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Articles Posted in Cruise Ship Accidents

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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In Lugo v. Carnival Corp., a family of four departed on a cruise vacation in February 2015. While on board the ship, the two children slept on elevated bunk beds. In order to access the bunk beds, the children were required to utilize a removable ladder that did not fully reach the cabin floor. On the last night of the cruise, however, the father slept on one of the top bunks. In the morning, the father apparently fell head first off the ladder while attempting to climb down from the upper bunk in the dark.

According to the man, he lost consciousness as a result of his fall. The father apparently remained in the family’s cabin for some time before seeking treatment from the ship’s medical team. A ship physician ultimately diagnosed the man with a broken rib.

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In Cordani v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd., a man’s estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a cruise ship company and its medical staff after the man died of an illness he suffered while on board a passenger vessel. In a seven-count complaint, the estate sought damages from the company and the medical providers who treated the deceased man. In response to the lawsuit, the cruise company filed a motion to dismiss the estate’s negligence, negligent hiring and retention, and vicarious liability based on joint venture claims.

The Southern District of Florida first examined the legal standard related to a motion to dismiss that is filed with a federal court. The court stated a legal claim may not survive a motion to dismiss unless it alleges sufficient facts that, if taken as true and construed in favor of the non-moving party, support a plausible claim on its face.

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In Pucci v. Carnival Corp., a woman set sail on a seven-day cruise with her family. While on board the ship, the woman purchased a snorkeling excursion that was marketed and sold on the vessel using brochures and television advertisements. The cruise ship company also marketed the excursion on its website. Despite the company’s sales efforts, the snorkeling excursion was operated by a third business which shared all profits and losses with the cruise company.

Prior to purchasing the snorkeling excursion, the woman apparently informed cruise ship employees that she was not a strong swimmer. Despite this, the workers reportedly assured the woman that she would remain safe during the event. After receiving the supposed assurances, the woman purchased a ticket for the snorkeling excursion.

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In Pettit v. Carnival Corp., a cruise ship passenger was apparently hurt when she slipped while on board the vessel in September 2013. Prior to her departure, the woman completed a contract stating any future personal injury lawsuits filed against the cruise company must be brought within one year in the Southern District of Florida. About two weeks before the statute of limitations expired, the injured woman filed a negligence lawsuit against the owner of the ship in Miami-Dade County. In addition, the hurt passenger failed to serve the cruise company until November 2014.

On December 1, 2014, the vessel owner filed a motion to dismiss the case based on the forum selection clause included in the passenger contract. About two weeks later, the woman filed her complaint with the Southern District of Florida. In response, the cruise company asked the federal court to enter summary judgment in its favor, based on the expiration of the statute of limitations. The woman countered that the period should be equitably tolled, since genuine issues of fact were in dispute.

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