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Carnival Cruise Ship Crashes Into Passenger Gangway

Carnival Pride.jpg
The Carnival Pride after deporting from Baltimore

A Carnival cruise ship has crashed into a passenger gangway in Baltimore, Maryland, while attempting to dock after a 7 day Bahamas cruise. Media are reporting that the gangway was knocked over by the ship onto 3 parked cars. Luckily, no one was in any of the vehicles and no one was injured. The ship, the Carnival Pride, only sustained minor damage to the bow and is expected to depart on its next cruise as scheduled.

Although cruise ship “crashes” are a rare event, Carnival has experienced a number of various types of accidents in recent years. In 1995 the Carnival Celebration was adrift in the Bahamas for two days after losing power to an electrical fire. The Carnival Ecstasy caught fire in 1998 but was luckily still near the port of Miami and the fire was doused by rescue fire boats. The Carnival Tropicale was left adrift in the Gulf of Mexico in 1999 due to an engine room fire, leaving passengers no option but to wait out a tropical storm that occurred after the ship became disabled. A fire that broke out in the generator room left the Carnival Splendor disabled off the Western Coast of Mexico in 2010 until it was eventually towed to port in San Diego.

A more recent Carnival incident occurred on February 7, 2013 when the Carnival Triumph lost power after an engine room fire, leaving the ship adrift in the Gulf of Mexico for 4 days until the ship could be towed to port in Mobile, Alabama. Passengers on the ship sued the cruise line on, among others, legal theories of breach of contractual obligation to provide a seaworthy vessel and on the negligence based legal theory of res ipsa loquitor.

Breach of Contract Argument against Carnival

In the court case following the Carnival Triumph incident, Terry, et. al. v. Carnival Corporation 3F.Supp.3d 1363, Carnival successfully argued in its Motion for Summary Judgment that Carnival made “no guarantee for safe passage, a seaworthy vessel, adequate and wholesome food, and sanitary and safe living conditions.” The Court agreed with Carnival that its terms never created the contractual obligation that the Triumph passengers based their claims on. However the passengers, in their negligence claim, were successful in their summary judgment argument based on res ipsa loquitor.

Res Ipsa Loqitor Negligence argument against Carnival

Res Ipsa Loquitor (“Res Ipsa” for short) is a legal theory in tort law that helps lower the Plaintiffs’ (passengers’) burden of proving causation (that a Plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the Defendant, or Carnival in this case). A Res Ipsa argument is meant to create an inference that a cruise ship or other Defendant is negligent based on the idea that the incident normally would not have happened unless someone was negligent.

The passengers have to prove three things in a successful Res Ipsa argument.

1. The passengers were not at fault,

2. The instrumentality causing the injury (the engine) was under the exclusive control of Carnival and

3. The incident is of the type that normally would not occur unless someone was negligent.

Carnival attempted to argue that the engine was not exclusively under its control and that the inference of negligence is improper because Carnival complied with safety regulations and inspections. The Court, however, disagreed and ruled that the engine was under the exclusive control of Carnival and that the fire “is a mishap that ordinarily does not occur in the absence of negligence.”

One interesting question to ask now is whether an admiralty or maritime law court would similarly find that a cruise ship, crashing into a gangway and causing it to collapse onto and crush 3 cars, is a mishap that ordinarily does not occur in the absence of some type of negligence.

Contact the Admiralty and Maritime Law Attorneys at Brais Brais Rusak

Phot credit: The Baltimore Sun