This case involves a passenger aboard NCL’s Norwegian Jewel cruise ship who allegedly slipped and fell in her handicapped accessible cabin’s bathroom. The lawsuit filed in Miami, Florida Federal Court alleges that water backed up into the bathroom causing the floor to be unreasonably slippery. The complaint goes on to claim that when the passenger walked into her cabin’s bathroom, she slipped and fell suffering an ankle injury. The passenger, after filing the lawsuit, passed away and her husband, as administrator of her estate, was substituted as the Plaintiff.
To establish a negligence claim under maritime law the plaintiff must show: (1) that the cruise line owed plaintiff a duty; (2) that defendant breached that duty; (3) that this breach was the proximate cause of plaintiff’s injury; and (4) that plaintiff suffered damages. NCL asked the Court to dismiss the lawsuit arguing that a reasonable jury cannot find that it was negligent in causing the slip and fall accident. Under maritime law, to be found negligence for a transient hazardous condition such as water on the floor, the plaintiff must prove that the cruise line knew or should have known of the condition and had an opportunity to correct it before the accident. The cruise line argued that there was no evidence that it had notice of water on the bathroom’s floor or any condition that could have led to the accident. Countering NCL’s argument, the passenger’s husband presented evidence that the cruise line knew that guest bathrooms had flooded in the past including five prior reports concerning the subject bathroom.
In addition under maritime law, a plaintiff need not show notice if the cruise line had a hand in causing the hazardous condition. On this topic, the passenger’s husband argued that flooring selected by the cruise line had a coefficient of friction rating which fell below industry standards making a slip and fall accident more likely. The passenger’s husband also cited two prior slip and fall incidents on the same flooring materials albeit in different handicapped accessible bathrooms
The Court found the evidence submitted was sufficient for a reasonable jury to conclude that NCL was on notice of the dangerous condition that the bathroom floors could be wet despite normal operation by a passenger and passengers in handicap-accessible bathrooms could slip and fall if no action was taken by the cruise line. Based upon this finding, the Court denied NCL’s Motion for Summary Judgment and allowed the claim to proceed.