While cruises offer a litany of fun and recreational activities, a certain amount of risk of injury accompanies some of these activities. This risk increases significantly when cruise lines and companies with whom they arrange excursions fail to exercise reasonable care for the safety of passengers. Cruise lines attempt to erect obstacles to liability that include requiring passengers to sign waivers of liability. In this blog, our Miami cruise accident attorneys review an appellate court decision permitting a lawsuit to move forward despite the existence of a waiver executed by the plaintiff in favor of the cruise company.
In the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida considered the enforceability of a waiver in a case in which the plaintiff was injured in a jet ski accident during a cruise. The plaintiff and her companion were passengers on the Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas. During the cruise, the couple took part in a jet ski tour in which the participants were supposed to follow in a line one behind the other. A tour guide was located at the front of the line of jet skis while a second tour guide traveled alongside the group to keep the jet ski riders adequately spaced. The jet ski tour departed from Coco Cay Island, which is Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas.
During the trip, the jet ski in front of the plaintiff slowed causing the plaintiffs and her companion also to slow. However, the jet ski behind them failed to notice the reduction in speed and slammed into the plaintiff’s jet ski. The cruise line sought exoneration or restriction of its liability based on the waiver. Although the plaintiff did not dispute executing the waiver before participating in the jet ski outing, the plaintiff contended the waiver should not bar her recovery.
The appellate court rejected the position that the waiver meant the plaintiff could not recover because of the waiver. The language of the waiver provided that the plaintiff released the cruise line and its employees from any lawsuit “arising from any accident or injury . . . in any way connected with her rental, participation, use or operation of the jet ski.” The court looked to a federal statute that provided an operator or owner of a personal vessel that transports people between the U.S. and another country cannot use a contract that requires passengers to limit the company’s liability for injury or wrongful death resulting from negligence.
The court based its analysis to a significant extent on a prior decision from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal that reversed a lower court for enforcing a comparable extensive waiver in a case involving injury to a passenger while using an onboard surfing simulator. The court found that the statute applied equally in this case. Royal Caribbean qualified as an owner of a vessel transporting passengers. Further, the ship was traveling between the U.S. and a foreign port (the Bahamas). The waiver also undeniably sought to restrict the liability of the cruise company for the injuries suffered by the plaintiff and other passengers.
Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano: Seeking Maximum Recovery for Serious Injury and Wrongful Death Victims and Families during Cruises
While many passengers injured during a cruise do not explore the possibility of pursuing a lawsuit for financial compensation, our experienced attorneys can review any waivers or releases to identify ways to navigate past such barriers. Our Miami cruise injury lawyers 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.