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.
Although often shore excursion tours are advertised and sold directly to passengers exclusively by Royal Caribbean/Celebrity Cruises and other cruise lines, and although many times that is the only way that a tour can be purchased by a passenger, Royal Caribbean/Celebrity Cruises and the cruise line industry maintain that shore excursion operators are independent contractors over whom it exerts no control or supervision. To add to the problem of holding the operators and the cruise lines accountable, many of the shore excursion operators are outside of the jurisdiction of United States courts.
This has resulted in a business model that allows foreign corporations to solicit and market their services in the United States while being effectively immune from liability in the United States courts for any injuries that may arise as a result of their operations. In effect, foreign corporations are provided more protection in United States courts than American citizens.
Our Brais Brais Rusak Board Certified Admiralty and Maritime Attorneys, often represent cruise ship passengers seeking to hold cruise lines accountable for failing to appropriately vet or retain shore excursion tour operators and/or for failing to warn them of dangerous or defective conditions of which the cruise line knew or should have known about in the exercise of reasonable care.
Recently, our firm obtained a favorable ruling from Magistrate Judge William Turnoff, denying in part, Royal Caribbean’s Motion for Summary Judgment and allowing the case to proceed to trial on Plaintiff’s Failure to Warn Count and Negligent Retention Count. Essentially, Royal Caribbean argued that there were no issues of material fact such that it was entitled to entry of Summary Judgment on the issue of notice and thus on Counts I and II of the Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint. The Court disagreed and ruled that Plaintiff had established the existence of genuine issues of material fact as to notice. Additionally, with respect to the retention of the tour operator, the Court found that the record contained evidence that should have alerted Royal Caribbean to inquire further as to the competency of the operator.
It remains to be seen, what if anything Royal Caribbean/Celebrity Cruises knew or should have known with respect to the competency of the tour operator involved in this terrible accident. We again extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to all affected.