Articles Posted in Cruise Ship Accidents

Vicarious liability, or liability imputed to another party based on its relationship to the wrongful actor, can provide another avenue for a Florida injury victim to seek compensation. A recent decision from a federal appeals court illustrated an important difference between claims based on direct liability versus vicarious liability.

In the decision, issued by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in an appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, the court described the facts giving rise to the case, which took place on a cruise ship. During a ten-day cruise, a passenger fell during a dance competition on the cruise ship. The passenger claimed that her partner in the dance competition, who was a cruise ship employee, released her hands as she leaned away while doing a dance move. She claimed that as a result, she fell backward and hit her head on the deck. She was later diagnosed with traumatic brain injury because of the fall. The passenger sued the ship’s owner for negligence, alleging in part that the employee failed to act in a way that would keep the passenger safe. A federal district court originally found that the shipowner was not liable to the passenger because it did not show that the owner had notice of the employee’s allegedly negligent dancing before her injury.

However, the appeals court held that under maritime negligence law, in a claim of negligence based on vicarious liability (as opposed to direct liability), the shipowner is liable for an employee’s negligence even if the owner is not directly liable for anything that it did or did not do. The court explained that when a shipowner is alleged to be directly liable for a passenger’s injuries, such as negligently failing to properly maintain its premises, the shipowner had to have notice of the risk-creating condition. In contrast, in a negligence claim based on vicarious liability, the plaintiff does not need to prove the shipowner had notice.

As the weather warms up, many are looking to make summer vacation plans in preparation for enjoying the sunshine. A cruise, for many families, seems like the perfect opportunity to get away from it all. Cruises, however, are not immune to accidents or medical issues taking place while onboard—and sometimes, recovering following an incident on a Florida cruise ship where the cruise line may have been partially or fully responsible for your injury can become a murky ordeal.

In a recent Eleventh Circuit opinion, a plaintiff sued a cruise line after suffering a heart attack on board that left him with lingering medical issues. While on the cruise, the plaintiff had extensive symptoms consistent with a heart attack, and physicians on the ship treated him until he was able to be admitted to a hospital a day and a half later. Following his treatment, he eventually got a pacemaker and has continued medical issues because of the damage to his heart. The plaintiff sued the cruise line for negligence and claimed that its medical staff failed to diagnose and properly manage his status. After trial, the jury awarded approximately $1.7 million in damages to the plaintiff. The cruise line moved for a new trial based on faulty instructions to the jury.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals held that the cruise line was not entitled to a new trial. The cruise line claimed that the lower court gave faulty instructions to the jury and refused to give maritime-specific instructions about medical negligence and the differences between cruise line medicine and land-based medicine. The Court of Appeals disagreed and held that the lower court properly administered instructions to the jury. Because district courts have broad discretion to formulate jury instructions on the basis of correct statements of law, the jury instructions may have been generally worded, the Court of Appeals reasoned, but they were correct.

A Florida appeals court recently addressed several issues in an appeal stemming from an injury victim’s medical malpractice lawsuit against a cruise liner. The plaintiff, a Trinidad and Tobago citizen, departed from a Miami port for a five-day cruise. During the trip, the plaintiff became sick and visited the ship’s infirmary. The physicians determined the plaintiff was suffering from a heart attack and admitted him to the ship’s intensive care unit. They decided to refrain from administering certain medications, citing risk concerns.

Instead, they monitored him, and he was transferred to a hospital after porting in Miami. Subsequently, the plaintiff got a pacemaker. He filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the cruise liner, alleging its medical staff failed to properly diagnose him, treat his illness, and evacuate him from the cruise ship. A jury awarded him $2,000,000 in damages, and the court reduced the damages by $300,000. Both parties appealed several issues, including the defendant’s contention that they were entitled to a new trial.

The defendant argued that they were entitled to a new trial claiming that the lower court erred in their jury instruction. The law provides that cruise lines must treat their patrons with “ordinary reasonable care under the circumstances.” In the context of maritime medical negligence, the law explains that cruise lines medical professionals will not always be held to the same standards as those onshore. In this case, the court instructed jurors that reasonable care is defined by “all relevant surrounding circumstances,” and medical negligence occurs when a physician does something “that a reasonably careful” doctor would not do “under like circumstances” or failing to do something a careful physician would do “under like circumstances.”

Every year, many families travel to tropical destinations aboard cruise ships for the vacation of a lifetime. With so much to do and so many opportunities to relax, a cruise sounds like the perfect option for any adventurous traveler. However, accidents can occur while on these trips. When they do,  those who are responsible can be held accountable through a Florida cruise ship injury lawsuit.

In a recent federal appellate opinion, a plaintiff suffered a severe injury while on a cruise ship vacation with her family. According to the court’s opinion, on the fourth day of the trip, the plaintiff went to pick up food from the ship’s breakfast buffet. As she was returning from the buffet line, she was forced to take a detour because diners at a nearby table had rearranged their chairs. While moving around a busboy station, the plaintiff tripped over a cleaning bucket that she had not seen, suffering injuries to her shoulder and fracturing her arm. For the remainder of the cruise trip, the plaintiff was bedridden. Following the trip, she sought medical attention from various doctors and physical therapists due to her injuries. The plaintiff subsequently brought a lawsuit against the operator of the cruise ship.

At trial, the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff with $650,000 in past general damages, $500,000 in future general damages, and $61,000 in past medical expenses, all to be discounted by 10% due to the plaintiff’s comparative negligence. The total award amounted to roughly $1.1 million in favor of the plaintiff. Following the verdict and damages calculations, the defendant persuaded the lower court to reduce the jury’s award to approximately $16,000, on the theory that a plaintiff’s recovery was limited to the amount that was actually paid for her medical treatment.

Recently, a Florida appellate court issued an opinion in a plaintiff’s negligence lawsuit against a cruise ship company. The lawsuit stems from injuries a woman suffered when she sat on a vanity chair while in her cabin on the cruise ship. When she sat down, the chair collapsed and caused her to fall to the ground. The woman sought medical attention at the cruise ship’s medical center, where she was given Tylenol for her pain. When she returned home, she sought treatment for continued pain she was suffering. Although she did not have a broken arm, she was diagnosed with tennis elbow.

The woman filed a lawsuit against the cruise company for their failure to inspect and maintain the cabin furniture, and their failure to warn her of the chair’s danger. She claimed that she did not need to meet the law’s notice requirement based on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.

The woman appealed after the lower courts ruled in favor of the defendants based on the woman’s failure to meet her evidentiary burden. The court discussed notice requirements in Florida personal injury lawsuits. The plaintiff argued that the cruise ship had constructive notice that the chair was dangerous, and even if she failed to establish notice, the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur negated the requirement.

Everyone who gets on a cruise is hoping for a relaxing, fun-filled, and sunny vacation. However, accidents can happen during these trips, and cruise ships have a responsibility to keep their patrons safe during their stay. Incidents that occur as a result of the negligence of the ship or cruise company should never ruin a holiday, and those responsible should be held accountable for their actions.

In a recent federal appellate case, a three-year-old child was on a cruise with her family. While on an upper deck, the child climbed onto and fell from a guard rail onto the deck below, suffering serious head injuries. Although there were conflicting reports of how the accident occurred, the toddler allegedly placed her hands on the second course of the rail to sit on the lower course but lost her grip and slid through the gap. The child’s mother sued the cruise line on behalf of her daughter, arguing that the cruise line was negligent in the creation and maintenance of the guard rail and failed to warn of the danger posed. The district court ruled in favor of the cruise line, holding that there was no dispute of material fact, and that the ship did not owe a duty to the plaintiff. The plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the circuit court reversed the lower court’s decision and sided with the plaintiff. The plaintiff argued that the guard rail posed a risk of injury to children, specifically because children were small enough to pass through the rails and fall to a lower deck. The appellate court agreed and stated that the cruise line owed a duty to protect the child from this specific type of injury. Additionally, based on expert testimony and other evidence, the court held that it was clear the ship had notice of the potential danger of the guard rail and had failed to act to cure the safety concern. Because the court found there was a genuine dispute of material fact present, the court remanded the case for further consideration.

Going on a cruise should be a fun and relaxing experience. Many Florida residents go on cruise vacations each year, especially since many cruise ships leave from coastal Florida cities. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has seriously harmed the cruise industry, as several ships have had outbreaks of the virus over the past several months. Cruise ships, while typically safe, can be breeding grounds for infectious illnesses, due to the large numbers of people in close proximity to each other all the time.

Recently, Congress opened up a probe into Carnival Corporation which operates Princess Cruises. According to a news report covering the probe, the federal government is concerned with how Carnival handled COVID-19 outbreaks on its ships and is requesting that they turn over all documents and communications about their COVID-19 response. The investigation is led by the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and is specifically looking into how much Carnival executives knew about the severity of the outbreaks, and whether it took appropriate responsive action. Since the outbreaks began several months ago, there have been over 1,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases from the ships, and dozens of guests and crew members have died from the virus.

The probe comes after a Bloomberg news report was published, shedding light on the company’s response. According to the report, Carnival knew about the threat of COVID-19 but did not take action fast enough to mitigate the harm. Instead, ships allowed guests to continue being together in close proximity, sharing swimming pools and dinner buffets. One House representative, Peter DeFazio from Oregon, wrote that Carnival, with its nine cruise lines and 109 ships, was “trying to sell this cruise line fantasy and ignoring the public health threat.”

Florida landowners or occupiers have certain duties towards people who come on their property. The duties owed toward individuals depends on the relationship between the landowner and the entrant. The three classes of entrants recognized in Florida premises liability cases are invitees, licensees, and trespassers. Florida landowners and occupiers owe some degree of duty towards all three classes of entrants.

In the case of an “obvious danger,” Florida law recognizes that people can be assumed to perceive such dangers. If there is an obvious danger, a landowner or occupier may not be obligated to warn others of those dangers. Yet, a landowner is still required to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition. This means that even if a landowner is relieved of warning others of apparent dangers, the landowner could still be liable for failing to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition.

A recent case before a federal appeals court showed how a property owner could be liable for failing to warn of a hazard and also of failing to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition. In that case, the plaintiff tripped on the leg of a lounge chair when she was walking on a cruise ship. While on their way to a restaurant on the cruise ship, the plaintiff had to walk on a curved walkway between a row of lounge chairs and the ship’s railing. The plaintiff said that the space was so narrow that she walked behind her husband, which she said obstructed her view, and, that while she was walking, she tripped on the leg of a lounge chair, causing her to fall.

Despite the fact that many were skeptical of the risks associated with the newly discovered Coronavirus, it is beyond dispute that the virus poses a serious threat to the majority of the population. The extent of that threat remains to be seen, but with over 1,400 cases in the United States alone, and more than 30 deaths attributed to the disease, the situations is becoming dire.

Recently, it was discovered that several crew members on a Princess cruise ship tested positive for Coronavirus. According to a recent news report, the ship left San Francisco and while the ship was mid-voyage, several crew members began to exhibit symptoms. Not long after, passengers began to show signs of the virus as well. The ship was scheduled to dock in San Francisco but officials refused the ship entry. Instead, the ship was directed to a port in Oakland, California. Several days later, the occupants were able to finally exit the contaminated ship. In all, at least 21 passengers were diagnosed with Coronavirus.

According to a recent news report, the San Francisco Princess cruise ship was not the only one with cases of Coronavirus. Last month, 44 people were diagnosed with Coronavirus after exiting a Japanese cruise ship. This was well before Coronavirus was classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, and back when there were only a few thousand cases across the world.

The Florida Court of Appeal for the Third District recently upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit related to a cruise accident, reasoning that Italy would be a more appropriate forum.The appeals court consolidated two cases – Abeid-Saba and Scimone II – brought by passengers aboard an Italian cruise ship, the Concordia. Both suits alleged that in January 2012, the Concordia’s captain deviated from the cruise’s planned course to perform a trick called a “bow.” During this maneuver, the Concordia struck an underwater reef, causing damage to the hull and requiring the evacuation of 3,206 passengers.

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