Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued an opinion in an appeal involving a negligence claim for an injury sustained on a cruise ship. The plaintiff, Carelyn Fylling, sued the Defendant, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., after Fylling tripped, fell, and struck her head while entering deck five of Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas cruise ship. Following jury selection and the opening arguments at trial, the district court became aware that one of the impaneled jurors, Juror Eight, had a niece who worked for the Royal Caribbean Cruises. The district court did not remove Juror Eight, did not subject her to additional questions about her niece and any potential for bias, and permitted her to deliberate, even though there were enough jurors to return a verdict without her. The jury ultimately found Royal Caribbean negligent, but also found Fylling partially responsible, reducing her recovery by ninety percent. Fylling then appealed.
Facts of the Case
On March 4, 2017, Fylling injured her head while entering deck five of Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas cruise ship. She sued Royal Caribbean in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida for negligence. During jury selection for the trial, the district court allowed counsel for each party to question the jury, including individually questioning potential jury members. The district court did not ask Royal Caribbean’s proposed question about whether the prospective jurors had any relatives who worked for a cruise line.
Finally, the district court asked the jurors, “Can you think of any reason why you cannot sit on this jury and render a fair and impartial verdict based on the evidence and the law as I instruct you?” Only one prospective juror raised his and, answering that he was an investor in Royal Caribbean and he was recused. The district court asked again, and nobody on the panel responded.