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Federal Court Dismisses Negligence Complaint Related to Scooter Accident on Shore Excursion during Carnival Cruise – Rojas v. Carnival Corporation, 93 F.Supp.3d 1305 (S.D. Fla. 2015)

When a passenger is injured while at sea or on shore during a cruise, the complex matrix of applicable laws and jurisdictional authority makes pursuing a legal claim challenging.  While maritime law governs such claims, gaps in this area of law often mean that Florida statutory or common law will govern particular legal claims.  Many people presume that the cruise line will be liable for injuries that occur during a cruise, but liability must be established through development of sufficient legal and factual allegations to state a valid cause of action (typically negligence).  The recent federal case, Rojas v. Carnival, illustrates that a legal claim for negligence in a maritime action cannot be pursued without a reasonable degree of factual specificity.

Our cruise ship injury lawyers found that the plaintiff filed a lawsuit after suffering injury in a scooter accident after the brakes failed.  The parties rented the scooter during a land excursion while the Carnival Sensation cruise ship was docked in the Nassau, Bahama port area.  The motorized bike crashed into a light pole when the brakes suddenly failed, causing the plaintiff to suffer serious injuries.

The plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint alleged that Carnival was negligent in several respects that included: (1) failing to provide adequate warnings regarding the scooter vendors when Carnival should have known of prior scooter accidents at the port-of-call; and (2) untimely delay in securing an air ambulance for transport back to Florida after advising plaintiff not to undergo surgery in the Bahamas.

Carnival sought dismissal of the plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint based on allegations that: (1) the complaint did not state a legal claim; (2) the cruise line had no duty to provide an air ambulance; and (3) Carnival had no duty to warn the passengers about the scooter company.  The trial judge dismissed the complaint, and the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the court first noted that federal maritime law is applicable when injuries caused by negligent conduct occur while traveling on navigable waters.  The court confirmed that this principle extends to excursions at ports-of-call during a cruise.  In considering Carnival’s duty to warn, the court observed as follows: “Where [a] menace is … encountered on land and [is] not clearly linked to nautical adventure . . . the exercise of reasonable care is defined as the duty to warn of dangers on shore that are not open and obvious, of which the cruise line had actual or construct[ive] knowledge, and that exists in places where passengers are invited or reasonably expect to visit.” [Citations omitted].  Further, the court clarified that the duty to warn covers only “specific, known dangers” particular to the location where passengers are expected to visit or to which they are invited as opposed to general hazards.

Since the scooter crash occurred while the passengers were on land, the cruise line was only required to provide a warning of hazards that Carnival knew or should have known were associated with scooter rental companies in general or the specific scooter vendor that rented the bike to the plaintiff.  The court emphasized that the complaint did not include allegations indicating that the cruise line had the requisite knowledge, such as prior accidents involving passengers, known management issues with the rental company, or past safety issues involving the scooter rental company.  Rather, the complaint asserted only broad conclusory language, such as “poorly maintained” and “unsafe scooters.”  Given the failure of the plaintiff to plead facts with sufficient specificity, the court reasoned the duty to warn did not arise.

The court next considered the claim for failure to provide timely aid to the passengers.  The court did not specifically rule on whether an eight hour delay in providing air-ambulance transport to Florida could constitute negligence.  However, the decision pointed out that the plaintiff failed to allege facts showing that the delay caused or aggravated the plaintiff’s injuries.

The court ultimately dismissed the First Amended Complaint with leave for the plaintiff to amend the complaint.  While the plaintiff in this case will have the opportunity to revise the complaint to include more specific facts, this case demonstrates that even the act of initially filing a lawsuit requires skill, legal expertise, and experience.

If you or a family member have been injured during a cruise while at sea or on land, the Miami Cruise Injury Lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano offer the assistance you need to obtain the results you desire.  With over 130 collective years of experience representing cruise line accident victims across South Florida, our firm provides legal representation of unmatched excellence.  Contact our firm as soon as possible to start on the road to protecting your legal rights.  Our firm received an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and was ranked as a top firm in South Florida by the Miami Herald.   Put our car attorneys to work on your case.  Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or you can visit our website to schedule your initial consultation

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