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Is A Cruise Ship Liable For Every Injury Suffered By A Passenger?

Cruise ship attorneys at Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano represent numerous clients who were injured while cruising. It is unfortunate that people get hurt while on vacation, but it does happen. If that unfortunate circumstance happens to you or someone you love, we can help you recover for your damages, including past medical bills and future medical bills, lost wages, and loss of future earnings. Sometimes, the cruise lines have a valid defense to claims brought against them by injured passengers.

At Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano, we have seen cases like the matter recently decided in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.  In the case of Salazar v. Norweigein Cruise Line Holdings, the plaintiff in the case fell and injured himself on a dance floor. The plaintiff alleged that he fell on a spilled drink as he approached the disc jockey booth. The plaintiff admitted to having a few alcoholic beverages that evening. In fact, many people on the dance floor had drinks in their hands. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant cruise line was negligent by failing to clean the dance floor and that failure caused injuries to the plaintiff. The defendant cruise line argued that they did not have notice of the spilled drink and therefore was not negligent by failing to clean the dance floor.

The court dismissed the case against the defendant. Applying maritime law, the court started out with the idea that a cruise ship is not liable for every single bad thing that happens while cruising. Rather, cruise ships owners and operators are liable for their negligent acts that cause injury and not every single bad thing that occurs to a passenger. When the ship is in navigable waters, the ships owes its passengers a reasonable duty of care.

To win a negligence case aginst a cruise ship, the plaintiff has the burden to prove that:

(1) the defendant had a duty to protect the plaintiff from a particular injury;

(2) the defendant failed in its duty;

(3) the failure of the defendant was the cause of the plaintiff’s injury; and

(4) the plaintiff suffered actual harm.

The judge ruled that Salazar could not produce evidence to meet his burden. As a result, the judge dismissed Salazar’s case.  While a cruise line has the burden to warn its passengers of a defect not known to the plaintiff, the cruise ship does not have any responsibility to warn passengers about open and obvious dangers. The court ruled that common sense would dictate that people dancing with drinks in their hands might spill on the dancefloor.  Therefore, the slip and fall danger was open and obvious to everyone who entered the dancefloor.

The plaintiff also failed to prove that Norwegian had any notice that spilled liquid was on the dancefloor.  A cruise ship is not liable for the hazards caused by a condition it does not know or should have known, exists.

The plaintiff might have survived the defendant’s motion to dismiss if he had shown the court additional evidence that Norwegian’s employees knew, or should have known, which someone would be injured by slipping on a spilled drink. The result might have been different if the plaintiff showed the judge that slip and fall accidents frequently happened on the dancefloor. Accidents of a similar type that happen regularly place the ship’s employees on notice that passengers might be injured if the employees fail to correct the problem.  In maritime law, that is called “constructive notice.” Unfortunately for Mr. Salazar, Norwegian did not have constructive notice of a problem with spilled drinks causing slip and fall injuries.

Miami’s Top Cruise Ship Lawyers Are Ready to Help You

Miami cruise ship attorneys Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano, have over 130 years combined of legal experience. They know how to prepare a case and will fight to help you recover the compensation you deserve.  Call Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano, today at 305-595-2400 or 888-499-9700, to schedule your free consultation with the firm the Miami Herald rated tops in Miami.


Salazar v. NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE HOLDINGS, LTD., Dist. Court, SD Florida 2016

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