Cruise Ship Slip Lawyers in Miami, FL
The cruise lines carry millions of passengers to destinations all over the World each year. Miami is the cruise capital of the World and home to the three (3) largest cruise lines in the World – Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean Cruises. Under maritime law, the cruise lines owe passengers a duty of reasonable care. A cruise line’s failure to exercise the required duty of reasonable care may entitle passengers to pursue claims for:
If injured on a cruise ship, it is important for you to contact a Cruise Line Accident Lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected. For example, in their Passage Contracts, most, if not all of the cruise lines, limit the time you have to file a lawsuit to one (1) year from the incident/injury and limit the location of the court where you must file suit, very many to Federal Court in Miami, Florida.
We currently represent or have represented Clients against:
- Carnival Cruise Lines
- Celebrity Cruises
- New York Water Taxi/Circle Line Downtown
- Norwegian Cruise Line
- Port Everglades
- Royal Caribbean Cruises
- Steiner Transocean Limited
- Silversea Cruises
Slip & Fall Accidents
Often times, as a result of failures to inspect, maintain, and repair, cruise line passengers are exposed to slip and fall and trip and fall hazards. These hazards are heightened by the all too common presence of water and other liquids on the decks and the fact that the ship is moving. Other factors increasing these hazards include overcrowding, the absence of adequate crowd control, and inclement weather. These are issues with which a Cruise Line Accident Lawyer routinely deals.
Cruise lines owe passengers a duty of reasonable care under the circumstances. Kermarec v. Compagnie Generale Transatlantique, 358 U.S. 625, 79 S.Ct. 406 (1959); Everett v. Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc., 912 F.2d 1355 (11th Cir. 1990); Keefe v. Bahama Cruise Line, Inc., 867 F.2d 1318 (11th Cir. 1989), on remand, 715 F.Supp. 1069 (M.D.Fla. 1989). Specifically, the U.S. Supreme Court has defined the duty of care owed passengers by a cruise ship operator as follows: “the owner of a ship in navigable waters owes to all who are on board for purposes not inimical to his legitimate interests the duty of exercising reasonable care under the circumstances of each case.” Kermarec, 79 S.Ct. at 410. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has further stated:
[W]e hold that the benchmark against which a shipowner’s behavior must be measured is ordinary reasonable care under the circumstances, a standard which requires, as a prerequisite to imposing liability, that the carrier have had actual or constructive notice of the risk-creating condition, at least where, as here, the menace is one commonly encountered on land and not clearly linked to nautical adventure.
Keefe, 867 F.2d at 1322 (emphasis added).
Shipboard Medical Negligence
Whether because of an onboard injury or of the onset of an unexpected illness, cruise line passengers may require immediate medical attention. While at sea, the only option available to a passenger needing immediate medical attention is the ship’s Medical Department. Traditionally, the cruise lines argued that because their medical staff, and particularly their Ship’s Physicians, were “independent contractors,” the cruise line was not liable for faulty or a negligent medical care provided to passengers. Under the Barbetta Doctrine, a cruise line was immune from vicarious liability for the negligence of its Ship’s Physician in treating a passenger. Barbetta v. S/S Bermuda Star, 848 F.2d 1364 (5th Cir. 1988). This all changed in November 2014.
In Franza v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., 772 F.3d 1225 (11th Cir. 2014), the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the cruise lines’ long-standing immunity defense to passenger suits for the negligence of shipboard medical staff. The case involved the death of an elderly passenger as a result of the negligence of RCCL’s medical staff in treating him following a fall at a port of call. In reversing the Barbetta Doctrine, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the doctrine as outdated and held that in view of the modern medical facilities available aboard ship, as well as the cruise lines’ advertising of these facilities in their marketing materials, it was “disingenuous for large cruise lines to disclaim any medical expertise when they routinely provide access to extensive medical care in the infirmaries they have constructed for this very purpose.” Id. at 1243.
Recently, in Martins v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., Case No. 15-Civ-21124-Goodman (S.D.Fla. Nov. 3, 2016), the District Court for the Southern District of Florida applied Franza and rejected RCCL’s argument that it could not be held vicariously liable for the death of a minor passenger as a result of the negligence of its ship’s medical staff because the medical staff was identified as “independent contractors” in RCCL’s Passage Contract and held that “[a] jury could also conclude that [the Ship’s Physicians] were employees [of the cruise line].”
Shore Excursion Accidents
Just as cruise lines owe passengers a duty of reasonable care while aboard ship, so too do they owe passengers this duty when it comes to shore excursions. See Isbell v. Carnival Corporation, 462 F.Supp.2d 1232 (S.D.Fla. 2006). While the cruise lines typically attempt to deny liability for shore excursion accidents because the excursions are operated by “independent contractors,” a cruise line is nonetheless under a duty to warn passengers of dangers ashore known to the cruise line.
Pursuing a claim for an injury as a result of a shore excursion accident is not as straightforward as pursuing a claim for an onboard accident. First, very many times the shore excursions are owned and operated by companies other than the cruise line. Second, these accidents occur ashore in a foreign country. As a result, the cruise lines routinely attempt to argue that they are not responsible for shore excursion accidents, and the shore excursion companies, in turn, attempt to argue that a U.S. court lacks personal jurisdiction over them. In litigation, however, it is often possible to prove that these shore excursion companies are actually agents of the cruise lines with the cruise lines exerting a substantial degree of control over how the excursions are run, not to mention earning substantial revenue from the onboard sales of shore excursions. Moreover, as a result of the true nature of the relationship between the shore excursion companies and the cruise lines, it is also often possible to prove that the excursion companies, in fact, maintain “sufficient contacts” with the U.S. such as to allow a court here to exercise jurisdiction over them. These are issues that a Cruise Line Accident Lawyer is in the best position to address and handle.
In many ports of call, particularly in the Caribbean, today’s mega cruise ships are unable to dock at shallow water passenger terminals. At these ports of call, passengers are ferried back-and- forth from the cruise ships via tenders. Often times, as a result of inclement weather, negligent operation, or overloading, passengers are subjected to hazards.
Tendering is among those activities “clearly linked to nautical adventure.” Keefe, 867 F.2d at 1322. As such, while the duty owed by the cruise lines during tendering is still one of reasonable care, an experienced Cruise Line Accident Lawyer is able to explain to a jury what tendering is all about, how it works, and why this all translates to an arguable “heightened” degree of reasonableness that the cruise line must exercise to ensure the safety of its passengers.
Assaults (Physical and Sexual)
While no one expects to have their family vacation marred by a physical assault, or worse, fall victim to a sexual assault, it is a fact that such assaults occur aboard cruise ships — and with a much higher frequency than the cruise lines care to admit. These assaults can take the form of crew-on-passenger assaults or passenger-on- passenger assaults and are very often the result of improper supervision/training, negligent security, and the over-serving of alcohol all on the part of the cruise lines.
While the standard in a slip and fall accident is one of negligence, in the case of a crewmember sexual assault on a passenger, the standard is one of strict liability. What this means is that a passenger who falls victim to a sexual assault by a crewmember need not prove that the cruise line was “negligent” in order to recover damages. Instead, the passenger need only prove that the attack occurred; that is, the passenger need not prove that the cruise line was at fault. Doe v. Celebrity Cruises, Inc., et al., 394 F.3d 891 (11th Cir. 2004); Nadeau v. Costley and Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc., 634 So.2d 649 (Fla. 4th DCA 1994); Morton v. De Oliveira and Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc., 984 F.2d 289 (9th Cir. 1993).
Similarly, in the case of a minor under the age of 16, a sexual assault constitutes the crime of statutory rape whereby the minor victim is considered incapable of providing consent. 18 USC §2243 (“Sexual Abuse of a Minor or Ward”) provides, inter alia:
(a) Of a minor. — Whoever crosses a State line with intent to engage in a sexual act with a person who has not attained the age of 12 years, or, in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States or in a Federal prison, knowingly engages in a sexual act with another person who —
(1) has attained the age of 12 years but has not attained the age of 16 years; and
(2) is at least four years younger than the person so engaging; or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both.
Although judged from a negligence standard, and not one of strict liability as discussed above, a cruise line may also be liable for a passenger’s sexual assault on a fellow passenger. This occurs in situations where the cruise line, knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known of the foreseeability of attack. Very often times this involves issues of negligent security and/or negligence in the over-serving of alcohol to the assailant and/or the victim.
Among the more complicated areas of maritime law is wrongful death litigation — standing, remedies, and recovery being dependent on the status (seaman vs. non-seaman) of the deceased at the time of the accident and on the location of the accident.
While all states have Wrongful Death Acts which apply on land, even where a death occurs in a state’s territorial waters, the action will be governed by general maritime law. Moragne v. States Marine Lines, Inc., 398 U.S. 375, 90 S.Ct. 1772 (1970), on remand 446 F.2d 906 (5th Cir. 1971). However, and this is a prime instance where consulting an experienced Cruise Line Accident Lawyer is important, where an accident resulting in the death of a non-seaman occurs in territorial waters, a general maritime law wrongful death action may be supplemented by a state’s wrongful death statute where the latter does not conflict with general maritime law. Yamaha Motor Corp. v. Calhoun, 516 U.S. 199, 116 S.Ct. 619 (1996). Calhoun involved the death of a 12-year old child from Pennsylvania as a result of a jet ski accident while vacationing in Puerto Rico. The U.S. Supreme Court held that inasmuch as Congress had yet to prescribe remedies for the wrongful death of a non-seaman in territorial waters, it was appropriate to apply a state’s wrongful death statute to an accident occurring in territorial waters where the state law was not materially in conflict with the substantive maritime law; the Court applied Pennsylvania’s Wrongful Death Act. For similar reasons, in FPL v. Polackwich, 677 So.2d 880 (Fla. 2nd DCA 1996), the Second District Court of Appeal applied Florida’s Wrongful Death Act in a case involving the death of 2 non-seamen aboard a catamaran in Florida territorial waters.
Conversely, in the case of an accident occurring more than one marine league (3 nautical miles) from the U.S. or one of its territories, the action will be governed exclusively by the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA), 46 USC Appx §761, et seq. Unlike the interplay of state laws and general maritime law in the case of accidents in territorial waters, DOHSA provides the exclusive remedy for an accident resulting in death which occurs “on the high seas.” Offshore Logistics v. Tallentire, 477 U.S. 207, 106 S.Ct. 2485 (1986). Where DOHSA applies, it preempts the general maritime law cause of action created in Moragne discussed above. Mobil Oil Corp. v. Higginbotham, 436 U.S. 618, 98 S.Ct. 2010 (1978), on remand 578 F.2d 565 (5th Cir. 1982).
Both general maritime law and DOHSA allow for recovery of pecuniary damages, which includes funeral expenses, loss of services, loss of nurture to children, and loss of support. While DOHSA does not, general maritime law also allows recovery for loss of society/consortium, which includes loss of the Decedent’s affection, companionship, love, and protection. In addition, general maritime law also allows for the recovery of a potentially significant item of damages in the form damages for the Decedent’s conscious pre-death pain and suffering; this is because DOHSA is a wrongful death statute, rather than a survival statute. An experienced Cruise Line Accident Lawyer/Maritime Accident Lawyer is in the best position to maximize a family’s potential recovery for the death of a loved one.