Articles Posted in Recent Cruise Ship Passenger Claims

Many times, there are dangers associated with the shore excursions unknown to the passengers, which could include dangers created by the shore excursion company due to poor safety practices, or dangers created by the areas the shore side excursion companies take their passengers to. In a recent case in the Southern District of Florida, a passenger was injured while participating in a zip-line shore excursion in the Dominica. During the zip-line activity, the passenger was seriously injured when she crashed into padding attached to a tree.

zip-line-222x300The passenger filed suit in the Southern District of Florida and alleged the various theories of liability in an attempt to hold the cruise ship company liable, including the argument that the company was negligent in failing to keep the zip-line in a safe condition, and that the dangerous condition that caused the accident established that it was a company that did not comply with safety regulations that applied to the type of activity involved. The argument being that the cruise ship company knew or should have known of this fact, and therefore should not have sold the ticket for this particular excursion, and that the cruise line should have warned the passengers about the unsafe operation of the zip-line activity.

In the decision, the court quoted testimony from the cruise line which discussed the reasons for selecting this particular company. The cruise line stated that the company worked with other cruise ship companies, it had been in business for some time, and that they were unaware of any prior accidents similar to what happened to the passenger in this particular case. The court concluded, based on the evidence, that there was no reason for the cruise ship company to have known of any dangers associated with the zip-line operation, and that the cruise ship company reasonably relied upon the history of this company operating the zip-line activity and the lack of prior accidents. The court rejected the argument that there was a known danger that the cruise ship companies should have warned about. The court also rejected all the other theories of apparent agency, joint venture, negligent hiring and negligent retention.

It has been reported that a 3-year-old girl on board a Carnival Cruise Line cruise ship fell from a stateroom balcony to the deck below, suffering injuries which required her to be airlifted to a hospital in Tampa, Florida. The incident took place this past Friday aboard the Carnival Breeze. The ship was on its way back to Galveston, Texas, after cruising to the Bahamas.

carnival-300x186The nature and extent of the injuries were not known at the time, other than it was reported that there was severe bruising to the facial area, and a Coast Guard officer commented that he did not believe the injuries to be more serious injuries than facial fractures, although that remains to be seen. It is also unclear why the 3-year-old fell from the balcony in her stateroom.

It is concerning that only one day earlier a similar incident was reported aboard the Carnival Valor, another Carnival Cruise Line ship, Carnival Valor, where a 30-year-old passenger fell and injured her head requiring evacuation by the United States Coast Guard. The ship was just ten miles from Galveston, Texas, when she was medevacs from the ship. Details from her fall are unknown at this time.

This past Thursday, a fire broke out in the engine room of the MS Nordnorge, a passenger/ ro-ro cargo ship, while the ship was docked in Norway. City firefighters and crew members helped extinguish the fire. Although the ship did not suffer any serious damage, three of the crew members on board had to be treated for smoke inhalation.

norway-port-300x225I have reported many times on fires at sea and the dangers it creates to both the passengers and crew, as well as the damages it causes to the vessel itself, and the dangers it creates for those who come to the rescue or otherwise are in the vicinity of the fire, depending on how quickly the fire is detected and put out. Obviously, the number one goal is fire prevention, and then fire detection if prevention does not work,

There have been several fires at sea involving major passenger cruise ships, most of which have started in the engine rooms as well. The focus of fire detection must zero in on engine room fires as well as all other areas of the vessel. Many lives have been lost at sea due to fires. A fire at sea poses unique difficulties because you must rely on the crew on board the ship to respond to the fire and extinguish it. Unlike fires on land, you do not have fire rescue coming to the scene within minutes to put out a fire. Therefore, the crew must be properly trained in firefighting. In this situation, the MS Nordnorge was docked when the fire broke out, so city firefighters were able to quickly help to extinguish the fire.

There is a report of yet again another passenger on a cruise ship reported to have gone overboard, and not found. The latest involves a 32-year-old male from Georgia, a passenger on the Carnival Liberty cruise ship, a Carnival Cruise Line ship, who reportedly went overboard in the early morning hours of Friday, April 7, while the vessel was in Bahamian territorial waters after having left Cape Canaveral, Florida.

carnival-liberty-300x225At this time, the reports are that the United States Coast Guard was participating in the search and rescue efforts, as it does involve a United States citizen, and the ship did depart from the United States port. The Bahamian maritime authority will also get involved since the incident did happen in Bahamian waters.

Statistics that are available indicate there have been a number of passengers who have been reported to have gone overboard on a cruise ship this year alone. Just two weeks ago, we reported on another carnival passenger who fell overboard from the Carnival Victory ship.

MIAMI, Florida–There has been another reported incident of a passenger on a cruise ship falling overboard. This past Wednesday, a 23-year-old male passenger from Florida was reported to have fallen from the eighth deck of the Carnival Victory, a Carnival Cruise Line ship, at around 3 a.m. Since the cruise ship was close to the territorial waters of Cuba, Cuban authorities got involved in the rescue efforts, as well as the United States Coast Guard. After thoroughly searching the area for 16 hours, the Coast Guard called off the search for the missing passenger.

carnival-300x186Unfortunately, we have reported about way too many instances of passengers falling overboard during a cruise vacation, specifically on a Carnival cruise ship. Just last month, a 24- year-old male fell off another Carnival ship. According to Ross Klein, almost half of the overboard incidents on cruises have actually occurred on Carnival ships.

Why do passengers continue falling overboard?

MIAMI, Florida–In a case we previously reported about, where we learned that not only is lack of sleep dangerous for someone driving a car, but also for someone driving a cruise ship carrying passengers, passengers have recently filed lawsuits arising out of the incident. Last August, the passenger cruise ship Spirit of Baltimore was carrying around 400 passengers when it crashed into the pier at Henderson’s Wharf Marina in Fells Point, Maryland, and two moored recreational boats. The crash happened at around 230 a.m. when the ship was returning to its berth after a midnight party cruise.

baltimore-harbor-1528252-300x225A Court Guard investigation revealed that the captain had been working other jobs, and had very little sleep. His mate had to leave the bridge of the ship to deal with a drunken passenger, another common problem on passenger ships.  While away, it is reported that the captain fell asleep at the wheel, resulting in the collision. Following the collision, the captain was fired, and a requirement that captains who feel sleepy must stay standing, notify a supervisor, and  have a mate ride in the bridge, was implemented.

The accident resulted in around 100,000 worth of damages, plus personal injuries to passengers on board the ship. Now, according to recent news reports, 28 passengers are suing Spirit Cruises LLC, with claims ranging from $5,000 to $1 million. Court records indicate passengers suffered a variety of injuries, with the impact of the crash even throwing one passenger into a glass wall.

MIAMI, Florida–In a very strange case, a man employed as an IT consultant, who was on a cruise with his wife and two small children, was arrested in Rome, Italy, where he is suspected of the murder of his wife during an 11-day Mediterranean cruise aboard the passenger cruise ship MSC Magnifica, operated by MSC Cruises.

rome-airport-229x300At the end of the cruise, the husband and the two children left the vessel and were at Rome’s airport waiting for their flight home to Dublin when the arrest occurred. Authorities were suspicious because the tracking of the passengers showed that the wife had never left the cruise ship and had never been reported missing by her husband. After some questioning of the young children, as well as other reports that surfaced regarding an interaction with a gift shop employee and the couple, Belling was arrested in Rome for the suspected murder of his wife.

His attorney has stated that there is an explanation for the disappearance of his wife and the reason it was not reported. This was discussed at the preliminary hearing this past Friday, where Mr. Belling said his wife was not enjoying the cruise and assumed she just went back home to Ireland, as she had done on past family vacations. However, the judge ruled that Mr. Belling should remain in custody because of his “suspect” behavior and the risk that he would leave Italy if released.

MIAMI, Florida–Another tragic incident during a shore excursion on a United States-based cruise ship company has again demonstrated the safety risks involved when booking a shore excursion, even if booked through the cruise ship company, and even if the cruise ship company had represented that the tour was safe and operated by a reputable company. In this recent case, a bus transporting 31 Celebrity Solstice cruise ship passengers, who were a part of the “Farm Wine and Cheese – Sheep Farm and Dog Show” shore excursion, which involved visiting New Zealand farm life and tasting its produce, plunged down a steep bank after colliding with another car on the Akaroa Peninsula. According to reports, the crash left eight people injured, some very severely, who were all taken to the hospital. Of the eight injured, six of them were Celebrity cruise ship passengers from the United States. The most severe injuries were two of the United States passengers who remain in the hospital, two days after the crash. The Celebrity Cruises has since resumed its 13-day trip around New Zealand, arriving in Dunedin yesterday.

akaroa-300x199We have been seeing many reported incidents involving shoreside excursions in foreign countries, where safety laws may be very different from United States safety laws, and the port excursion operators may not be as accountable as tour operators in the U.S. are, therefore not making safety the primary focus of these operators. It seems the operators want to get money from these U.S.-based cruise ship companies by making deals with them, resulting in the cruises selling these excursions, and then sharing in the ticket sales. It becomes a profitable item for both the shore excursion company and the cruise ship company.

But the question is how safe are these shoreside excursions? Most passengers believe that shore excursions are in some way operated by the cruise ship company. At the very least, most passengers rely on the cruise ship company’s expertise in the industry to have adequately investigated and vetted the company and the excursion. In fact, cruise ship giant Royal Caribbean cruise line, owner of Celebrity Cruises, has the following on their shore excursion brochure, which can be found on their website, as one of the reasons to book a shore excursion through them, giving the impression that they have only selected the safest and most reliable excursion companies:  “Discover the heart of the destinations with our knowledgeable and experienced guides. Your excursions are planned by insured partners who adhere to the highest safety standards in the industry.” However, selecting the safety and most reliable excursion companies is clearly not always the case, as we are reading more and more incidents that happened due to some type of danger that the cruise ship company knew about or should have known about if they had done a proper investigation.

MIAMI, Florida–Another passenger has been reported to have fallen overboard from a cruise ship. Unlike the latest tragedy aboard the Carnival Elation, this story ended successfully. According to news reports, a cruise ship passenger aboard Princess Cruises’ Sun Princess fell into Pacific Ocean when the ship was between Brisbane and New Caledonia at around 4 p.m. this past Friday. The ship was on an 11-day cruise from Brisbane, Australia. Once the “man overboard” announcement was made, the ship turned around in hopes of finding the woman. Life rings and a lifeboat were deployed into the water, and about 45 minutes later, the woman was located by the lifeboat and brought back aboard the ship. There are no details as to why she fell overboard and whether the ship had a man overboard system in place. It seems like either someone spotted the woman falling overboard or the ship did have some sort of system in place because of the quick turnaround time between when the woman was reported overboard and her successful rescue.

ocean-195x300With the increasing number of passengers or crew members being reported going overboard from a cruise ship, even two man overboard incidents in one week, the news of such events occurring is not as shocking as it used to be, but obviously still is alarming as ever. On Ross Klein’s website Cruise Junkie, a site that keeps track of cases involving people going overboard on cruise ships, this high number of overboard passengers and crew members is illustrated. This most recent case on the Sun Princess, along with Ross Klein’s statistics, again points to the need for the cruise lines to step up to the plate and comply with the legislation requiring man overboard systems to be installed on the cruise ships. Clearly whatever system cruises currently have in place is not enough.

On a side legal note, most of the cases we hear about where a passenger goes overboard and is never found, results in little or no recovery against cruise ship company because of a law called the Death on the High Seas Act. Most cases happen when the cruise ship is outside the territorial waters of the United States, which triggers the application of the Death on the High Seas Act. This statute unfairly eliminates any recovery for the surviving family members for their mental anguish, grief, and emotional distress, which is referred to as non-pecuniary damages. The Death on the High Seas Act limits recovery to pecuniary damages, which many times will not be substantial, allowing the cruise ship company to escape responsibility. This is a law that is archaic and needs to be changed. Holding the cruise lines accountable if there is negligence, including failure to follow laws requiring implementation of man overboard systems, provides the additional incentive to make cruise ships safer for all. Instead, making companies more responsible under our system of law has been eliminated in the cruise ship industry by applying the Death on the High Seas Act

MIAMI, Florida–This past Monday, a 24-year-old male reportedly fell overboard from the 11th deck of the Carnival Elation cruise ship. The cruise ship returned to its port in Jacksonville yesterday without the missing passenger. It used to be shocking for people to hear that a passenger was reported to have fallen overboard on a cruise ship. Then came the case of George Smith, a man who went overboard during his honeymoon cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas. George Smith was a young handsome man who had just married his young beautiful wife, Jennifer Hagel, in a storybook wedding in Connecticut. They then headed off to their honeymoon on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, and George Smith never returned. During the cruise he was reported missing, and after searching for him, blood was discovered on the canopy below his balcony, where it is believed he struck after falling off his  cabin’s balcony before landing in the water.

bahamascruise-300x225The case received national attention, which prompted congressional hearings addressing cruise ship safety and security. The case generated so much interest and focus that it even became the subject of books and movies. His body was never found. Most experts believe he was the victim of foul play, possibly murder. However, an FBI investigation never resulted in the prosecution of anyone for any crime. The parents spent years searching for answers, and unfortunately, many questions remain today, 10 years later.

In this recent case where a young cruise ship passenger fell  from the 11th deck of a Carnival cruise ship, the facts reported again illustrate that the cruise ship industry is not employing man overboard systems, nor monitoring their surveillance cameras, so that if a passenger does fall overboard, immediate action can be taken. According to reports, the 24-year-old passenger was last seen by his wife at around 2:45 AM, and she then reported him missing at 8:30 AM when the ship reached Nassau, Bahamas. The procedures followed by Carnival then took place, where the surveillance cameras were reviewed back in time, and it was discovered the passenger actually went overboard at 2:45 AM. The Coast Guard was notified at around 11 a.m., which is when the search began. Therefore, any search and rescue efforts took place over eight hours after the passenger went overboard!

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