Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute: The Titanic of Worst Decisions [Symposium: The Worst Supreme Court Case Ever?]


Linda S Mullenix

12 Nevada Law Journal 549



Certain law reviews recently have collected essays from various academic scholars opining on the Supreme Court’s finest decisions ever, and the rationales underlying the selections. As a counterpart to this exercise, this Symposium issue challenged an array of largely non-constitutional scholars to identify the Court’s worst decisions ever, and justify the reasons for inclusion among the Court’s most awful mistakes. In carry out this assignment, Authors were requested to avoid obvious “low-hanging fruit,” such as the Court’s Dred Scott decision. Authors also were asked to look to their own areas of particular expertise to identify the Court’s most vexing decisions. Finally, Authors were asked to limit their essay to a pithy contribution of approximately five to ten pages. 

Consistent with this task and guidelines, this essay suggest that hands down incontestably, Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute handily wins the honor as the worst non-obvious, non-constitutional Supreme Court decision ever. Not only is the decision profoundly anti-consumer, but it bears no conceivable relationship to the way real people live in the real world. It is patently iniquitous and offends traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. The Court’s decision is a corporate rogue wave, hurling unsuspecting, ordinary people overboard without a flotation device or life raft. The essay suggests that if the opportunity ever arises again for the Court to reconsider Carnival Cruise Lines, it is high tide that the Court set a new compass, clear the decks, untether this decision from its moorings, trim its sails, set it adrift, then torpedo it and bury the decision at sea. Only then will plaintiffs and defendants be on an even keel, with clear sailing into the sunset.


Full Citation

Linda S. Mullenix, Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute: The Titanic of Worst Decisions [Symposium: The Worst Supreme Court Case Ever?], 12 Nevada Law Journal 549 (2012).