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Case Study: A Passenger Trips and Falls Aboard a Cruise Ship


Cruise Ship Accident: Passenger Trips and Falls

Cruise ships are supposed to be a place for fun and exciting vacations. However, sometimes passengers are seriously injured on cruise ships. Seriously injured cruise ship passengers and their families need to understand maritime law. In order to illustrate these points here is a cruise ship accident case study by a San Diego Cruise Ship Lawyer. The discussion includes a maritime law analysis.

Grandmother Trips and Falls

A Cruise ship has a raised metal partition track that runs right down the middle of the entire length of the main ballroom on the vessel. A 61 year old widowed grandmother goes on a cruise with some girl friends. While walking off the dance floor she trips and falls on the raised metal partition. She shatters her hip and is forced to have artificial hip surgery. Her medical bills are in excess of $60,000 and she will probably need another hip replacement in the future.

What the Passenger Must Prove In Order To Prevail

To establish a claim for negligence under maritime law, a cruise ship passenger must establish the following elements:

(1) the cruise ship was under a duty to the passenger to use due care;

(2) the cruise ship breached that duty;

(3) the passenger suffered damages; and

(4) the breach of the duty proximately caused the passenger's damages.

The owner of a vessel owes a duty of reasonable care to all passengers. A shipowner owes the duty of exercising reasonable care toward those lawfully aboard the vessel who are not members of the crew. What constitutes reasonable care depends on the circumstances of each individual case. When the circumstances of the case are not unique to maritime travel, a shipowner owes passengers a duty of ordinary reasonable care.


Maritime Law Analysis

The cruise ship contended the passenger was at fault for not lifting her foot high enough when she stepped. The ship contended the condition was open and obvious. The passenger walked across the partition some 20 previous times, including the few evenings before.

Under maritime law, a passenger's contributory negligence does not bar recovery. Thus, even if it was determined she was partially at fault for not raising her foot up high enough, the jury could still award damages. The damages would be reduced proportionally to her share of fault.

The Passenger contended that it was foreseeable passengers would trip and fall on the partition. This was especially true on a darkened dance floor. After being ordered by the court, the cruise ship produced documentation of 11 prior reported falls on the metal partition.

The passenger's evidence showed trips-and-falls are the second-leading cause of accidental death and injury in the United States today, after automobile accidents. Given the prevalence of death and injury from trips-and-falls, any safety and risk-management program as it applied to the cruise ship would have to address the foreseeable hazards associated with falls, particularly given the additional hazards unique to a marine environment and the anticipated elderly age of many of the patrons.

The raised metal partition's design fails to address these hazards. Thus, the conclusion that the cruise ship had installed a hazard that would foreseeably cause passengers to trip and fall, thereby breaching the standard of reasonable care it owed to the passenger.


The Result

The case was settled out of court for a substantial confidential sum. The settlement was made less than a year after retaining counsel.



Disclaimer: The foregoing is a Cruise Ship Passenger case study. It is not legal advice. Any resemblance to actual events, persons and/or vessels is purely coincidental. I am simplistic in order to achieve clarity. Each Cruise Ship Passenger accident case is different and has separate challenges, difficulties and/or nuances. There is no guarantee that your Cruise Line Passenger accident case will have a similar result as discussed in this Passenger injury case study.

William Turley
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