March 2011 Archives

March 27, 2011

Cruise Ship Passenger Trip and Falls - A Maritime Lawyer's Analysis

Cruise Passenger Trip and Fall Attorney Lawyer.jpg

Trip and fall accidents occur often on cruise ships. In fact, our Florida Board Certified Maritime Lawyers regularly represent clients who were injured in trip and fall incidents against cruise lines such as Carnival, Norwegian (NCL), Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Costa, Oceania and Disney. Injuries from trip and falls range from simple bruising and twisted ankles to torn cartilage, broken bones and ligament damage. There are a number of reasons why trip and fall accidents occur on cruise ships. The intent of this article is to explain the common causes of trip and fall accidents and the cruise lines' responsibility to their passengers.

Why Do Trip and Fall Accidents Happen on Cruise Ships & What is the Cruise Lines' Responsibility?

Through there are countless reasons why trip and fall accidents happen on cruise ships, these are the most common:

Failure to Maintain Deck Surfaces and Stairs

Failing to maintain deck surfaces and stairs frequently cause accidents. Nearly all of the interior decks aboard cruise ships are carpeted. However, cruise ships see hundreds of thousands of passengers and crew walking the decks each year. This heavy foot traffic causes the carpeting to tear and or buckle up. Also, thresholds connecting the watertight doors and noising securing carpet to the staircases become damaged and pried up. This change in the level of the decking surface causes a tripping hazard. If this happens, cruise lines are liable for the accident caused by the damaged deck.

Dropped Objects

Dropped objects such as discarded room service trays, cups, packages and food also cause trip and fall accidents. Cruise lines are obligated to conduct routine inspections of their decks and clear all foreign objects from the decks. However, ship personnel sometimes fail to perform this duty. If the object remains on the deck for a significant period of time, the cruise line is liable if the passenger trips over the object.

Improper Deck Construction

Unlike failing to maintain a deck which at one time was safe but became unsafe due to ware, tripping hazarders are also cause improper construction of a deck. Cruise lines are liable for injuries to passengers who trip because a deck is built with unexpected rises and/or drops.

Failure to Warn

Cruise lines also have the obligation to warn of a dangerous condition. If a deck is made unsafe because of wear, dropped objects or improper building, the cruise line must post signs in the immediate area warning of the danger. Should the cruise line fail to warn and a passenger trips, the cruise line is legally responsible.

What Damages Can Be Recovered for Trip or Fall Accidents?

Passengers who trip and are injured due to the negligence of cruise lines are entitled to fair and adequate compensation for damages experienced in the past and to be likely experienced in the future. Such damages include:

  • Compensation for any bodily injury resulting in pain and suffering, disability or physical impairment, disfigurement, mental anguish, inconvenience, the loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life;
  • The expense of hospitalization, medical and nursing care and treatment; and,
  • Lost earnings for the inability to work.

Related Articles

Click on the below articles written by our maritime lawyers to learn more about cruise lines' obligations to their passengers:

Additional Information

Trip and fall accidents aboard cruise ships happen for a number of reasons and the cruise lines are liable for their negligent conduct. For addition information about cruise line liabilities or a free consultation of your case, contact our Florida Board Certified Maritime Attorneys.


March 11, 2011

Norovirus on Cruise Ships - Are the Cruise Lines Liable?

Norovirus Norwalk virus cruise ship attorney lawyer.jpgEvery year news sources report certain cruise ships sail into port with several passengers sick from Norovirus. In years past, Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL), Royal Caribbean Cruises, Regent Seven Seas and Celebrity Cruises all reported Norovirus outbreaks on their ships. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports over twenty percent of all Norovirus cases contracted in the United States occurred in vacation settings including cruise ships. Norovirus in the cruise industry is so widespread that the CDC's website lists all cruise ships with Norovirus outbreaks and when those outbreaks occured. We receive many calls from passengers who contracted Norovirus while cruising asking about their legal rights. This article is meant to explain what is Norovirus, how Norovirus spreads and what are the cruise lines' liabilities for Norovirus.

What is Norovirus?

First identified in 1972 after an outbreak in Norwalk, Ohio, Norovirus is an RNA type virus that causes approximately 90% of epidemic non-bacterial outbreaks of gastroenteritis around the world and perhaps is responsible for 50% of all foodborne gastroenteritis in the United States. Norovirus symptoms usually occur 24 to 48 hours after the passenger comes into contract with an infected area or consuming contaminated food / water. However, in some cases, symptoms can appear within 10 hours. Common symptoms include abdominal pain (stomach cramps), fever, chills, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Sometimes, the symptoms are so severe that the passenger dehydrates and experiences heart complications.

How Does Norovirus Spread?

Norovirus can rapidly spread from person to person through contaminated food or water and/or by touching contaminated surfaces. The virus is found in the vomit and stool (fecal matter) of infected persons from the day they begin to feel ill. An infected person can contaminate others for two or more weeks after the symptoms pass. This makes food handlers and dishwashers optimal vehicles to transport the virus to unsuspecting diners. Sick stewards whose job it is to clean the cabin and make the beds also can easily transfer the virus to passengers.

The following is suggested in order to help protect yourself from Norovirus:

  • Wash your hands regularly (especially before and after every meal);

  • Avoid shaking hands;

  • Avoid public restrooms;

  • Use alcohol based hand sanitizer or wash your hands after touching handrails and elevator buttons;

  • Avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth.

What are the Cruise Lines' Obligations to Their Passengers?

Cruise lines owe their passengers the duty of reasonable care. In the context of a Norovirus, this duty includes properly cleaning and disinfecting the cabins, common areas and bathrooms as well as confining infected crewmembers to their cabins. Cruise lines also have a duty to properly maintain, clean and disinfect food storage units, trays, ice machines, plates and utensils. Unfortunately, cruise lines do not always do what the law requires. This is why outbreaks occur.

What Are Passengers' Rights?

Being infected with Norovirus on your vacation is not fun. However, some passengers who contract the virus exhibit symptoms so severe that they have to be hospitalized. These people are entitled to compensation. For those passengers who are hospitalized, the law allows the recovery of medical expenses, pain and suffering and lost wages.

If you have contracted a serious case of Norovirus while on a cruise and would like to know more about your rights, please contact our board certified admiralty and maritime attorneys.

March 4, 2011

Miami Federal Court Finds Carnival Cruise Lines' Arbitration Provision Null & Void and Allows Jury Trial

Carnival Crew Member Seafairer Injury Accident Arbitration attorney injury.jpgAs previously reported, many cruise lines including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) have arbitration provisions in their crewmember / seafarer employment contracts. Depending upon the cruise line and when the employment contract was signed, the terms may impose foreign law to be applied to the crewmember / seafarer's personal injury claim and require arbitration to be conducted in a foreign country.

A federal court in Miami, Florida recently found the Carnival Cruise Lines arbitration provision requiring the crewmember / seafarer to arbitrate his personal injury claim under Panamanian law in Panama violated his substantive Jones Act rights. Despite Carnival stipulating to United States law and having a clause written in the contract which severs (deletes) any language that is null and void, the Court declared the entire arbitration agreement. The import of this decision is that the entire case was referred back to state court to be tried before a jury. This case represents a recent trend by some courts to not enforce cruise line arbitration provisions instead allowing the crewmembers / seafarers to have their cases be decided by juries.