Slip and Fall Accidents at Airports

Air travel can be tedious and stressful. There are crowds and lines that wear on our patience. Amongst the rush and worry, it is not uncommon for accidents occur while passengers, employees, and aircrews move throughout Florida’s busy airports. The common accidents are a trip on loose carpet near the gate, a slip on spilled water in the terminal, or fall at the counter in a café. As with other private property, it is possible that the property owner is liable for serious injuries that result from these unfortunate accidents. In Florida it is necessary to show the following factual elements to recover compensation for medical bills or other costs and losses from an accident. First, that the slip and fall directly caused the serious injuries; and, second, that the owner of the property knew the dangerous condition existed prior to the accident. Every personal injury plaintiff who was injured by slip, trip, or fall in an airport is required to prove these elements. However, what is precarious and complicated about airports is the property is commonly owned, operated, and managed by different parties and entities. Typically, there is a single private party that owns the entire airport. In turn, this entity will lease or overturn operations of certain areas to different parties. For instance, in a Florida airport there are bars, restaurants, and shops that lease space through private contracts, governmental agencies that manage security spaces, and management companies that undertake responsibility for terminal and gate areas. Not to mention check-in desks and gates that are managed by airline employees. The results is that from the time you...

The Battle of Expert Witnesses in Cruise Ship Accident Claims

One of the raging battles in the litigation war injured passengers are forced to wage against cruise lines involves the expert witnesses. How and when the Plaintiff discloses the experts to the cruise line can often mean the difference between winning or losing. The rules that govern the use of experts in Federal Court, where cruise ship passenger accident and injury cases are heard, are complex and unforgiving. Take for instance the case of Joyce Higgs, which is being handled by another maritime law firm.1Joyce D. Higgs v. Costa Crociere S.p.A. Company. Case N. 15-60280-CIV-COHN/SELTZER. Entered on FLSD Docket 01/12/2016. Ms. Higgs, an elderly passenger, was injured after tripping over a cleaning bucket in the buffet line aboard the Costa Luminosa during a Christmas cruise. Costa denied that she fell over the bucket, and she filed a lawsuit against Costa, which is owned by Carnival Cruise Lines. Her suit was filed nearly two years ago and is still pending. HOW TO PROVE AN INJURY CLAIM AGAINST A CRUISE LINE Under Federal maritime law, ship owners owe the duty of exercising “reasonable care” towards passengers.2Kermarec v. Compagnie Generale Transatlantique, 358 U.S. 625, 630 (1959).  However, whenever a passenger claims that he or she was injured by a dangerous condition on a cruise ship, this “standard of care” requires that before a cruise ship can be held accountable for the injury, it must be shown that the cruise line actually created, knew, or should have known of the dangerous condition,3Long v. Celebrity Cruises, Inc., 982 F. Supp. 2d 1313, 1317 (S.D. Fla. 2013). which in this case was the cleaning bucket...

Suing a Cruise Line: When a Cruise Line Destroys Evidence

One of the single most important pieces of evidence that can and should be used in litigating an accident case against a cruise line–like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, or Norwegian–comes from the closed circuit television (CCTV) that most major cruise lines have installed onboard their ships. The existence of CCTV footage, and what it shows, is often hotly contested in these types of cases. Carnival and MSC, for instance, repeatedly claim they do not have CCTV footage, even when there are clearly video cameras identified at or near the scene of a slip, trip, and fall or other type of incident. Royal and Norwegian have the videos, but often produce edited versions with low quality.   The reason the CCTV footage is so important in a slip and fall case is not just to prove that the passenger actually fell and was hurt, but to show how long the alleged dangerous condition, such as a spilled liquid or broken handrail on a staircase, had existed. This is vitally important to prove that the cruise line either knew or should have known about the dangerous condition that caused the accident. Unfortunately, getting hold of this video from defendant cruise lines almost always requires a lawsuit to be filed and some legal jostling between our law firm and the cruise line, often with intervention from a federal judge or magistrate. Recently in a case against Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, which was handled by another law firm that sues cruise lines, an injured passenger tried to have RCCL sanctioned for destroying CCTV footage pertinent to that cruise ship passenger’s accident lawsuit.¹ The case...

Miami Car Accident Lawyer: Traffic Accidents with Drunk Drivers

Accident reconstructionists are expert witnesses who provide valuable information and analysis in car accident cases in both civil and criminal courtrooms across Florida. Recently, Frank Fore, an expert witness, was retained to investigate an accident where the victim died, and the State of Florida had already obtained a conviction against the other driver for driving while under the influence of alcohol (DUI) and for vehicular homicide. The case is pending in Palm Beach County, Florida. In support of his opinion(s) defending the driver, the expert witness filed an affidavit in which he changed his findings after learning from the State of Florida’s expert that his conclusions based on black box data from the victim’s Toyota had been incorrectly drawn. According to court records, the expert immediately notified the defendant’s DUI lawyer that his opinions were wrong, but failed to amend his prior expert testimony (affidavit), informing neither the trial judge nor the State’s Attorney. Rather, he waited until his deposition was taken by the State’s Attorney to advise the others of his mistake. The State’s attorney sought to hold the expert in civil contempt for his conduct, and the Palm Beach trial judge agreed, not only ordering that the expert be held in civil contempt but also imposing a compensatory fine. The trial judge found that Mr. Fore’s testimony was “materially false” and that his report had been prepared with “reckless indifference to its truth.” However, the Court failed to find that the expert’s conduct was intentional rather than merely reckless, nor that he was in violation of a specific court order. Additionally, it ordered that Mr. Fore pay...

Cruise Line Litigation: How Cruise Lines Deny Passengers from Obtaining Justice

I have written and spoken and argued about the magnitude of obstacles that injured passengers face when suing a careless cruise line. Those include the one-year statute of limitations, requiring passengers to sue in Federal Court in Miami regardless of where the claimant lives and where the accident happened, and the obscure written-notice requirements that many cruise lines have, like NCL’s ridiculous mandate buried deep in their passenger ticket contract that obligates claimants to advise the cruise line in writing within 185 days of the incident.      And if somehow, miraculously, a person who gets hurt on a cruise ship successfully navigates the first line of cruise line industry defenses, and gets on the field, the plaintiff faces an aggressive defense of hungry and growling cruise line defense lawyers, well trained and even better funded, eager to tear the case apart. I also write, speak, and argue often about the tricks and tactics used by those advocates to destroy legitimate claims and squash any chance innocent victims may have of obtaining justice in the form of compensation for their lost time from work, pain, suffering, medical expenses, scarring, disfigurement, and sadly the loss of a loved one. And then, assuming the plaintiffs are strong, well prepared, honest, and sincere, and have legitimate claims that show how the cruise ship’s carelessness caused their injuries, they have to litigate under a set of rules designed to make winning that much harder–the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Case Law, and the Federal Judges who are the referees that decide how the game or process is to be played. Much as in the...
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