The Source for Maritime Legal Information

Man_Killed_in_Miami_Beach_Boat_Incident-300x169A tragic boating accident in Biscayne Bay near Miami Beach took the life of Raul Menendez. Menendez of Hialeah, Florida and his friends chartered the luxury yacht Miami Vice for a day of sun and fun in Biscayne Bay. The 91 foot Miami Vice is offered for half day, full day as well as overnight charters via its owner’s website. The yacht ran aground on April 1, 2018 in an area near Monument Island. At some point Menendez entered the water. It is unknown at this time if he fell or jumped into the water. As he was behind the yacht, the operator, 49-year-old Mauricio Alvarez, put the engines in reverse in order the free the yacht from its strand. Menendez was sucked into the propellers and was killed. The yacht was towed to the Miami Beach Coast Guard station pending investigation.

Investigation conducted by law enforcement revealed that Alvarez did not have a Coast Guard license to captain the Miami Vice while on charter. On April 12, 2018, Alvarez was arrested in Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport attempting to flee the United States to Panama. Alvarez told Federal authorities that he was going to Panama to, “make a better decision of what to do” because he “was scared of being criminally charged.” A Federal Magistrate Judge ordered Alvarez to be detained and he was charged with misconduct and negligence of a ship officer that resulted in the death of an individual. The charge, if proven, could carry a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

As Alvarez faces criminal charges, the yacht’s owner can face civil liabilities for the death of Menendez. Maritime law allows the victim, and in this case, his family, the right to bring a civil lawsuit for damages against the yacht captain, the yacht owner and the yacht itself for any and all operational negligence that had a causal relationship to the accident. The Coast Guard requires the yacht to be captained by a licensed operator during all charters. Since Alvarez was not licensed by the Coast Guard, he, and the yacht’s ownership, is presumed under maritime law to be at fault for the accident. A claim of negligence can also be based upon not having a proper lookout posted while operating the yacht in reverse.

Injured-Barge-Worker-300x225

Our lawyers are often contacted by maritime workers who were injured on the job who wish to know what legal rights they have and what type of recovery they may be entitled. The first question that must be addressed is whether or not the maritime worker is a seaman entitled to recovery under the federal Jones Act or a non-seaman entitled to recovery under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. Court opinions from time to time provide guidance as to the facts necessary to make this decision.

Facts of the Case

A tug boat struck two crane barges which were spudded down or anchored at a dock facility. The two barges were engaged in constructing a dock at the time of the incident. A worker on one of the crane barges was injured. From this incident, the injured worker brought a claim against the owner of the offending tugboat as well as the company overseeing the dock building seeking various damages, including loss of earnings and earning capacity, pain, suffering, mental anguish and emotional trauma. A motion for summary judgment was filed seeking to deem the maritime worker as a seaman who was entitled to the protections of the Jones Act. The company overseeing the dock work opposed the motion.

Cruise-Foot-Injury-2-242x300A former cruise ship worker for Seabourn was allowed to proceed with her Jones Act negligence and unseaworthiness case in state court. The injured crewmember filed a lawsuit in Florida state court against her cruise line employer for injured sustained while working. The case concerns a blister the crewmember developed on a toe on her left foot. The shipboard physician treated the crewmember aboard the cruise ship, but seven months from the onset of symptoms, her toe showed signs of gangrene and was ultimately amputated.

Removal to Federal Court & Motion to Remand

Seabourn removed the case from state court to federal court under the United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards arguing an arbitration agreement between it and the crewmember governed the dispute thereby precluding her ability to file a lawsuit. The court reviewed the arbitration agreement and found it not applicable to the claim brought against the cruise line. Upon the court’s determination that the case need not be arbitrated, the crewmember filed a motion to remand the case back to state court for trial. Seabourn opposed the motion to remand arguing that removal is proper under the diversity of citizenship exception and the crewmember waived any objection to the removal by failing to timely challenge the removal.

cruise_burn-Injury-238x300A Florida judge has recently ruled that a passenger who sustained a burn during a Carnival cruise may present her claim to a jury over the cruise line’s motion seeking to dismiss the lawsuit.

The Cruise

In October 2016, a passenger boarded the Carnival cruise ship Carnival Breeze. During the second night of the cruise she sat down for dinner in the cruise ship’s Blush dining hall. At the dinner table were other guests, one of whom, brought maracas. Carnival did not distribute maracas that evening; nor did it host a themed event that would involve the use of maracas. However, during the dinner, waiters in the Blush dining hall participated in a singing and dancing event called “Show Time.” During the dinner, the passenger ordered hot tea. The head waiter filled a teapot designed with a non-locking, non-sealing hinged lid with hot water from water dispensing machine. The head waiter returned to table with the teapot in hand. As the head waiter approached the table, the guest shaking her maraca hit his hand causing the teapot to fall the saucer and spill hot water onto the passenger’s chest, right shoulder, and right arm. The passenger suffered severe injuries including second degree burns on her right chest, breast, and upper and lower right arm.

NCL_Epic_Trip_and_Fall-300x214A Miami Federal Court has found that a Norwegian Epic trip and fall case is allowed to proceed to jury trial after denying NCL’s Motion for Summary Judgment. This case concerns a passenger who tripped and fell over a raised threshold at the entrance of the ladies’ restroom located on Deck 15 aboard the Norwegian Epic cruise ship. From this trip and fall, the passenger hit her head on the restroom wall, lost consciousness and awoke on the floor. She suffered a split lip, black eyes, and severe injuries to her wrist and head. The injured passenger filed a negligence lawsuit against NCL in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida claiming that the raised threshold was unreasonably dangerous.

Elements of a Cruise Passenger Negligence Claim

In order for an injured cruise passenger to be successful in bringing a negligence claim, it must be shown that the cause of the accident, here the raised threshold, was unreasonably dangerous and that the cruise line knew or should have known of the unreasonably dangerous condition. NCL filed a motion for summary judgement arguing the injured plaintiff did not have enough evidence for a reasonable jury to find that the threshold was unreasonably dangerous or that NCL had notice of the threshold was unreasonably dangerous.

Sarasota_boat_accident-300x169A boat flipped over and capsized in Sarasota Bay on January first leaving four injured.  Law enforcement located the boat in the early afternoon south of the John Ringling Causeway between Marina Jack and Bird Key.  An inspection revealed damage to the boat’s hull, windshield and propeller casing.  It has been reported that the boat was en route to a poker run where high speed and performance vessels gather to participate in various activities.  Small Craft advisories were posted at the time of the accident and rough weather is believed to be a contributing factor for the accident.

Photo: CBS Interactive Inc. 18 cruise passengers were seriously injured, at least 11 fatally, while on their way to a shore excursion to the ancient Maya ruins at Chaccoben, Mexico, which was sold and advertised by Royal Caribbean/Celebrity Cruises. Eight of the individuals killed are of American citizenship, others killed include two Swedes, one Canadian and one Mexican. Sadly, as reports of the incident were issued by various news reporting agencies, the number of individuals killed kept increasing.

Per reports, approximately 31 cruise passengers were riding on a shore excursion bus on their way to the Maya ruins when the reportedly speeding bus overturned sending many flying to the side of the road; injuring 18 and killing at least 11 passengers.  The passengers were from the Celebrity Equinox and the Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas, both of which are owned and operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. and that sailed from Port Everglades on Friday. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of those affected. Continue reading

Fort_Myers_Boat_Accident_LawyerA Fort Myers man has died last weekend after being ejected from the boat he was traveling aboard.  The boating accident occurred near Hemp Key off Pine Island at 5:30 in the afternoon.  Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigation reveals that Canaan Johnson was thrown from the boat when it struck the sand bar and then the boat ran over him.  Three other people were aboard the 19’ boat at the time of the accident. No other injuries were reported.  First responders arrived at the accident scene within an hour but had difficulty reaching the boat due to the shallow water. Mr. Johnson was taken to the Pineland Marina where he was pronounced dead.

Jet-Ski-Accident-300x214A Florida Jet Ski accident leaves a man unconscious.  The accident occurred on December 3, 2017 and was videoed by an off-duty policeman who was the first on the scene to render assistance.  Despite wearing a lanyard attached to a switch designed to cut off the engine when the rider is thrown off the Jet Ski, the machine was still running after the accident.  It is unknown at this time if the Jet Ski was rented or owned by the rider.  Florida has strict laws concerning the renting of all personal watercrafts including Jet Skis.  These laws require the rental company to provide detailed instruction on the safe handling and navigation of these watercrafts.  If these instructions are not properly given, a court may find the rental company liable for the accident.  It has been reported that the victim is making a steady recovery.

MS-NOORDAM-crew-arrested-for-alleged-rape-300x169A 33-year-old man employed by Holland America Line was arrested by New Zealand Police on Tuesday and charged with sexual violation.  Police were called on Tuesday afternoon while the vessel was docked in Port Chalmers, Dunedin, New Zealand to investigate an alleged rape and sexual assault reported to have occurred earlier that morning aboard the MS Noordam.  The alleged victim is a cruise ship worker and per reports she and alleged perpetrator knew each other.

The alleged perpetrator is scheduled to appear in court on Friday. A spokeswoman for Holland America Line, which operates the ship and employed the two crew members, said no guests were involved in the alleged incident.

Holland America is not new to reports of sexual assaults on-board its vessels.  In 2014, a room service attendant brutally assaulted, raped and attempted to murder a female passenger traveling on the MS Nieuw Amsterdam.  The perpetrator, Ketut Pujayasa is currently serving a 30 year prison sentence after confessing to the crime.