February 2011 Archives

February 14, 2011

Injured Crew Have a Claim Against Their Employer for Deciding the Keep the Vessel in Rough Conditions

Jones Act Claim Rough Seas.jpgUnder the Jones Act, an employer has the duty to provide its seaman employees with a reasonably safe place to work. An employer breaches that duty if it does not act with ordinary prudence. In other words, if a maritime employer disregards a danger that it knew or should have known and that danger causes a crewmember's injury, it will be found liable under the Jones Act. Generally, an employer violates the Jones Act when it fails to maintain an area such as a deck, fails to properly instruct an employee on how to safely go about performing his job duties or does not provide the crewmember with appropriate safety gear. These situations, though common, are not the only ways an employer can breach its duty owed to its crewmembers.

Another way an employer can violate the Jones Act is through navigational errors or omissions by the ship's captain. In a recent case, a court found that a jury can decide if the captain's decision of keeping the vessel "in the field" during rough weather instead of seeking protected waters constitutes a violation of the employer's Jones Act duty. In the case, the crewmember seaman fell down a ladder in heavy seas after being order by the captain to go inside the vessel. The court reasoned the decision to keep the vessel in rough seas combined with the captain's order for the crewmember to go inside is enough evidence for a jury to return a verdict in the seaman's favor and denied the employer's motion to find no liability.

February 10, 2011

Court Allows Passenger Sexually Assaulted Shore-Side to Bring a Claim Against Cruise Line

Cruise Passenger Raped Sexually Assulted Attorney Lawyer.jpgIt is no secret that many passengers are raped or sexually assaulted aboard cruise ships each year. This sad fact caused Congress to pass the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act. That Act requires, among other things, all cabin doors be outfitted with peepholes, limited access to cabins by crewmembers, rape kits available at the ship's medical faculty and that all claims of rape/sexual assault be reported to the FBI. Moreover, maritime law holds a cruise line strictly liable for any sexual attack by its cruise staff against a passenger. However, there is a question as to the cruise line's responsibility to passengers sexually assaulted by employees of the tour operators and concessionaires which are approved and recommended by the cruise lines. Recently, a federal court allowed a passenger who was drugged and sexually assaulted at a shore side restaurant recommended by Carnival Cruise Lines to maintain a lawsuit against the cruise line.

That case involved as passenger aboard the Carnival Paradise. One of the Carnival Paradise's scheduled stops was Ensenada, Mexico. Carnival provided the passenger with a map listing certain areas and businesses that were safe to visit while in Ensenada. Relying on the cruise line's representations, the passenger visited one of the listed restaurants listed on the map. While at the restaurant the passenger was drugged and sexually assaulted by a restaurant employee. The passenger sued the cruise line alleging, among other things, it was negligence for failing to warn her and the other passengers of the dangers of being drugged and/or sexually assaulted in Ensenada, failing to investigate the recommended businesses, and failing to protect passengers.
Carnival requested the court to dismiss the lawsuit arguing it did not owe the passenger any duty of care for the actions of the restaurant's employee. Carnival specifically argued: (1) the passenger failed to state a claim as there was no duty by the cruise line to warn her that criminal acts occur generally, (2) the passenger failed to allege that the cruise was on notice of prior sexual assaults and druggings having occurred at the subject restaurant, (3) passenger failed to allege that the cruise line was on notice of the criminal propensities of the alleged assailant. Carnival also argued that even if it had a duty to warn the passenger of the possibility of a sexual assault or drugging, the intervening criminal act of a third party was the proximate cause of the passenger's damages.

The court rejected Carnival's arguments and found the passenger properly stated a legal claim of negligence against the cruise line and denied Carnival's motion to dismiss the law suit.

If you would like to learn more about a cruise line's responsibilities to a raped or sexually assaulted passenger, please read our article entitled: