On October 17, a federal judge in Miami allowed a lawsuit to move forward involving a 22-year-old cruise ship passenger that fell overboard from Independence of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, to his death. The cruise ship company, as per usual, sought to have the case dismissed arguing that the passenger intentionally jumped over the railing and it was not due to his alcohol intake. However, according to the Order denying Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, the passenger was overserved alcohol by the cruise ship company, at least 30 ounces of alcohol, and multiple eyewitnesses have confirmed that the passenger lost his balance and fell. Continue reading
News outlets have reported this week that a young Israeli couple on their honeymoon aboard the Allure of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, decided to try zip-lining during one of the ship’s port visits in Roatán, Honduras. What was intended to be the beginning of a long happy life together turned into tragedy as the result of apparent negligence on behalf of the cruise ship.
While ziplining over a treetop canopy on July 5, 27-year-old Shif Fanken got stuck and stopped halfway down the cable when her husband, 24-year-old Egael Tishman, was released by staff members down the zip-line, resulting in a collision. The couple was rushed to the hospital where the husband died from his injuries. The wife is currently recovering in a hospital in Florida. The cause of the accident is still under investigation. At this time, the safety history and track record of the operator is unknown, nor do we know what knowledge the cruise ship company had previously gathered about the operator prior to the incident.
Our case, L.A., a minor, by and through his mother, natural Guardian and next friend, T.A., vs. Royal Caribbean Cruises, LTD., is getting national attention regarding the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida’s order denying Royal Caribbean’s Motion to Dismiss the lawsuit. The case involves a 13-year-old boy who was on board the Independence of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean’s cruise ship, with his mother and brother.
Our client, along with a group of friends, was peacefully sitting and talking in a public library under the watchful eye of surveillance cameras. His mother and older brother believed the 13-year-old to be safe, as he was instructed to only converse with his group of friends and to remain in the public space. The family had read about the cruise ship company’s great safety and security record and felt safe under the hundreds of surveillance cameras throughout the ship. Like most passengers, she never thought that her child would be at risk for a sexual assault aboard the cruise ship.
I previously wrote about the tragedy involving a Mexican tour bus that flipped over while transporting Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise ship passengers to the Mayan ruins, and have recently spoken on both Channel 10 and CBS news regarding the safety of shore excursions. The cruise ship passengers involved in this tragic accident were on an excursion they had purchased from Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises. Typically, as was also seen in this case, the cruise lines promote the different shore excursions, profited from its sales, and urge its passengers to purchase the excursion directly from them rather than any independent company. It is also typical that passengers believe that that the cruise lines have performed a thorough vetting process for the shore excursions, and that their safety is backed by the cruise company. The passengers reasonably believe the cruise ship company would be responsible for recovery against the cruise ship company under various maritime legal theories, depending on the facts and circumstances.
The initial report about the cause of the accident in Mexico is that the driver was speeding. I believe that was apparent based on the fact that the bus flipped over in clear daylight with good weather conditions, and that there were no other vehicles involved. The real questions are going to be the root causes, as I refer to them. It is vital to get down to the root causes as to why something like this happened, killing and injuring many cruise ship passengers. The questions then become why was the driver speeding, and what was the condition of the bus, the safety history of the company, and the history of that particular driver, among other things. It is my opinion that the root causes will lead back to actions or inactions on the part of the cruise ship company, who should be held liable for these serious injuries and deaths.
On Tuesday, at least 12 people died and 18 were injured when a tour bus carrying Royal Caribbean and Celebrity passengers crashed on an excursion to the Mayan ruins in Mexico. It was one of the deadliest cruise ship shore excursion accidents to have taken place. Ironically, I was interviewed by NBC news last Thursday about the dangers present when going on cruise ships and the obstacles to legal recovery when harm befalls a passenger traveling on a cruise.
One of the cases we discussed is the case I am currently handling against Celebrity Cruises involving a horrible tour bus crash that occurred during a cruise-sponsored shore excursion in New Zealand. Celebrity promoted, marketed and sold tickets for this shore excursion, and even represented to the passengers that the cruise ship company only used the highest quality transportation services during the excursion. Our lawsuit claims that the bus driver was speeding and changing lanes frequently, and that the bus was poorly maintained and in bad condition, resulting in a horrible accident where the bus plummeted 100 ft. down a steep bank, severely injuring its passengers. Fortunately, no one was killed. After the accident, it was discovered that the transportation company employed by Celebrity had a poor safety record- a very similar prior accident resulting in a criminal prosecution due to an incompetent mechanic and faulty brakes.
Recently, various news outlets have reported that Royal Caribbean Cruises was removing some of their ships from the port of Falmouth, Jamaica. However, it is not clear what is going to happen as several cruise ships of Royal Caribbean do travel to this port, and RCCL has invested money in helping to develop the port for bringing more cruise ships there.
What is interesting are the reasons for the decision to bring less ships to Falmouth, Jamaica. One is harassment of the passengers by local vendors. One of the other reasons for bringing less ships to the port of Falmouth was the dangers of the tour bus operators. Tour bus operators have been an issue in the past. Last year a tour bus filled with Royal Caribbean passengers crashed, leaving one dead and many injured. Again, this illustrates dangers at a port of call known to the cruise line, where the cruise line directed passengers to. These types of dangers are present at many port of calls, and we must rely on the cruise ship companies to do a better job of vetting these excursions to prevent further accidents and injuries during these shore excursions.
MIAMI, Florida–Royal Caribbean Cruise lines is now the second cruise lines to step up to the plate and implement the use of lifeguards at their swimming attractions. I commend them for this move, even though there has been reluctance in the past to do so. We have written numerous times about tragic drownings that have occurred on board cruise ships in the swimming pools scattered throughout these mega cruise ships, mostly involving small children. In fact, in the last three years we have heard about at least four other drownings on board a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. This does not include the other cruises, in which we have also heard about multiple drownings occurring in the past few years on board their ships. Although the cruise ship companies seem to feel that a simple warning sign about swimming at your own risk is sufficient safety precautions for their cruise ships, Disney Cruise lines had previously been the only cruise ship company to step up to the plate and utilize lifeguards on board their ships, and even at their private island.
It’s about time Royal Caribbean has employed lifeguards, becoming only the second major cruise line in the world to have lifeguards. We have learned from recent news reports that all the lifeguards hired by Royal Caribbean will be licensed and trained through StarGuard elite. In addition to employing lifeguards, the cruise line plans on implementing a few more water safety updates to their ships, specially targeted towards young cruise passengers. This includes signs reminding parents that they have swim vests available for young children and there will also be a water safety presentation during the orientation of the Adventure Ocean kids program.
MIAMI, Florida–Sometimes we do not think about what happens if there is a serious accident or injury when a cruise ship is at sea, and the injured person requires immediate specialized medical treatment, such in the case here for a Royal Caribbean crew member. The 20-year-old crew member suffered a serious spine injury performing her regular job duties on board the Legend of the Seas ship.
Various news reports discuss how difficult the evacuation proceedings were, which indicates the seriousness of the injuries, and suggests potential paralysis as a concern. Evacuations at sea are very difficult and normally will not be performed except in the most serious situations where the injured person is suffering a potential life-threatening condition, or a condition that must be treated immediately by the appropriate specialists.
MIAMI, Florida–On January 14, 2016, passengers from Royal Caribbean International’s Independence of the Seas were onboard a tour bus operated by a shore excursion company in Jamaica, when the tour bus collided with the truck, causing the bus to flip over multiple times. The passengers were on their way back from a day excursion to Jamaica’s Dunn River Falls. It was reported that the driver of the tour bus operator was driving recklessly on winding roads, when the collision occurred. Passengers were noted to have complained during the ride that they were concerned that the driver was operating the bus dangerously. The answer they received that drivers in Jamaica are known for driving erratically, especially around winding roads, and the manner in which the bus operator was driving was normal for Jamaica.
As a result of this tragic accident, a passenger was killed and a dozen more were injured. The shore excursion the passengers were participating in was operated by a third party in Jamaica. One might ask what responsibility the cruise ship company has when a third party operating an excursion company acts negligently, or even recklessly, causing injury or death to the passengers of the cruise ship company? A recent lawsuit filed in the Federal District Court in Miami, Florida on behalf of these passengers will address this legal issue, which is the liability of the cruise ship company for the acts of this shore excursion company, who the cruise company will assert is an independent contractor for which they have no legal liability for.
MIAMI, Florida– 2017 is approaching which means that cruise ship giants Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruises will soon be taking their cruise ships to Cuba. Two of Royal Caribbean’s ships, Royal Caribbean International and Azamara Club Cruises, are scheduled to set sail around late April. All three of Norwegian’s ships, Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Ocean Cruises, are scheduled to start sailing to Cuba in May.
In fact, on Tuesday Norwegian Cruise Line opened up its bookings for its four-day trip to Cuba starting May 1 on the Norwegian Sky. The Norwegian Sky is the biggest United States ship to make its way to Cuba holding 2,004 passengers. Additionally, according to recent reports, the Norwegian Sky is the cheapest cruise ship to Cuba out there at the moment. The Norwegian Sky is scheduled to make five trips to Cuba in May, leaving from the Port of Miami.