Southern District of Florida Refuses to Dismiss Negligence Claims Following Cruise Ship Death

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.

Next, the court turned to the estate’s maritime negligence claim. In general, a negligence claim must show that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty, the defendant breached that duty, and the plaintiff suffered actual damages as a direct result of the breach. In a maritime negligence case, a vessel owner owes all passengers a duty of reasonable care based on the circumstances. After examining the allegations included in the complaint in the light most favorable to the man’s estate, the Southern District of Florida ruled that the complaint successfully pleaded a plausible claim for negligence. Because of this, the court refused to dismiss the estate’s negligence claim against the company.

The court then turned to the estate’s negligent hiring and retention claims. In order to successfully plead such a claim, a plaintiff is required to demonstrate that a worker was not fit to perform his or her job duties, the employer knew or should have known the employee was unfit, and the worker’s incompetence was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s harm. The federal court stated the fact that a medical provider committed an error does not render him or her incompetent. Similarly, the court said maritime law does not require a physician or other medical staff to be licensed in the jurisdiction in which a vessel is registered. Instead, such workers must only be competent and qualified. Since the estate failed to explain how or why the medical personnel employed by the cruise ship were not qualified, the Southern District of Florida granted the company’s motion to dismiss with regard to the estate’s negligent hiring and retention claims without prejudice.

Finally, the court ruled that the deceased man’s estate successfully alleged sufficient facts to support its joint venture claims because the complaint asserted that the defendants joined forces through a contractual arrangement in order to share in any profits and losses. As a result, the Southern District of Florida declined to dismiss the estate’s vicarious liability based on joint venture claim.

If you or someone you love was hurt or tragically killed while traveling aboard a cruise ship, you need a caring personal injury lawyer on your side to advocate on your behalf. To discuss your rights with a hardworking Miami cruise ship accident attorney, do not hesitate to call the seasoned advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. at (305) 448-8585 or contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

Cordani v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd., Dist. Court, SD Florida 2015

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