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Cruise Lines Liable for Negligently Retaining Incompetent Excursion Operators, Heyden v. Celebrity Cruises, Case No. 12-21923-CIV-MORENO (S.D. Fla. 2013)

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.

In this case, the plaintiff claimed that the operator was an incompetent outfit whose employees did not receive the proper training and, in turn, failed to provide the right supervision and training for the cruise line’s passengers. According to the plaintiff, the operator provided an inadequate orientation on Segway operation to passengers and failed to mention the hazards of riding a Segway on the boardwalk before beginning the excursion. Additionally, the plaintiff contended that there were previous instances of incompetence that should have made the cruise line company aware that the operator was not fit to provide services to passengers. Specifically, the operator’s customers were robbed during a previous excursion at a different port-of-call, causing the cruise line to cancel those excursions at that port.

The court determined that the operator’s poor judgment in the previous incident in choosing locations for its tours was adequate to show that the cruise line was aware of the operator’s incompetence. The court stated that where the operator’s poor judgment in choosing locations for its tours would be related to the plaintiff’s claims in the current case. Therefore, the court allowed the plaintiff’s claims to move forward and denied the cruise line’s motion to dismiss the case.

If you or a loved one has been injured while on board a cruise ship because of the cruise ship’s negligence or recklessness, the Miami personal injury lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano offer the assistance you need to obtain the results you desire.  With over 130 combined years of experience representing personal injury clients 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 exceptional personal injury 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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