Southern District of Florida Grants Summary Judgment in Lawsuit Based on Cruise Ship Excursion Injury

In Wolf v. Celebrity Cruises, Inc., a man apparently suffered an injury while participating in a shore excursion during a cruise to Costa Rica. The man’s wife purchased the cruise ticket from a travel agent before the couple’s departure. Prior to boarding the cruise ship, the man signed a contract acknowledging that any companies offering shore excursions to him while aboard the vessel were independent contractors. The contract also stated the passenger agreed to participate in any on-shore activities at his own risk.

After departing from the cruise terminal, the man purchased a zip-line shore excursion from the Shore Excursion Desk that was located aboard the ship. The ticket stated the excursion would be operated by a third party that was an independent contractor. It also said the owner of the cruise ship would not be held liable for any injuries sustained by a passenger who elected to participate in the activity. In addition, the man signed a waiver that released the cruise company of all liability associated with the shore excursion.

During the zip-line excursion, the man allegedly sustained a personal injury. After returning to Florida, he filed a lawsuit seeking damages from the owner of the cruise ship in the Southern District of Florida. In his complaint, the man accused the company of negligence, apparent agency, actual agency, joint venture, and breach of third-party beneficiary contract. In response, the owner of the ship filed a motion for summary judgment. In general, a court will grant such a motion when there are no material facts in dispute and one party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

According to the Southern District of Florida, maritime law applied to the man’s case. Next, the court said the cruise ship company could not rely on the liability waivers that were signed by the man, since 46 U.S.C. § 30509 states a disclaimer that attempts to limit a cruise ship’s liability for its own negligence is void under the law. After that, the federal court turned to the facts of the case.

First, the court dismissed the man’s negligence claims because the cruise ship operator only owed the man a duty to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances. The court stated the company had no duty to warn the man about a danger it did not create and had no actual or constructive notice of. In addition, the Florida court said the man failed to provide evidence to show the business negligently hired or retained the independent contractor that operated the shore excursion at issue. Similarly, the court found there was no apparent agency in the case because the injured man was repeatedly advised the shore excursion company was an independent contractor that did not represent the cruise company.

The Southern District of Florida next held that the man’s joint venture claim failed because he could not establish the elements required in order to advance his assertion. For the same reason, the federal court stated the hurt man’s actual agency claim failed as well. Finally, the court ruled that the facts of the case did not support a claim for breach of a third-party contract because the contract between the cruise ship operator and the shore excursion company was not intended to benefit the injured man.

Since the hurt passenger failed to establish his claims, the Southern District of Florida granted the cruise ship owner’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the man’s case.

If you were hurt while aboard a cruise ship, you need an experienced maritime lawyer to advocate on your behalf. To speak with a dedicated Miami personal injury attorney today, do not hesitate to call the caring advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. at (305) 448-8585 or contact us online.

Additional Resources:

Wolf v. Celebrity Cruises, Inc., Dist. Court, SD Florida 2015

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Appeals Court Overturns Comparative Negligence Ruling in Florida Premises Liability Case Where Plaintiff Was Wearing High Heels, May 1, 2015, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

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