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Articles Posted in Cruise Ship Passenger Injury Law

Florida has the most coastline out of any state in the contiguous United States, with nearly 8,500 miles of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Most Florida residents have likely heard the term “maritime law” or “admiralty law,” and many correctly assume that this area of law has to do with the issues that arise on the navigable waters of the United States. However, maritime law is a unique and esoteric area of the law that only a select few partitioners, attorneys who regularly specialize in the field of maritime law, truly understand. This post will explain a few of the basics of maritime law.

First, maritime law and admiralty law are interchangeable terms that refer to the body of law that governs most legal issues that arise from or relate to marine casualties, including personal injury claims,  on the navigable waters or a vessel in navigation.  A general misnomer is that all maritime law claims must be brought in Federal Court.  This not the case.  Under the Savings to Suitors clause, a personal injury plaintiff  – say for example a Jones Act seaman or a cruise ship passenger can elect to bring suit in State Court, plead the clam is governed by maritime law and request a jury. Therefore, state and federal courts share concurrent jurisdiction to hear certain maritime claims, while other must be filed in federal court.  The option of suing in state court has been happening less and less these for several years now at least with regard to claims brought by cruise ship passengers and Jones Act seaman employed aboard cruise ships.  Why?

Firstly, Cruise Lines for sometime now have included within their ticket contract a “forum selection clause.”  This clause mandates that if you sue the Cruise Line you must do so in the location and particular court selected by the Cruise Lines.  In the case of Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean, these Cruise Lines have designated suit must be filed in the Federal Court for the Southern District of Florida.  Secondly, Jones Act Seaman for many, many years could sue in State Court under the Savings to Suitor’s clause, mentioned above.  Cruise Lines seeking to deprive the seaman of a jury trial have for years now inserted a mandatory arbitration clause into the crew member’s employment contract.  The arbitration provision deprives the crew member of a right to a jury trial which he previously enjoyed un the Savings to Suitor’s clause.

On December 9th, 2019, the volcano on White Island, New Zealand, erupted while 47 tourists were visiting the Island at the time.  Of those, 18 have officially been declared dead, 17 sustained serious burns, and 8 people are missing and presumed dead per publicly available reports. The small Island volcano is privately owned by an Auckland family trust, and as such, only operators with permits were authorized to accompany tourists on guided tours of the Island.  White Island Tours was reportedly one of the main authorized tour companies on White Island at the time. The only way to and from the Island is via small inflatable dinghies with tour costs ranging from $229 per adult by boat, to $730 a passenger by helicopter. Tourists on the Island at the time were from Germany, Australia, the UK, China, Malaysia and New Zealand – and 9 people from the United States. New reports indicate that an estimated 38 guests and crew from of the mega cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas, were on the Island at the time of the disaster. Last week a New Zealand police Commissioner announced they had launched a criminal investigation into the disaster.

This disaster raises serious question why tourists and passengers were allowed, and even encouraged (through brochures and advertising, etc.), to visit this active volcano under existing circumstances. To answer this question, below find historical facts and recommendations from recognized experts (both before and after the December 9th, 2019 eruption).

In a recent article, Monash University professor, Ray Cas, reported Whakaari-White Island is too risky for tourists. “White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years. Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited Island volcano by boat and helicopter… In a big volcanic incident, it would be impossible to get people off quickly,” says Professor Cas.

cruise_burn-Injury-238x300A Florida judge has recently ruled that a passenger who sustained a burn during a Carnival cruise may present her claim to a jury over the cruise line’s motion seeking to dismiss the lawsuit.

The Cruise

In October 2016, a passenger boarded the Carnival cruise ship Carnival Breeze. During the second night of the cruise she sat down for dinner in the cruise ship’s Blush dining hall. At the dinner table were other guests, one of whom, brought maracas. Carnival did not distribute maracas that evening; nor did it host a themed event that would involve the use of maracas. However, during the dinner, waiters in the Blush dining hall participated in a singing and dancing event called “Show Time.” During the dinner, the passenger ordered hot tea. The head waiter filled a teapot designed with a non-locking, non-sealing hinged lid with hot water from water dispensing machine. The head waiter returned to table with the teapot in hand. As the head waiter approached the table, the guest shaking her maraca hit his hand causing the teapot to fall the saucer and spill hot water onto the passenger’s chest, right shoulder, and right arm. The passenger suffered severe injuries including second degree burns on her right chest, breast, and upper and lower right arm.

NCL_Epic_Trip_and_Fall-300x214A Miami Federal Court has found that a Norwegian Epic trip and fall case is allowed to proceed to jury trial after denying NCL’s Motion for Summary Judgment. This case concerns a passenger who tripped and fell over a raised threshold at the entrance of the ladies’ restroom located on Deck 15 aboard the Norwegian Epic cruise ship. From this trip and fall, the passenger hit her head on the restroom wall, lost consciousness and awoke on the floor. She suffered a split lip, black eyes, and severe injuries to her wrist and head. The injured passenger filed a negligence lawsuit against NCL in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida claiming that the raised threshold was unreasonably dangerous.

Elements of a Cruise Passenger Negligence Claim

In order for an injured cruise passenger to be successful in bringing a negligence claim, it must be shown that the cause of the accident, here the raised threshold, was unreasonably dangerous and that the cruise line knew or should have known of the unreasonably dangerous condition. NCL filed a motion for summary judgement arguing the injured plaintiff did not have enough evidence for a reasonable jury to find that the threshold was unreasonably dangerous or that NCL had notice of the threshold was unreasonably dangerous.

Photo: CBS Interactive Inc. 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. Continue Reading

Injured-Cruise-Passengers-Princess-300x168Two injured cruise passengers were medevaced from Princess’ Coral Princes last Tuesday.  The first passenger was a 73-year-old man with internal bleeding.  The second passenger was a 79-year-old man with a broken arm.  Though unrelated, the injured occurred on the Coral Princess cruise ship near Port Everglades.  EMS crews were dispatched aboard two response boats where they met to the cruise ship. Both passengers were transported to Broward General Hospital.

Passenger_Evac_Carnival_Sunshine-1The Jacksonville Command Center for the U.S. Coast Guard received a call Monday night that 31-year-old passenger aboard the Carnival Sunshine was in need of a higher level of medical care than the cruise ship medical staff could offer.  A 45-foot Coast Guard response boat was dispatched from Port Canaveral with emergency medical service personnel aboard and met the Carnival Sunshine off the Florida coast.  The passenger along with a nurse from the cruise ship boarded the response boat and were taken to Jetty Park where the Brevard County Fire Rescue took over and transported the passenger to Health First Cape Canaveral Hospital.  There is no word on the passenger’s medical status at this time.

Child_Falls_Carnival_Glory-300x225A Girl has died after a fall from a Carnival cruise ship at the Port of Miami.  Reports reveal that the 8-year-old girl fell two stories from the interior atrium aboard the Carnival Glory Saturday morning.  Shortly after the incident, a retired paramedic started preforming resuscitation efforts.  The ship contacted Miami-Dade Fire Rescue which took over resuscitation efforts and transported the child to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead hours later.  The Carnival Glory had just returned to the Port of Miami after completing a 7-day Caribbean voyage when the incident occurred.   This is the third incident in recent times were a child has fallen over a railing aboard Carnival cruise ship.  On August 4th, a three-year-old girl fell from the balcony onto the lido deck aboard the Carnival Breeze.  In June, 2016, another three-year-old girl slipped through the rail of a Carnival Liberty ship from the 14th deck to the 12th deck.  Thankfully, both children survived those falls.

 

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.

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