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The Duty of Cruise Companies to Warn Passengers of Risks of Criminal Activity during Excursions

Ports of call during a cruise offer passengers opportunities for sightseeing, recreational activities, and shopping, but foreign countries where these excursions take place can be unsafe because of environmental hazards and crime.  While major cruise companies like Carnival, Holland America Line, Celebrity X Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, and others have worked to narrow the scope of their liability so that it terminates when passengers reach the gangway.  The 1985 court decision of Carlisle v. Ulysses Line Ltd. long ago established that passengers have a duty to warn passengers of known dangers beyond the point of debarkation at locations where passengers are invited or reasonably expected to visit.  In this blog post, our Miami cruise injury lawyers examine the duty owed to passengers during excursions in the context of an 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision that reaffirmed this duty established by the Carlisle decision.

In Chaparro v. Carnival Corporation, her parents and a brother accompanied Liz Marie on the Carnival ship, the M/V Victory.  Liz Marie was shot and killed during a shore excursion.  The family members indicated an unidentified cruise line employee recommended the family visit Coki Beach when disembarking in St. Thomas.  When the family was returning to the vessel, the bus traveled through a neighborhood hosting a gang member’s funeral.  A retaliatory shootout occurred while the bus the family was riding in was stopped and Liz Marie was struck by a bullet and killed. 

The lawsuit filed by the parents and brother alleged that the Carnival was negligent in failing to warn about the crime problem, potential for public shootings, and reported gang violence in St. Thomas and specifically Coki Beach, which was known to be rampant with gang activity.  In response, Carnival objected that the Carlisle decision constituted an inappropriate expansion of the liability of shipowners to passengers despite the fact the Southern District of Florida has frequently recognized and applied the Carlisle standard.

While the U.S. District Court sided with the defendants and found the pleadings did not set forth enough facts, the appellate court reversed.  The appellate court ruled that the facts stated in the complaint were sufficient for a trier of fact to determine the cruise line breached a duty of care to Liz Marie under Carlisle.  The court specifically pointed to the following facts alleged in the complaint:

  • An employee of the cruise line encouraged the family to visit St. Thomas and Coki Beach.
  • The cruise line was familiar with the area because it sold excursions there.
  • Carnival knew of issues with public shootings and gang violence on St. Thomas.
  • The cruise line knew of Coki Beach’s reputation for gang violence, drug transactions, and theft.
  • Carnival knew or should have known of the gang member funeral near Coki Beach.
  • The cruise operator did not warn the decedent of any of these dangers.
  • Carnival should have known of the dangers because it monitors crime in its ports of call.

Although cruise companies continue to try eroding the Carlisle decision, this decision and its progeny provide valuable precedent for cruise passengers injured while on excursions would otherwise be relegated to suing small tour operators with no assets in foreign jurisdictions.  The Carlisle court reasonably distinguished cruises from airline flights.  While air travel is about getting from Point A to Point B, excursions at ports of call are a fundamental part of the cruise experience and generate significant income for the cruise companies.  Further, cruise lines that visit these ports of call on a regular basis are in a better position to know about crime threats in the area than their passengers.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Serious Injury and Wrongful Death Victims and Families in Cruise Accidents

If you have been injured during a shore excursion while on a cruise, we help our clients identify the best strategy for pursuing the compensation they need.  Our Miami cruise ship 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.

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