Before going on a cruise, it is important to be aware of your legal rights, in the event of an injury or accident. The below cruise line news story highlights the importance of enlisting the services of an attorney specializing in maritime law and for any incident that may occur while aboard a cruise ship.
Cruise Lines Have a Duty to Provide Passengers with Safe Transportation To and From The Ship
Summary of the Event Causing Injury: The passenger was on a Carnival Cruise Lines ship and had purchased a ticket to attend a shoreside excursion in the Mayan ruins in Tulum, Mexico. The ship stopped in Playa De Carmen, Mexico to allow the passengers who were attending the Tulum tour to disembark. Because the ship could not anchor at a dock, it was required to anchor in the harbor and transport the passengers to the dock on a tender boat. The crew on the passenger ship, ‘Imagination,’ assisted the passengers across the gangway onto the tender boat, which was owned and operated by Turismo Aviomar, an independent company. The upper level of the tender boat, which was exposed to the outdoors, became wet and slippery as the conditions were windy and raining. A passenger, trying to find a seat on the upper deck slipped and fell on the deck.
At issue, was the question surrounding the cruise line’s liability since the tender boat was not a Carnival owned and operated, and if the cruise line can be held liable for the negligence of an independent contractor.
Lawsuit: The injured passenger brought a lawsuit against Carnival Cruise Lines alleging that the cruise line breached the duty of care to him by permitting a dangerous condition to exist on the tender boat and failing to warn him of the condition. Carnival defended the claim initially on the grounds that the operator of the tender boat was an independent contractor. The cruise line also relied on a disclaimer from the passenger cruise ticket, which purportedly disclaimed any liability for negligence of the independent contractor.
The cruise ship company also attempted to defend the case at trial by arguing that a wet and slippery condition was open and obvious since the passenger knew it was raining and was aware that the deck was wet. This argument was rejected based on well settled law that the owner of property cannot escape liability when the owner has reason to believe that others will encounter a dangerous condition regardless of the open and obvious nature of the condition.
The court pointed out that Carnival should have reasonably anticipated that passengers would be walking across a wet and slippery upper deck of the tender boat, and therefore held this was not a defense which could absolve Carnival of all of its liability.
Court Ruling: It was eventually ruled that the disclaimer in the passenger ticket, that Carnival was relying upon, was against public policy and therefore unenforceable. The court recognized the Maritime Law which states that the cruise ship company has a non-delegable duty to provide a passenger with safe transportation, under adequate supervision, to and from the ship to shore; including any of the port of calls the ship visits during its cruise.
Cruise lines will often try to escape liability for injuries to passengers when they are hurt during shoreside excursions. It is important to hire a cruise ship attorney who will work on its client’s behalf to make sure the client is treated fairly and receives fair compensation.