When passengers book and embark on a cruise vacation, the cruise line and ship personnel will promote a multitude of potential shore excursions. Activities like extreme sports, climbing waterfalls, and zip lining can involve a significant risk of harm. Our cruise ship injury lawyers find that although injuries experienced during a tour or recreational activity on land do not occur on the ship, the cruise line might be liable when it promotes or coordinates the excursion. A recent court decision involving a lawsuit against Royal Caribbean provides a primer on the legal complexities involved in proving liability of a cruise line for injuries during a shore excursion.
In this lawsuit, which was filed in the Southern District of Florida, the complaint alleged that the tour guide directed passengers to hold hands with other hikers as they climbed Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica. The plaintiff followed these instructions and held hands with a young girl as they made their ascent up the waterfall. When the girl slipped and fell, the plaintiff was pulled down with her. The complaint also alleged that Royal Caribbean had knowledge or should have known of the risk of holding hands while traversing the falls. Since the cruise ship failed to warn of this reasonably foreseeable risk, the passenger sought to hold Royal Caribbean liable.
Royal Caribbean raised several contentions in response to the lawsuit in pursuing a motion to have the case dismissed. The cruise line’s responses included the following:
- No evidence was presented that the practice of holding hands caused the injury.
- There was no basis to conclude that the cruise line knew or should have known hand holding was dangerous.
- Dangers associated with climbing a waterfall are open and obvious.
The plaintiff responded to the motion by furnishing evidence that the policy of having passengers hold hands caused the fall, and that Royal Caribbean had actual knowledge of prior incidents involving accidents on the Dunn’s River Falls climb caused by hand holding.
In considering the motion, the court evaluated the motion based on the elements of a negligence claim. The court first observed that cruise lines owe a duty to passengers to warn of foreseeable or known dangers on shore excursions not just at sea. The court also pointed out that the cruise line’s duty to warn does not extend to all potential hazards that might be encountered on a shore excursion. Rather, this duty is limited to particular, known hazards specific to locations where passengers are reasonably expected to visit or to which they are invited. The court also noted that this duty did not extend to dangers that were open and obvious.
The specificity of the hazard identified by the plaintiff was the key to the court allowing the lawsuit to survive and move forward. The court reasoned that the plaintiff would not have been entitled to recover if the hazard that caused injury had been identified as climbing Dunn’s River Falls. In this situation, the plaintiff would have been expected to anticipate the open and obvious danger associated with such an activity. However, the court was not prepared to classify the risk associated with holding hands during the falls climb as open and obvious as a matter of law. The court also noted evidence that the cruise line had been informed of prior falls related to hand holding while climbing, so it had actual knowledge of the hazard. While this does not mean that the plaintiff will ultimately prevail in the lawsuit, the court’s ruling allowed the case to proceed toward trial.
Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano: Seeking Maximum Recovery for Damages Sustained Due to Negligence
Because cruise lines impose many obstacles on passengers and crew members injured onboard ships, personal injury and wrongful death victims should talk to an experienced Miami cruise injury attorney. Our Miami cruise injury lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano will tenaciously pursue the fullest financial compensation. For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida. We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Our skill and dedication have earned us an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald. Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.