Articles Tagged with “Royal Caribbean Cruises”

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An investigation led by the authorities in the Bahamas and assisted by Federal Agents is underway after yet another cruise passenger fell off the ship and died as a result of his injuries.

At the time the incident occurred, Allure of the Seas, cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean, was approximately one mile off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico. It has been reported by other passengers that the young man was a British citizen, and allegedly fell from the balcony of his stateroom located on Deck 11.

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As soon as the incident became known the crewmembers, multiple public announcements were made over the speakers throughout the entire ship and Royal Caribbean employees began searching for the missing passenger. Once it became clear to crewmembers that the passenger was indeed missing and had probably fallen off the ship, the captain immediately alerted the local authorities of the incident.

Royal Caribbean has since issued a statement saying “a review of the ship’s closed-circuit camera footage observed the British guest going over the balcony railing in his stateroom on deck 11. The location of the ship at the time the guest went overboard was marked on the ship’s Global Positioning System (GPS) and the US and Mexican Coast Guard were alerted. Our Care Team is providing support to the guest’s family and our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

All signs in the early stages of the investigation point to a suicide, yet Superintendent Paul Rolle, Head of the Central Detective Unit, has shared with members of the media that the investigation is not complete. He said in an interview with The Tribune: “We do not have much information we can share with the public at this point. All we know is a British man is dead and it may or may not have been suicide. We are still conducting our on scene investigations and interviewing eyewitness. We are being assisted by other law enforcement agencies and expect to wrap up our investigations shortly. At that time, I will provide an update,”

The deceased, whose name the authorities have not released, was on board a ship along with more than 4,500 passengers as it sailed from Florida to Cancun on a gay and lesbian-themed seven-day cruise.
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We recently reported on two incidents occurring only days apart where cruise passengers had fallen and died as a result of their injuries.

catacombsl-005005706019.jpgThe first incident saw the death of Barbara Wood on the Liberty of the Seas, owned and operated Royal Caribbean Cruises. The investigators and witnesses to the tragedy told the media that Barbara Wood was leaving the ship’s nightclub, Catacombs, when she fell while going down the club’s stairs. She hit her head on one of the steps and sustained a massive head injury, resulting in her death about an hour later.

Less than 48 hours later, Carnival cruise passenger, Walter Bouknight, fell down two floors after falling off a platform in the atrium of the Carnival Fantasy. Passengers who witnessed the events have since reported that alcohol may have been in play. The young man may have been gambling in the ship’s casino a few moments prior to his fall and may have been drinking to the point of intoxication.

In both instances, alcohol consumption and intoxication may have been the main contributing factor to explain these incidents. If there is evidence that these passengers had consumed alcohol prior to their fall, and that the amount of alcohol in their system rendered them intoxicated, Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean Cruises respectively could face a lawsuit for having over-served alcohol to these passengers.

Cruise Lines can be held liable for over-serving alcohol to cruise passengers
Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals decided in a landmark case in 2004, that cruise lines can be held liable for over-serving their passengers to the point of intoxication if they sustain injuries caused by their alcohol-related impairment. In Hall v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Judge Schwartz reversed the lower court’s decision ruling that the defendant cruise line has an established duty to exercise reasonable care for the safety of its passengers, a duty couched in general maritime law.

Royal Caribbean had argued that the Court of Appeal should look to Florida’s dram shop act as the governing law to resolve that case and not general maritime principles. Had the Third District Court of Appeal agreed with Royal, it would have severely limited the cruise lines’ liability in future similar cases.

cruisedrinks.jpgThe Florida’s Dram Shop Act enacted as Statute 768.125 provides that [a] person who furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person of lawful drinking age shall not become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such person. The exceptions to Florida’s Dram Shop Act are when a Florida business willfully and unlawfully sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age or when it knowingly serves a person habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages.

Consequently, since the Hall decision, cruise passengers have able to bring lawsuits against cruise lines for not only over-serving and essentially intoxicating them while on the ship, but also for intoxicating other passengers who may have become violent towards them as a result of having been served too much alcohol.
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In the early morning hours of the day on Monday, Barbara Wood, a 47-year-old cruise passenger from Middleborough, Massachusetts, hit her head while falling down the stairs aboard the Liberty of the Seas, Royal Caribbean Cruises.

Clip_s2.jpgThe investigation is still ongoing at this time, but some details have already come to light. Mrs. Wood was on a five day cruise which stopped in Cozumel, Mexico and was to end at Port Everglades on Monday morning. Some passengers reported hearing an alert made over the ship’s speakers between 1 and 2 a.m., when the incident occurred.

At that time, Barbara Wood left the ship’s Catacombs nightclub and was allegedly on her way to her cabin. On her way, she slipped on a step while going down the stairs and in her tumble, she hit her head. She was taken to the onboard infirmary when she was pronounced dead about one hour later, before the ship could reach the port according to the cruise line’s spokesman.

Clip.jpgit is unclear at this time what caused the woman to fall to her death. An autopsy will be performed within the next 48 hours to determine the exact cause of death. The autopsy will also help ascertain whether alcohol played a role in the fatal incident or whether investigators should look into the stairs in question as a possible reason for the cruise passenger to slip.

One of the passengers who witnessed the incident, Missy Whitlock, told the media that “[s]he fell down the steps. There was a lot of blood.”

This is the second cruise passenger in as many days that has fallen and died while on a cruise ship. This morning we reported that a cruise passenger fell off a platform located in the atrium of the Carnival Fantasy.
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The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal’s recent decision in Johnson v. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., invalidating releases for activities on cruise ships, which was participated in by Leesfield Scolaro‘ Robert Peltz as amicus curiae on behalf of the Florida Admiralty Trial Lawyers Association, is an important decision protecting the rights of cruise ship passengers, who are injured as a result of the negligence of cruise ships and their crew.

Read Robert Peltz Bio

Although RCCL centers much of its advertising around the FlowRider and other similar activities on its ships, it requires passengers to sign releases discharging it from all liability in participating in these activities, even for the negligence of its ship and crew. In Johnson, RCCL convinced District Court Judge Moreno to throw out Ms. Johnson’s case based upon the release, which she was required to execute. As a result, she never had the opportunity to have her case heard on its merits.

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The disaster that shook the passengers of the Costa Concordia when the ship ran aground and capsized near the Island of Giglio, Italy, while probably the most tragic in recent memory, was not the first tragedy of its kind.

In 1998, the Monarch of the Seas had an eerily similar incident, which, thankfully for the thousands of passengers on board, did not result in the loss of a single life.

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On December 15, 1998, the cruise ship, Monarch of the Seas, operated by Miami based cruise company Royal Caribbean Cruises, was in the Bahamas, en route from St Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands to Martinique. The ship had purposely deviated from its intended course in order to sail into St. Marteen to disembark a sick passenger who needed immediate hospitalization.

While the vessel awaited the return of the vessel’s crew, the ship drifted freely on an easterly heading. At about 1:25 a.m., the doctor and nurse returned to the vessel. The ship’s master himself then piloted the ship to starboard from an easterly course heading, steadied the vessel up and set a departure course of 160 degrees true to pass east of a marked reef known as the Proselyte reef. This course was based largely on the master’s mariner eye as well as on the Officer of the Watch’s feedback that the Automatic Radar Plotting Aid’s calculated Closest Point of Approach to the Proselyte reef lighted buoy on the 160-degree course. The master felt that this course provided the vessel a safe passage to the east of Proselyte reef as well as would allow a safe passage astern of an outbound sailboat that was just to the south and ahead of the Monarch of the Seas in the vicinity of the Proselyte Reef lighted buoy.

Unfortunately, the course of 160 degrees was established without first sufficiently determining the initial position of the vessel. Further, no track line for the 160-degree course was laid down or marked on the navigational chart in use at the time nor was the 160-degree course part of the voyage plan from St. Maarten to Martinique. Additionally, the ship’s chart used at the time of the grounding, was not updated with respect to an updated position of the lighted buoy on proselyte Reef.

The ship’s master steered the vessel on the right path before handing over the navigational watch to the Officer of the Watch. Before leaving the bridge, the ship’s master asked “How are we doing with clearance to buoy?” To this the Officer of the Watch replied “Closest point would be three cables off and safe.

Three minutes later, at approximately 1:30 a.m., the Monarch of the Seas raked the Proselyte Reef at an approximate speed of about 12 knots without becoming permanently stranded. Almost immediately emergency and abandon ship signals were sounded and the crew and passengers were mustered at their abandon ship stations.

To learn more about the events described above, read the Joint Report of Investigation into the Circumstances surrounding the grounding of the Monarch of the Seas.

At 2:35 a.m., the vessel was intentionally grounded on a sandbar in Great Bay, St. Maarten. The evacuation of passengers and crew began immediately and by 5:15 a.m., all 2,557 passengers were safely evacuated ashore by shore based tender vessels.

The Joint report by the United States Coast Guard and the Maritime Investigator (Osla, Norway) concluded that the primary cause of the grounding was human error by the ship’s master and his Bridge Resource Management Team. Multiple failures were assessed including:
(1) Accurately determine the position of their ship in relation to a known reef area.
(2) To navigate their ship in a manner which would give wide berth to such a hazard.

The investigation on the Costa Concordia disaster is still in its early stages, and yet an enormous amount of information and reliable evidence has already surfaced. It seems established that the ship deviated from its original course. Unlike the ship’s master of the Monarch of the Seas, Captain Francesco Schettino’s deviation was intentional and not necessary. Read this article to find out why Captain Schettino sailed so close to the Island of Giglio.
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In its decision of December 20, 2011, the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that the waiver, signed by Charlene Johnson, a Cruise passenger, before injuring herself while using the on-board attraction Flowrider, was unenforceable, and the injured passenger was no longer barred from bringing her personal injury claim against the Cruise Line for its negligence.

07flowrider-surfing.jpgCharlene Johnson was a passenger on the Oasis of the Sea cruise ship owned by Royal Caribbean Cruise. Mrs. Johnson wanted to ride the Flowrider, a simulated surfing and body boarding activity located on the ship. Before Charlene Johnson, or any passenger, could ride the Flowrider, she was required to read and sign her name to an electronic “Onboard Activity Waiver”. By signing such waiver, Charlene Johnson agreed to waive her rights and release Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., and its employees from legal actions “arising from any accident or injury resulting from her participation in any and all of the shipboard activities she selected” (including the Flowrider). In other words, Charlene Johnson agreed to waive her rights to file a lawsuit against the cruise line and its employees should she injure herself while using the Flowrider.

After she signed the electronic waiver, Charlene received instructions on how to ride the Flowrider on a body board. The instructor who was supervising Charlene told her to stand on the body board, which was a clear deviation from the regular use of the body board and the cruise line’s policies. Royal’s safety guidelines for the Flowrider attraction clearly state that only the surfing boards can be stood upon, while the body boards should only be used while lying down. Upon receiving instruction to stand up on the body board, Charlene stood up and when the instructor let go of Charlene’s hand, she fell and fractured her ankle.

The Southern District of Florida dismisses Johnson’s case
A lawsuit was filed soon thereafter against Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. The cruise line moved for Summary Judgment arguing that Charlene Johnson had signed a waiver that precluded her from suing Royal and from recovering from her injuries. The plaintiff argued that Federal Statute 46 U.S.C. §30509, which prevents a shipowner from contracting away its liability for negligence, should apply to her case and render the waiver unenforceable to her claim. In a decision of March 18, 2011, Judge Moreno, Chief Judge in the Southern District of Florida, ultimately agreed with Royal’s argument and dismissed Charlene Johnson’s case. The Court determined that the case did not fall within the General Maritime Law and therefore the Federal Statute did not apply.

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals Reverses the Southern District’s Decision
After hearing the case on appeal, in a decision published on December 20, 2011, the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit agreed with Charlene Johnson and reinstated her personal injury claim. The Court of Appeals disagreed with the lower court for failing to look at the plain and unambiguous language of the statute and failed to apply it to the facts of this case. The Court of Appeals determined that the waiver at issue is a contract that limits the liability of the shipowner for personal injury or death caused by the negligence or fault of the owner or the owner’s employees or agents. Because the waiver in question contains no exception regarding the type of activity in which the passenger is participating when the injury occurs, the waiver is deemed invalid on its face under Federal Statute 46 U.S.C. §30509.

The Eleventh Circuit’s ruling clears the way for future cases where Plaintiffs signed a waiver to participate in an on-board activity. By rendering these waivers unenforceable, passengers, who sustain an injury because of the negligence of the shipowner or its employees, are no longer precluded from filing a lawsuit even if they have signed a waiver.
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