Passengers enjoy cruises for many reasons that include a variety of live entertainment, recreational activities, exciting shore excursions, an abundance of good food, and lots of alcohol. While alcohol consumption might be a featured part of any cruise for many travelers, intoxication increases a passenger’s vulnerability to hazards. If you or a loved one is injured after selecting this form of travel, the cruise line will certainly raise alcohol use by a passenger as the cause of many accidents. What cruise injury victims should keep in mind is that alcohol sales constitute one of the most lucrative sources of profit for cruise lines. Our cruise accident lawyers know from experience that cruise lines often push alcohol sales at the expense of passenger safety.
In this blog, our Miami cruise injury attorneys review a recent case that examines liability of a cruise line for injuries to intoxicated passengers. A couple traveling onboard the Carnival Dream were served 22 alcoholic drinks over a period of 12 hours. Because the couple mostly drank Long Island iced teas, the beverages had a high alcohol content. Evidence was introduced indicating that the evening the husband suffered his fatal fall, he was obviously intoxicated at dinner though he did not exhibit a loss of coordination or slurred speech. Later that evening, he tumbled off a stool while sitting at the bar inside the ship’s casino. The husband and wife purchase a final round of drinks approximately an hour after the fall in the casino. When the wife went into a club, her husband stayed behind to smoke a cigarette. The husband ends up heading back to his stateroom where he experienced a fatal fall from the balcony onto a lower deck.
The wife brought a wrongful death claim as the personal representative of her deceased husband’s estate contending Carnival Cruise Line’s conduct in serving excessive alcohol to her husband was the proximate cause of his death. The cruise line filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming the company was not negligent. An aspect of the duty of care owed to passengers by cruise lines involves reasonable efforts to safeguard inebriated passengers from reasonably foreseeable harm. Based on cases discussing this legal duty, cruise lines are expected to be aware of the imminent risk of harm associated with serving excessive alcohol. These cases often turn on whether the conduct of the drunk passenger should have put the cruise line on notice.
In opposing summary judgment, the wife contended that her husband’s behavior before his fatal fall should have alerted the cruise line of her husband’s vulnerable condition. The wife as executor of her husband’s estate argued that the training of the bartenders and servers meant they should have had the capacity to recognize conduct and physical signs of intoxication. These indicators included physical signs like the lack of coordination associated with falling off a bar stool.
The cruise line responded to this argument by contending the company’s legal duty was relieved once the passenger re-entered his cabin based on state law governing non-nautical issues. However, the court rejected this position reasoning that admiralty and maritime law pre-empts state law regarding the issue of overserving alcohol to passengers. Based on the evidence presented by the wife regarding signs of intoxication involving her husband, the court concluded that a jury could decide the cruise company had sufficient notice to trigger a duty to take reasonable steps to protect the passenger.
Tragically, some people who suffer severe injury or the loss of a loved one during a cruise vacation never pursue compensation because they presume alcohol involvement precludes recovery. However, this decision reveals that cruise lines do not necessarily get to profit from pushing massive amounts of alcohol while ignoring foreseeable risks to intoxicated passengers.
Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano: Seeking Maximum Recovery for Serious Injury and Wrongful Death Victims and Families
Our Miami cruise ship injury lawyers represent passengers and crew injured on cruises with compassion and tenacity. Our Miami cruise accident attorneys at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano offer the assistance you need to pursue the results you desire. 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.