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The Amazon River has already encountered cruise ship accidents this year, but a recent accident onboard the Aqua Amazon cruise ship is proving to be more tragic.  For reasons unknown at this time, an explosion occurred on the cruise ship, and a fire broke out.  The fire caused the boat to sink and left many crew members injured, and a few of these crew members have lost their lives.

At this time, there are five crew members still missing from the ship.  The number of missing crew members was originally seven, but two bodies were later recovered.  A total of eight crew members have been hospitalized, and while five of these crew members are stable and receiving necessary medical attention, three of these crew members are being treated in the intensive care unit.

The timing of this cruise ship could have been worse had passengers been onboard the Aqua Amazon at the time the fire broke out.  While it is horrific that these crew members suffered the consequences of a cruise ship fire, hundreds if not thousands of others could have been injured or killed if the ship was currently holding passengers. Continue reading →

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Young children continue to fall victim to swimming pool accidents on cruise ships, and a recent accident only confirms that a problem truly exists on board many cruise ships.  Just last month, an 8-year-old boy lost his life two days after being found lying in a pool on board the Anthem of the Seas cruise ship.  Coast Guard officials believe the boy was in one of the cruise ship’s swimming pools for approximately 8-10 minutes before being found.  While the boy did survive for two days following the swimming pool accident, the cause of his death was ruled a drowning.

Should Cruise Ships Have Lifeguards on Duty?

The vast majority of cruise ships do not have lifeguards on duty to monitor passengers (both children and adults) swimming in cruise ship pools.  Many cruise ships also have more than one pool, leading many people to ask why cruise ships have not enlisted the services of lifeguards.

Some cruise ships take the position that passengers swim at their risk and are responsible for watching their children at all times when swimming in the pool.  On the flip side, many passengers believe that if a cruise ship is going to make the decision to have swimming pools, then the cruise ship is also taking on the responsibility to ensure the swimming pools are equipped with lifeguards. Continue reading →

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The cruise liner Norwegian Breakaway recently lost one of its crew members during a weekly safety drill when a lifeboat carrying the crew member detached from its tethering, which, according to some accounts, may have been left hanging by one wire before the accident occurred.  A nearby tour boat attempted to bring the 41-year-old crew member to safety, but despite its best efforts, the man later lost his life.  The man had several broken bones and was unable to move.  The impact of slamming into the ocean likely caused this man significant injuries that resulted in his untimely death.

Who is to Blame?

It is unfortunate that a crew member has lost his life while undergoing a weekly safety drill that presumably is meant to make the cruise ship safer and to ensure all crew members know what to do in an emergency.  More likely than not, the focus of the investigation of this cruise ship accident will be on whether or not the lifeboat was safely attached to the cruise liner so that there was a decreased chance of the lifeboat detaching and dropping into the ocean. Continue reading →

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Recently, a federal court of appeals opened the door for medical malpractice claims against cruise line companies. Historically, state and federal courts have held that passengers cannot sue a cruise ship’s medical personnel for medical malpractice. With this recent ruling, plaintiffs may now be able to recover for such claims.

In Franza v. Royal Caribbean, Ltd., a passenger aboard a Royal Caribbean ship was traveling with his spouse and children when he fell while boarding a trolley by the dock on a stop in Bermuda and suffered severe injuries to his head. Instead of being referred for medical services on the shore, the ship required him to go to the medical facility on the ship for treatment. A ship nurse examined the passenger and advised him that he was ok to go back to his cabin. However, hours later, the passenger’s family called for emergency assistance, and it took staff nearly twenty minutes to come and bring the passenger to the ship infirmary. Additionally, the medical staff on board refused to examine the passenger until the family provided credit card information. Continue reading →

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Normally, under Florida statute, plaintiffs in negligence lawsuits have four years from the time of the injury to file an action in state court. While this statute of limitations applies to most negligence cases, plaintiffs in cruise ship negligence suits may find themselves subject to other laws that affect their rights, specifically maritime law. Litigants involved in legal actions against cruise lines, as well as other legal actions that include events arising in the seas around Florida, should be aware that maritime law might affect their rights and obligations. As the case below illustrates, one of the many possible differences between Florida and maritime law pertains to time limits.

In Lupola v. Lupola, a woman and her husband were riding a raft that a boat driven by her father-in-law, was pulling. During the trip, the boat executed a maneuver that made the raft go airborne. The raft then hit the water hard enough that its passengers were ejected from the raft and suffered injuries. Less than four years later, the woman sued her father-in-law and the manufacturer of the raft in a Florida state court, claiming that her father-in-law was negligent in driving the boat and that the manufacturer was liable for negligently designing the raft. The defendants asked the court to dismiss the suit, arguing that the action had passed the three-year statute of limitations for negligence actions under maritime law as opposed to the four-year limitations period for negligence suits under Florida statute. The plaintiff responded that, even though maritime law governed her case, the court should equitably toll the limitations period because her husband’s attitude kept her from asking for legal advice for an extended period after the accident that caused her injuries. The court granted the defendants’ motion and dismissed the case as untimely. The plaintiff appealed. Continue reading →

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Cruise ship passengers often ignore the fact that their tickets are, in fact, contractual agreements that contain specific provisions governing a wide variety of issues. A passenger’s failure to pay attention to these requirements may result in loss of rights or benefits under the ticket agreement. The case below illustrates this important issue, where a court dismisses a passenger’s case because she failed to follow the dispute resolution provisions of her ticket agreement.

In Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. v. Clarke, a cruise ship passenger aboard a Royal Caribbean Cruises ship was injured in a cruise ship accident. That passenger procured the services of a local attorney who filed a lawsuit several days before the one-year limitations period provided in the cruise ticket expired. However, the attorney filed the case in the Miami-Dade state courthouse instead of a federal court as required by the ticket’s terms. Accordingly, Royal Caribbean asked the state court to dismiss the case because the plaintiff filed suit in the wrong forum as provided for in the ticket, but the court denied the motion. Royal Caribbean appealed the denial. Continue reading →

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Cruise ship negligence lawsuits, as with any action for negligence, requires that plaintiffs show that the cruise line owed them a duty of reasonable care as passengers and that it engaged in conduct that breached such duty to its passengers. Subsequently, plaintiffs have to prove that the cruise line’s breach of its duty caused the plaintiff’s injuries and, as a result, the plaintiff incurred damages. As the case below will illustrate, most cases will hang on the question of causation, and plaintiffs have to provide evidence to prove that the negligent action caused their injuries or harm.

In Sorrels v. NCL Ltd., a woman suffered injuries when she slipped and fell on the deck of a cruise ship that was wet from the rain. The woman filed suit against the cruise line in a federal district court in Florida for negligence under maritime law, which provides that the owner of a vessel operating on waterways owes its passengers a duty to exercise reasonable care. During the trial, the plaintiff offered expert testimony regarding the degree of slip resistance of the surface of the cruise ship’s deck. The expert testimony indicated that the cruise line knew or should have known that the surface did not meet the minimum standards for passenger walkways and that it posed an unreasonable risk to passengers when wet. In response, the defendant requested for the court to strike the expert testimony the plaintiff provided from the record and grant summary judgment in the cruise line’s favor. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, removed the expert testimony from the record, and granted summary judgment for the defendant. The plaintiff filed an appeal with a federal appeals court. Continue reading →

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Waivers are an important issue in negligence law. These documents purport to limit the liability of an entity and are often the subject of extensive litigation in cruise ship negligence cases. The same is true for negligence actions against cruise ship companies. Unfortunately, many passengers who board cruise ships fail to pay proper attention to the extensive paperwork that they completed before boarding, which undoubtedly included several waivers. Nevertheless, the case below will illustrate that waivers are not always enforceable. Cruise ship passengers should ensure that they understand the conditions that they agree to when they board a vessel.

In In re the complaint of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., a woman, and her partner were passengers on board a three-day cruise with Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. They boarded the company’s “Monarch of the Seas” ship that left Florida’s Port Canaveral. Both of them participated in a port excursion while the ship was docked at Coco Cay, a Bahamian island that was owned by Royal Caribbean. The excursion involved a jet ski tour where the participants followed a tour guide who led the way and another excursion employee who ensured that the participants’ jet skis were adequately spaced from each other. During the tour, the couple slowed down when the participants ahead of them slowed down as well, during which the woman was struck in the rear by another participant and suffered injuries.

Royal Caribbean Cruises filed an action in a federal district court in Miami asking for the court to release the company from any liability. The company contended that the injured woman signed a waiver of liability before embarking on the excursion in question. Therefore, the company is not liable for her injuries. The waiver indicated that the woman agreed to release Royal Caribbean Cruises and its employees from legal actions stemming from any injury or accidents that were connected, in any way, with her participation, operation, rental, or use of jet skis on the excursion. Continue reading →

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Cruise ship negligence cases, as with all negligence claims, center around the issue of whether the cruise ship and its employees failed to fulfill a duty of care owed to a passenger under the circumstances. As the case below illustrates, the extent of the duty of care owed depends on the facts of each case.

In Carroll v. Carnival Corp., a person was a first-time passenger who suffered two separate cruise ship injuries. The passenger first slipped and fell in one of the cruise ship’s elevators and broke her elbow. Two days later, the passenger slipped and fell again in one of the cabin bathrooms and broke her femur. After returning to port, the passenger filed a negligence suit in a federal district court in Miami against the cruise ship company alleging two counts negligence. Additionally, the passenger claimed that the cruise ship company’s duty of care to her increased after the initial accident.

During the trial, the plaintiff indicated that she was not under any form of special restrictions after the initial accident. According to her testimony, she received treatment at a port of call by a local doctor, who placed her arm in a sling. The doctor gave her no special instructions to refrain from certain activities, walk in a particular manner, or wear specific clothing. The plaintiff did not ask the ship staff for assistance in moving about the cruise ship, and later, she slipped while in the bathroom after some difficulties with her clothing. Continue reading →

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Cruise ship companies often provide passengers with opportunities for excursions at ports-of-call during a multi-day cruise. Passengers who suffer injuries while aboard a cruise ship might hold cruise ship companies liable for injuries sustained on board the ship if the company and its employees were negligent. As the case below illustrates, when an accident occurs during one of the ship’s excursions while docked, the cruise ship company may also be held liable if it was negligent in retaining an unfit third-party excursion provider.

In Heyden v. Celebrity Cruises, a passenger on board a cruise ship suffered injuries during a shore excursion in one of the cruise’s ports-of-call. The passenger was riding a Segway on a pedestrian boardwalk when it caught a bench that was nailed to the ground. The passenger fell from the Segway, which subsequently fell on top of him. The Segway tour was operated by a third-party provider chosen by the cruise ship company. The injured passenger filed suit against the cruise line, alleging that it was negligent in vetting and selecting the third-party excursion provider.

The cruise line asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, stating that the law shields it from liability for the acts of independent contractors such as the excursion provider in the case. However, the district court decided against dismissing the case and ruled that although it could not hold the cruise line liable for the negligent actions of independent contractors, it may hold the cruise line responsible for retaining the services of such contractors negligently. To move forward with the lawsuit, the plaintiff must sufficiently allege that the excursion operator was not competent to provide excursions, the cruise line knew or should have known that the operator was not fit and that the operator’s incompetence caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Continue reading →

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