Our first blog post in this two-part series analyzed the barriers to legal compensation in slip and fall lawsuits against cruise companies based on the ticket contract. While all plaintiffs injured in falls must overcome considerable obstacles, cruise passengers face an even tougher road. Whether the fall occurs at sea during a cruise under federal maritime law or in a Miami grocery store under Florida state law, the knowledge of the defendant constitutes one of the most critical issues in determining the outcome. In this post, our Miami cruise injury lawyers examine the challenges that must be navigated even after the obstacles created by the restrictive language in the passenger ticket contract have been successfully handled.
The cruise line will not be liable for a slip and fall accident caused by a hazard on board ship unless the cruise line knew or should have known of the existence of the unsafe condition. While the specific defense strategies a cruise line will employ will depend on the specific facts and circumstances of the case, one of the most common tactics used by cruise companies is to claim it lacked the requisite knowledge of the hazard. Even if the cruise company lacks actual knowledge, constructive knowledge is sufficient. Constructive knowledge essentially means that the cruise line should have known of the hazard with the exercise of reasonable care.
Although constructive knowledge can be established through multiple approaches, establishing the hazard was present for a long enough time that it should have been discovered and made safe will be the most common approach. A way that the timeline for the creation or existence of a hazard can be proven involves the use of incident reports from prior slip and falls caused by the same hazard.
A federal appellate court decision places yet another obstacle in the path of cruise passengers injured in slip and fall accidents on cruise ships or during the embarkation or disembarkation process. In the United States District Court, S.D. Florida of Alexander v. Carnival Corporation case, the plaintiff was injured when she fell on the Lido deck (swimming pools level) of a Carnival ship. The plaintiff allegedly slipped on remnants of spilled food that was being served near the pools. The plaintiff requested all slip and fall accident reports related to fall incidents on the Lido deck of Carnival ships involving food on tweak flooring around the swimming pool. The purpose of the evidence was to demonstrate that the cruise line was aware that serving food in this area was an ongoing problem. In other words, the information could have helped establish constructive knowledge of the hazardous condition.
Carnival opposed discovery of the past accident reports claiming they were protected by privilege. The court based its decision on an affidavit submitted by Carnival’s guest claims manager indicating the practice of the ship to investigate passenger accidents and generate an accident report “in anticipation of litigation.” While proving that the cruise line had constructive knowledge of a hazardous condition is challenging in all slip and fall cases, this ruling makes the task even more complicated in cruise injury cases. Past accident reports where passengers report an injury from the same type of hazard under similar circumstances typically would constitute the most persuasive evidence of knowledge of the unsafe condition.
Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano: Seeking Maximum Recovery for Serious Injury and Wrongful Death Victims and Families in Cruise Accidents
Our Miami personal 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.