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Articles Posted in Cruise Ship Accidents

Slip-and-falls and trip–and-falls are common occurrences on cruise ships and cause hundreds of injuries every year. Floridians who slip and fall or suffer another injury upon a cruise ship may bring a negligence or wrongful death claim against the responsible party. While these cases seem straightforward, they are rarely cut-and-dry, and injury victims must meet strict evidentiary and procedural requirements.

Recently, the Eleventh Circuit addressed an appeal from a Florida district court stemming from injuries a cruise ship passenger suffered after slipping on a puddle of water. According to the record, the woman slipped on a puddle and broke her hip shortly after boarding the cruise ship. She filed a complaint against the cruise ship for negligence, and the district court found in favor of the cruise ship. The lower court found that the cruise ship lacked a duty to protect the woman because its crewmembers did not have actual or constructive notice of the puddle that caused her fall.

Generally, in Florida, maritime law governs the liability of a cruise ship for a passenger’s slip-and-fall. In these cases, the plaintiff must make four primary showings to prevail:

Those who board a cruise ship for work or vacation have the right to expect a safe, healthy environment with reasonable accommodations. Cruise ship companies and their crew have a duty to ensure safe transportation, including maintaining safe premises. Further, cruise ships departing from Florida ports are considered common carriers under the Shipping Act of 1984. Common carriers owe their passengers a heightened duty of care to protect them from harm and ensure that they arrive at their destinations safely. Companies that fail to meet this standard may be liable under Florida’s maritime and personal injury laws.

Recently, the Eleventh Circuit addressed a case where a cruise ship passenger and one of his friends assaulted another passenger. The court was tasked with determining what duty the cruise company owed to the assault victim in light of maritime law. In this case, the Plaintiff alleged that the cruise line was negligent because it failed to:

  1. Reasonably and properly train security personnel.

When someone is injured while on the job, it can be both physically and emotionally difficult to recuperate. When an employer terminates a worker because they can no longer work at the level they used to, it may be cause for a lawsuit. A Florida appeals court was recently tasked with deciding whether an employee who was terminated after being injured on the job was entitled to, amongst other financial compensation, punitive damages—meaning the employer acted callously and disregarded her rights by not reinstating her.

Under maritime law, when someone works on a ship, the shipowner has the responsibility to provide food, lodging, and medical services—called “maintenance and cure” if a crew member is injured while working aboard the ship. However, the obligation to provide maintenance and cure concludes when the worker reaches maximum medical improvement.

In this case, the plaintiff worked as a server aboard a cruise ship. Approximately three months into her employment, she was hit by a car when on shore leave. The plaintiff then debarked the ship and returned home, and her cruise ship employer—the defendant in this case—paid her medical bills. She later was deemed at maximum medical improvement, returned to work, and then complained about chest pain within weeks; then, her employer told her to speak with a physician and they would reimburse her medical bills. When the plaintiff’s doctor stated the plaintiff was not fit to work as a server but declared her at the maximum medical improvement level, the defendant terminated her benefits. Over the next three years, the plaintiff sent the defendant her medical bills and statements from her doctor; the defendant refused to reinstate her benefits.

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.”

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