Miami lawyer Keith Brais obtained a ruling from a Federal Court finding a cruise line can be held responsible for a rape caused by the over service of alcohol. The complaint failed in the Southern District of Florida alleges a passenger participated in a Norwegian Cruise Line organized pub crawl which occurred on the cruise ship NORWEGIAN SUN. After the pub crawl, the passenger remained at the last bar to have additional drinks with some of the other pub crawl participants. The plaintiff alleges she became intoxicated from the drinks served on the cruise ship. Court papers reveal the passenger walked to a public ladies room located near a café. While in a stall, a man opened the door, spun her around and raped her. Affidavits filed in the case assert due to her intoxicated state she was unable to fend off her attacker.
Norwegian Cruise Line filed a motion for summary judgment arguing the Florida “dram shop” statute applied to the service of alcohol aboard its cruise ships. The Florida dram shop statute shields companies from liability for injuries and damages caused by their service of alcohol except when the person served is under the age of 21 or the person served is known to be “habitually addicted” to alcohol.
The Federal Court rejected the application of the Florida dram shop statute. Instead, it followed the Florida state appellate court’s legal holding in Hall v. Royal Caribbean Cruises which found the statute is contrary to the uniformity of maritime law. This case solidifies the maritime law that a cruise line has a duty to exercise reasonable care for its passengers including reasonable care in the service of alcohol. A copy of the Court’s order can be found at this link.