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Cruise Ship Waivers of Liability are Not Always Enforceable, In re the complaint of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Case No. 11-23070-CIV-SCOLA (S.D. Fla. 2013)

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.

The federal district court denied Royal Caribbean’s request. According to the court, federal statutes provide that the owner of a cruise ship that transports passengers between ports either in the U.S. or between a U.S. and a foreign port are prohibited from including waivers of liability for injuries or death caused by its negligent actions. According to the court, the facts are indisputable that Royal Caribbean owned a qualifying vessel under the federal statute in question and that the waiver, in this case, sought to limit the cruise ship company’s liability for injuries that were arguably caused by its negligence.

The issue of the applicability of waivers is often the crux of many negligence lawsuits and may ultimately determine whether a plaintiff may obtain compensation for his or her injuries. There are complex legal issues involved in personal injury claims arising from incidents in cruise ships. As illustrated in this case, the claims may implicate highly specific legal issues. If you were injured on a cruise ship, the Miami cruise ship accident lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano offer the assistance you need to obtain the results you desire.  With over 130 combined years of experience representing cruise ship 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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