L.Ed.2d 149
(1989). A passenger ticket for an ocean voyage constitutes a
maritime contract. Id. at 909 (citing The Moses
Taylor, 71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 411, 427, 18 L.Ed. 397 (1866)).
"Accordingly, whether ticket conditions form part of the
passenger's contract and the effect such conditions should be
afforded are matters governed by the general maritime, not the
local state, law." Id.
The question presented to the Court for summary judgment,
therefore, is whether plaintiffs are time-barred, as a matter
of law, from asserting their breach of contract claims after
the time limit outlined in the passenger contract ticket has
expired. The standards for summary judgment are well known.
Summary judgment may be granted only if there is no genuine
issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled
to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552,
91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In a summary judgment motion, the
nonmoving party receives the benefit of all reasonable doubts
and any inferences drawn from the underlying facts.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d
538 (1986). Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) also requires that when a
non-moving party bears the burden of proof at trial as to a
dispositive issue, that party is required to go beyond the
pleadings and designate specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at
324, 106 S.Ct. at 2553. For an issue of fact to be genuine, the
non-moving party must do more than simply show that there is
some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.
Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586, 106 S.Ct. at 1355-56.
Issues of material fact are genuine only "if the evidence is
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).
Defendant's motion for summary judgment relies upon a
six-month time limitation for filing suit which is set forth in
a provision of the "Passenger Ticket & Passage Contract"
alleged to have been issued to plaintiffs. This provision,
Article 21 reads as follows:
Art. 21 — TIME LIMIT ON SUITS Suit
to recover on any claim against the Company shall
be instituted: . . . (2) as to all other claims,
including breach of contract, within 6 months from
the passenger's arrival at destination, or in the
case of non-arrival, from the day on which the
passenger and/or the baggage should have arrived.
Because there is no doubt that plaintiffs' action was filed
more than six months after the plaintiffs' arrival at their