Southern District of Florida Refuses to Dismiss Negligence Claim Filed Against Cruise Ship Company Following Passenger’s Snorkeling Excursion Drowning

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.

The next day, the woman boarded a smaller vessel which took her to a nearby beach for snorkeling. Unfortunately, the area was apparently the site of numerous prior snorkeler drownings. The woman was allegedly encouraged by excursion employees to enter the water without first receiving sufficient training. In addition, the workers purportedly failed to implement a buddy system or otherwise sufficiently monitor the snorkeling participants in order to ensure their safety. Sadly, the woman ultimately drowned while participating in the shore excursion.

Soon after the woman’s tragic death, her husband and son filed a lawsuit against the cruise ship company and the shore excursion business in the Southern District of Florida. In their complaint, the plaintiffs sought compensatory and punitive damages from the defendants for negligence and a variety of other claims. In general, punitive damages are awarded in situations where a defendant acted particularly egregiously. Such damages are designed to deter future similar behavior. In response to the lawsuit, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims.

According to the federal court, a complaint is required to contain enough facts to state a plausible claim for relief if the information alleged is taken as true in order to survive a motion to dismiss. In addition, the court said more than conclusory statements and reciting the essential elements of a cause of action is required.

In order to plead a negligence claim, a plaintiff is required to allege that the defendant owed the plaintiff a legal duty, the defendant breached that duty, and the plaintiff suffered actual harm as a result of that breach. After examining the unique facts alleged in the complaint, the Southern District of Florida ruled that dismissing the plaintiff’s negligence claims against the cruise ship company was not appropriate. The court added that the fact that there was an open and obvious risk of drowning when participating in an open water snorkeling excursion was not a total bar to recovery. Despite this, the court stated the plaintiffs failed to establish the excursion business had a duty to warn the woman that snorkeling was unsafe and dismissed the plaintiffs’ negligence claims against the business without prejudice.

The Southern District of Florida then addressed the plaintiffs’ remaining claims before ruling that it was premature to request punitive damages at the current stage of the case.

If you were injured while traveling on a cruise ship, you need an experienced South Florida personal injury lawyer on your side. To speak with a hardworking Miami cruise ship accident attorney soon, please call the knowledgeable advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. at (305) 448-8585 or contact us online.

Additional Resources:

Pucci v. Carnival Corp., Dist. Court, SD Florida 2015

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