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Articles Posted in Cruise Ship Passenger Injury Law

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On July 17, 1996, at approximately 8:30 p.m., a Boeing 747-131 aircraft, operated by Trans World Airlines as TWA Flight 800, departed from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City for Rome, Italy, carrying 230 passengers and crew.  As the aircraft flew over the ocean near Long Island, all radio communications abruptly ceased and the flight data recorder stopped recording data. The pilot of an Eastwind Airlines Boeing 737 reported seeing TWA Flight 800 suddenly explode, break apart in mid-flight, and crash in to the sea.  All 230 passengers and crew onboard the aircraft perished.

The TWA Flight 800 tragedy captured the attention of the American public and Congress and ultimately resulted in the passage of what is known as the Commercial Aviation Exception to the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) or 46 U.S.C. § 30307. The Commercial Aviation Exception made damages for loss of care, comfort and companionship, known as nonpecuniary damages, for wrongful death of a decedent recoverable if the death resulted from a commercial aviation accident occurring on the high seas. The stated purpose of the bill was to help ensure that families of airline accident victims would receive fair treatment under the law regardless of where the accident occurred.

Cruise-slip-fall-case-sign-300x225Slip and fall accidents occur with regularity on cruise ships.  One defense that all the major cruise lines assert in such claims is that they did not have the requisite notice that the deck was wet and slippery.

The Notice Defense

In slip and fall cases, the mere fact that an accident occurred or that the deck was slick dose not automatically make the cruise line liable for a passenger’s injuries.  Where a deck becomes wet due to weather or spills caused by non-crewmembers, maritime law requires the injured plaintiff to prove that the cruise line either had notice of the risk-creating condition.  Notice comes in two varieties, “actual” and “constructive” “Actual notice” is when the defendant knows of the risk-creating condition.  “Constructive notice” is when it could be shown that the dangerous condition has existed for such a period of time that a reasonable shipowner would have known the condition was present.  A recent case from the Southern District of Florida exemplifies how an injured passenger can prove a cruise line was on notice of a slippery deck.

Passenger-Overboard-Royal-Caribbean-Cruise-Ship-300x225In July 2010, Congress passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (“CVSSA”); legislation designed to improve the security and safety of passengers aboard cruise ships.  Under the CVSSA, vessels are required “to integrate technology that can be used for capturing images of passengers who have fallen overboard, to the extent that such technology is available.”  Such requirements were to take effect 18 months after the date of the enactment of the CVSSA on or about January, 2012.  To date it is clear that cruise lines have been resistant to implementing man overboard systems.  Since the enactment of the CVSSA, there have been approximately 143 persons reported to have fallen overboard from cruise ships.  In 2017 alone, there have been 11 reported cases.

Cruise lines such as Celebration Cruise Line, claim that the Coast Guard does not enforce the CVSSA § 3507(a)(1)(D) provision and therefore compliance is optional.  Varner v. Celebration Cruise Operator, Inc., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 137588 (S.D. Fla. Sept. 30, 2016).  Disney Cruise Line is the only major cruise company that appears to have integrated an automatic man overboard system while most cruise lines still only rely on safety railings, unmonitored surveillance cameras, eyewitness accounts, and reports by family members or others that a person is missing.  Automatic man overboard systems notify the crew when a person has fallen overboard and are equipped with radar and sensors to establish a perimeter around a ship. In the absence of automatic systems, by the time a person is reported missing and a search of the ship is completed including review of closed-circuit TV video, critical time has passed, often many hours, making it practically impossible to find people that have gone overboard.

Two incidents in the past week involving passengers going overboard of cruise ships, show the difference an automatic man overboard system can make.  On May 5, 2017, a 61-year-old American man who was travelling alone on-board the Golden Princess cruise ship during a 13-day sailing through the South Pacific went missing.  A steward became concerned about the man’s whereabouts and a thorough search of the cruise ship including review of the CCTV video failed to find the man.  Thus, the incident is being treated as a man overboard incident.

On May 4, 2017, a man went overboard during a four-night sailing through the Bahamas on-board the Disney Dream.  The man went overboard in the early evening and it was immediately noticed by the staff on the ship.  Per reports, the U.S. Coast Guard arrived about 45 minutes later and the man was rescued after about 90 minutes and provided medical attention.

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Coast-Guard-Assists-in-Medical-Evacuation-of-71-year-old-Woman-off-Carnival-Ecstasy-300x200A 71-year-old woman slipped onboard the Carnival Ecstasy sustaining a head injury that required her to be medevaced.  The U.S. Coast Guard deployed a helicopter to assist in her medical evacuation.  The vessel was 75 miles off the Florida coast at the time and on its return to its home port of Charleston.

The passenger and an onboard nurse are reported to have been hoisted on to the hilicopter and were flown to a Florida hospital.  A passenger of the Carnival Ecstasy is recovering after suffering a head injury during the ship’s return to its home port of Charleston.

Copyright 2017 WCSC.

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Reco Scott a 32-year-old man from Decatur, Georgia on board the Carnival Liberty cruise ship while on his honeymoon is missing.  Mr. Scott married Angelijica Scott last Saturday before boarding the Carnival Liberty in Port Canaveral.  According to Carnival’s spokeswoman Jennifer De La Cruz, Mr. Scott “was observed jumping from a cabin balcony about at around 4:53 a.m. on Friday.   The ship was approximately 10 miles northwest of the Berry Islands in the Bahamas at the time of the incident.  The cruise ship was turned around and crew members launched a search of the boat.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard 7th District, a Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater MH-60 Jayhawck helicopter crew deployed to Great Iguana, Bahamas.  The Coast Guard Cutter Charles David Jr., Coast Guard Air Station Miami HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane crews, the Carnival Liberty cruise ship and the Norwegian Jade cruise ship assisted with the search which lasted 29 hours and covered 1,064 miles.  The Coast Guard suspended its search on Saturday at about 6:00 p.m. extending its thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of Mr. Scott.

Search-For-Missing-Man-Overboard-Carnival-Victory-Continues-300x200The U.S. Coast Guard and Cuban search and rescue authorities are searching for a missing 23-year-old man who went overboard the Carnival Victory cruise ship 33 miles northwest of Pinar Del Rio, Cuba.  Brandon Paul is the Floral City, Florida resident who is reported to have gone overboard the cruise ship from the eighth deck yesterday at approximately 3 a.m.  The ship was sailing from Key West, Florida to Cozumel, Mexico on a four-day cruise.

Carnival is reported to have launched a search boat and contacted the Seventh Coast Guard District Command Center, which directed a search plan and cutter to the area.  As of six in the evening the search continued without success.

The Carnival Victory is a thirteen-deck cruise ship and the eighth deck, from which Mr. Paul fell contains passenger cabins, most of which have balconies.

cruise-excursion-dunns-river-falls-jamacia-300x225This case concerns a passenger who participated in a seven-day cruise aboard the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas cruise ship.  The passenger booked a shore excursion through Royal Caribbean to Dunn’s River Falls while the ship called on Jamaica.  The local guide was employed by the excursion company told the passengers to hold hands while ascending the falls. Unfortunately, the passenger slipped and fell when a girl whose hand he was holding slipped.  The fall resulted in the passenger fracturing his leg and sustaining other injuries.

The passenger filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of Florida alleging that he was instructed by the tour guides at Dunn’s River Falls to hold hands with the other hikers and that he fell because the girl whose hand he was holding slipped. He claimed that Royal Caribbean was liable for the accident because  the cruise line either knew about or should have reasonably foreseen the danger associated with having passengers hold hands as they climbed Dunn’s River Falls and should have warned him about this danger.

In response to the passenger’s claim, Royal Caribbean filed a motion requesting that the Court dismiss the lawsuit arguing that: (1) the dangers associated with Dunn’s River Falls are open and obvious; (2)  there is no evidence that the practice of handholding caused fall; and (3) even if handholding caused the fall, there is no evidence that the cruise line knew or should have known that handholding was a dangerous practice. The passenger countered Royal Caribbean’s motion by pointing to evidence that the cause of his fall was a result of the handholding policy and submitted affidavits showing the cruise line’s employees knew the handholding policy posed a danger to its passengers.

Knorr-Overboard-MSC-Divina-300x193Authorities are reporting a 74-year-old passenger on-board MSC Divina is missing and presumed overboard.  The man’s disappearance comes just days after a 22-year-old man and a 74-year-old woman went overboard the Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas and the Queen Mary 2, respectively.

According to reports, Mr. Jeon Pierre Knorr, a French citizen traveling with his wife stepped onto the room’s balcony for some fresh air at approximately 3:00 a.m. on Monday and did not return. When his wife got up several hours later, she realized he had not returned and reported him missing.

The circumstances of his fall, however, remain unknown.  Cruise ship officials searched the entire cruise ship and made callouts through the public announcement system with no success.

Passenger-Overboard-Royal-Caribbean-Cruise-Ship-300x225A 22 year-old male Royal Caribbean passenger on-board the Independence of the Seas was reported as having intentionally jumped off the ship’s twelfth deck in the early morning hours of Thursday, December 22, 2016.  The ship was approximately 33 miles southeast of Key Largo and was heading back to South Florida after a four-night trip.

The ship contacted the U.S. Coast Guard which took over the search of the man by air and sea.  After a 38-hour search for the missing man, the Coast Guard suspended the search Friday afternoon.

Just a day after the 22-year-old man was reported missing, news sources reported a 74-year-old British woman on-board the Queen Mary 2 ocean liner was missing and presumed overboard. The ship had left New York Thursday morning and was en route to St. Martin in the Caribbean.  The woman was reported missing in the early hours of Friday morning when the ship was around 100 miles south east of Atlantic City in New Jersey.  The search for the woman was called off Friday evening.

British Passenger Killed in Bus Crash Azure ship.jpgA British passenger traveling on board the P&O Cruises ship Azura was killed last Wednesday as a result of a collision involving a bus operated by a shore excursion provider in the island of Dominica. Nine other passengers of the twelve passengers traveling on the bus were also injured as a result of the accident. They were treated at local hospitals and most have been discharged since. The cause of the accident is not yet known.

The Azura ship set sail from Southampton on October 28, 2016 with more than 3,000 passengers on board.

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