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.
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
Additionally, the passenger’s parents have sued for intentional infliction of emotional distress caused by the cruise line telling ship officials and the media that their son’s fall was a suicide when it was not. It is not uncommon in my 35 plus years of experience in cruise ship law to hear of a passenger falling overboard to his or her death and the cruise ship company initially reporting the incident as a suicide, and then later it is determined to not in fact be a suicide. Of course, there are obvious reasons a cruise ship company would like to label these situations as a suicide.
Groom-to-be Falls to his Death During Bachelor Party
Sadly, in yet another example of a passenger falling on board a cruise ship, it was reported that a passenger on his bachelor party tragically fell to his death on October 19 onboard the Paradise Cruise Line’s Grand Classica ship . The passenger was only 29 years old and was set to be married on December 1st. According to reports, the young man fell onto a lower deck and was taken by the coast guard to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead from his injuries.
No details were reported about the incident, but most of the falls overboard or from one deck to another normally involve intoxication. It may very well be that this is another incident where the cruise ship company is accountable for overserving alcohol to a passenger.
Cruise Ship Company Accountable?
In this case of the passenger falling overboard to his death, the judge has denied the cruise ship company’s motion to throw the lawsuit out of court, finding there are valid issues of accountability relating to the amount of alcohol served to the passenger and the false statement about it being a suicide. The recent death involving the young man on his bachelor party may or may not result in accountability on the part of the cruise ship company, depending on further elucidation of the facts.
Safety Onboard a Cruise Ship
Maritime law requires a cruise ship company to exercise reasonable care for the safety of their passengers. The selling of alcohol onboard cruise ships is a big business and one of the leading sources of profits for the cruise ship companies. Many of the staff working at the cruise ship bars depend on alcohol consumption for their income, as tips are often based on the amount of sales. In addition, cruise ships have added all-inclusive options to their menu of packages a passenger can purchase.
Both of these tragic incidents highlight yet again the fact that intoxication on a cruise ship, as well as not following reasonably safe measures to prevent a passenger from becoming intoxicated to the point they become a danger to themselves or others is causing people to die. In addition, many of the reported sexual assaults onboard cruise ships, which occur much more frequently than one would expect, are related to the over-service of alcohol.
It remains to be seen whether a jury will determine the cruise ship company to be accountable for either, or both, of these tragic deaths.