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Suing Cruise Ship Operators for Personal Injury

Suing Cruise Ship Operators for Personal Injury

Even though Nevada is landlocked, many Nevadans enjoy taking ocean cruises. Like any other big venue, a cruise ship can present hazards to guests. A passenger could slip and fall on a wet deck. Passengers could get sick thanks to unhygienic conditions in the ship’s galley. Someone who suffers a serious injury that requires expensive medical care and time off work will need to work with a personal injury lawyer to overcome the challenges involved with pursuing lawsuits against a cruise line.

Liability waivers and other contract provisions complicate recovery

Cruise ships are a kind of common carrier. Common carriers owe passengers the highest duty of care to prevent injury. Many cruise lines ask their passengers to sign waivers of liability for accidents that happen in connection with different activities on the ship or during off-ship excursions that the cruise line arranges. The enforceability of a liability waiver can be a vital preliminary issue in any personal injury case.

Federal maritime law restricts the applicability of liability waivers in some situations. Under 46 U.S.C. §30509, the owner or agent of a vessel transporting passengers between two ports cannot limit its liability for a passenger’s personal injury or death that results from the negligence of the owner or the owner’s employees or agents. For example, a passenger who was injured while participating in an on-ship simulated surfing attraction was able to move forward with a lawsuit despite having signed a waiver of liability specific to the attraction. Johnson v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., 448 Fed. Appx. 846 (11th Cir. 2011). But owners are allowed to disclaim damages for emotional distress, mental suffering, and psychological injury.

Cruise lines may not be responsible for the actions of contractors and operators of off-ship attractions. Even though a cruise line can’t limit its liability for its own negligence, under some circumstances it may not be liable for the negligence of third parties. For example, a cruise line was not found vicariously liable for the negligence of an independent catamaran tour operator in Henderson v. Carnival Corp., 125 F. Supp. 2d 1375 (S.D. Fla. 2000). But in Smolnikar v. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., 757 F. Supp. 2d 1308 (S.D. Fla. 2011), the court allowed a lawsuit to go forward where the plaintiff alleged that the cruise line was negligent in how it selected third-party excursion operators.

Applicable law, venue, and other roadblocks

Any lawsuit against a cruise line must also contend with a host of complex legal issues. Cruises are governed by maritime law, which is a broad term covering a blend of federal, state, and even international rules. A passenger’s contract will specify which jurisdiction’s laws apply to it. Companies will often specify that they can only be sued in a particular state or, quite often, only in a foreign country. Cruise lines can also try to steer passenger disputes into arbitration, where options for recovery can be more limited. The attorneys for injured plaintiffs will need to address some or all of these issues as part of a case, often with the help of lawyers in other jurisdictions.

GGRM is here to help injured Las Vegas residents

The attorneys at the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have broad experience with personal injury cases. If you have been injured on a cruise we can help you get started with examining the complex legal questions involved in your case. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476 or ask us to reach out to you through our contact page.