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Articles Posted in Cruise Ship Passenger Injury Law

Explorer-of-the-Seas-Passenger-Medevac-300x179A 68-year-old man traveling on board the Explorer of the Seas is reported to have fallen down a flight of stairs on Tuesday sustaining serious injuries including rib injuries.  Per reports, the ship’s captain contacted the U.S. Coast Guard command center in Juneau and a flight doctor recommended the medevac.  A Jayhawk helicopter was sent out and the cruise ship passenger was safely hoisted up and then taken to a medical facility on land in Sitka, Alaska.

The Explorer of the Seas is operated by Royal Caribbean and at the time of the incident, it was on a week-long Alaska voyage departing from its homeport in Seattle on July 7 and scheduled to return on July 14.

The condition of the passenger is unknown at this time.

Royal-Carribean-Passenger-Fall-Accident-300x200A Miami Federal Judge has ruled that a Royal Caribbean cruise passenger injury case can proceed to a jury.  This case involves a fall in the Oasis of the Seas multipurpose auditorium.   The passenger was participating in a Game Show organized by the cruise line.  At one point, he was invited onto the stage.  While making his way to the stage, the passenger fell claiming that he was not able to discern the twelve plus inch drop from the seating area to the stage floor.  From this incident, the passenger filed a lawsuit in Federal Court alleging negligence and negligence design.

Royal Caribbean’s Motion for Summary Judgment

In order to prevail against a cruise line, the injured passenger must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that there was an unreasonable dangerous condition that caused the accident.  The injured passenger must also prove that the cruise line knew or should have known of the dangerous condition.    Royal Caribbean argued that the step was not dangerous as a matter of law, that it did not have a duty to warn of the step and that it was not involved in the design of the step.   Royal Caribbean filed a motion for summary judgment seeking to dismiss the passenger’s injury case.

Cruise-Trip-and-Fall-Injury-300x214The Southern District of Florida has ruled that a cruise passenger trip and fall accident case can proceed to trial over a motion filed by Celebrity Cruises to dismiss the case.  In this case, a passenger aboard the Celebrity Summit was walking towards the front of the ship through the Rendezvous Lounge after the mandatory muster drill.  While passenger turned the corner to exit the lounge, he tripped and fell to the floor.  The passenger claimed that the base of a small table caused his fall.  The trip and fall accident resulted in a shoulder injury.

The Lawsuit

The passenger filed a lawsuit in the Miami division of the Southern District of Florida alleging the table was negligently designed, Celebrity created a hazardous condition by removing chairs from the table thereby exposing the pertruding table base in close proximity to the walkway and Celebrity failed to warn him of the hidden danger.  Celebrity filed a motion for summary judgment seeking the federal court to dismiss the case arguing that the cruise line did not design the table, the cruise line did not have notice of the alleged hazardous condition, the alleged hazardous condition was open and obvious, and the alleged negligence was not the proximate cause of the cruise passenger’s trip and fall accident.  In a well written order, the court found that while the passenger did not present evidence to establish a claim for negligent design, he did present enough evidence for his personal injury case to proceed to trial on the other claims.

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Photo credit: JON LEVY/AFP/Getty Images

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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Photo: Facebook

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.