Are Cruise Ships Liable for The Safety of Their Guests off Ship?
It is well established that a cruise ship carrier has a duty of reasonable care to its passengers, and that standard applies regardless of whether or not a passenger was injured on the cruise ship, or in a port of call.
Celebrity Cruise Passenger Injured While Ashore
On March 17, 2011, William Aronson was enjoying an afternoon at the “High Ropes! High Hopes!” zip-line adventure park. The park was part of a “shore excursion” – a routine activity coordinated through a partnership with Celebrity Cruises. Aronson was on a cruise vacation.
Aronson purchased the excursion through Celebrity Cruises which typically provides guests a variety of activity packages they can select and pay for to augment their vacation.
During his time on the ropes course, Aronson was navigating a narrow, elevated rope bridge from which he fell, sustaining severe injuries.
On January 11, 2012, Aronson filed a personal injury lawsuit against Celebrity Cruises, alleging Negligence (Count I), Apparent Agency or Agency by Estoppel (Count III), Joint Venture (Count IV), and Third-Party Beneficiary (Count V).
What is Aronson’s Burden of Proof?
On February 17, 2012, Celebrity Cruises filed a Motion to Dismiss Count I, Count III, Count IV, and Count V of Aronson’s Complaint, because the accident did not occur on the cruise ship itself (it occurred on land, on the “shore excursion”).
According to the court, when evaluating whether or not to dismiss charges, a court must first accept as true all factual statements made in the initial complaint. Essentially, it was assumed that Aronson’s account of his injury was factual (Celebrity at no time disputed his account). The court cited Prokopenko v. Royal Caribbean Cruise Ltd (2010), where an allegation that the plaintiff “was caused to fall on water on the deck of the ship at or near the swimming pool, causing her serious injury” was enough to move forward with a charge of negligence.
The court then stated that in order for the Aronson to satisfy the burden of proof in a negligence action, he had to show that 1) Celebrity owed him a duty; 2) Celebrity breached that duty; 3) this breach was the proximate cause of Aronson’s injury; and 4) Aronson suffered damages.
Cruise Ship Negligence Law
Cruise ship negligence claims apply regardless of whether the victim’s injuries occurred on the cruise ship or in a port of call. It is well established that a carrier has a duty to provide passengers with:
- Reasonable warning as to any dangers it knew or reasonably should have known about that may be present beyond the confines of the ship
- Safe transportation at all junctures, regardless of who controls docks and shores
- Adequate supervision when transitions occur from ship to pier
However, in order to maintain a claim, a cruise ship passenger must identify with sufficient specificity any hazard or danger of which cruise line was obligated to warn the passenger and a passenger must adequately plead that a cruise line had actual or constructive knowledge of an alleged hazard on an off-shore excursion.
A cruise line has no duty to warn a passenger of a general danger posed by a narrow, elevated rope bridge. A passenger’s mere allegation that a cruise line failed to warn of dangers posed by a shore excursion, without articulating what those dangers are, and plead only in a conclusory manner that cruise line had actual or constructive knowledge of any specific hazard related to the shore excursion was not sufficient to maintain a negligence action.
The lesson here; alleging facts with specificity can increase the chances of a victim winning their lawsuit.
1) What Is the Statute of Limitations for a Cruise Ship Accident Injury in Florida?
Typically, claims need to be filed within one year of the accident in the state/location indicated on the back of the ticket, which are usually found online.
2) Cruise ship operators have no duty to provide doctors or other medical personnel to its passengers, and thus it cannot be held liable for allegedly failing to fulfill a duty to provide medical care, regardless of whether the passengers are on the ship or participating in a shore excursion.
What Should You Do?
If you or a loved one were injured in an accident involving a cruise ship, speak with an experienced lawyer before you file a claim. A personal injury lawyer like Alan Sackrin can help you learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Alan offers a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to evaluate your claim and answer your questions.