Many cruise ship passengers slip and sustain injuries due to slippery decks each year. Maritime law imposes certain duties upon cruise lines to lessen the likelihood of such accidents and injuries. The purpose of this article is to explain these duties. Cruise lines are obligated under maritime law to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances for the safety of their passengers. In the context of slippery decks, this duty typically requires the cruise line to first warn passengers of the slippery condition and to make the area safe.
Maritime law imposes the duty upon cruise lines to warn of dangerous conditions. This duty extends to conditions it creates (decks wet due to daily washing procedures), conditions it had actual knowledge about (water accumulated on the deck due to a rain shower) and conditions it should have known about in the ordinary exercise of reasonable care (the banana that fell off a passenger’s plate and was laying on the deck for 10-15 minutes).
This duty can be satisfied by placing signs on top or near the dangerous condition that adequately informs passengers of the danger or by stationing crew members nearby to verbally inform passengers of the danger.
Once a dangerous condition is created by the cruise line or the cruise line had actual or constructive notice of a dangerous condition, the cruise line is obligated to make the area safe.
This duty can be satisfied by cordoning off the area so passengers cannot walk on the dangerous condition and/or by eliminating the hazard. In the case of a wet deck, the cruise line can squeegee the standing water, or if food should fall off a plate, the cruise line could pick up the food and clean any reaming particles.
Cruise lines do not always satisfy their duties to warn of dangerous conditions and to make the area safe. Should a cruise line fail to satisfy its duties and a passenger slips, falls and is injured, the cruise line can be legally responsible for damages the passenger suffers. Passengers injured due to the negligence of cruise lines are entitled to fair and adequate compensation for damages experienced in the past and to be likely experienced in the future. Such damages include:
- Compensation for any bodily injury resulting in pain and suffering, disability or physical impairment, disfigurement, mental anguish, inconvenience, the loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life;
- The expense of hospitalization, medical and nursing care and treatment; and,
- Lost earnings for the inability to work.