How One Lady’s Slip and Fall on a Carnival Ship Changed Cruise Ship Accident Law Forever

I am sure that when Elizabeth Luby slipped and fell over 30 years ago aboard a Carnival Cruise ship and sued Carnival Cruise Line, she had no idea that her case would do more damage to the rights of injured cruise ship passengers than any other case in the history of modern maritime accident law. Her case, Luby v. Carnival, is cited as legal authority and precedent by virtually every cruise line in their motions to dismiss passenger injury cases. The Luby case, as it is known, has single-handedly deprived hundreds if not thousands of individuals of their day in court.   Carnival beat Mrs. Luby in her case, and they owe her a huge debt of gratitude as her case alone has probably saved them millions of dollars in settlements and judgments they otherwise might have had to pay people who have been hurt on their ships.   It all started with an innocent visit to her cabin’s bathroom, soon after boarding the Carnival Cruise Lines’ cruise ship Mardi Gras in 1984. The ship was still in port when Mrs. Luby decided to “freshen up.” As she entered the bathroom, she tripped and fell over the ledge, or “coaming,” that surrounded her shower. The shower curtain was drawn over the ledge, so she was unable to see it.   She was injured in the fall and sued Carnival Cruise Line, claiming that it was negligent for failing to warn her of the concealed ledge. It is important to note that when she sued Carnival, she was asking for a jury to decide her case, not a judge. Carnival...

Suing Norwegian Cruise Line: How an Injured Cruise Ship Passenger Beat NCL

Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) and their team of talented defense lawyers are absolute masters at having the lawsuits of people who claim to have been hurt on their ships dismissed from court, without paying a dime, by asking for summary judgment–a legal process that kicks case after case out of court before a jury is ever able to consider the facts of what happened.    I have practiced law for over 25 years, representing thousands of people who have been injured on a cruise ship from around the world. Sadly, it has become so commonplace to see cases dismissed, that when one survives a motion for summary judgment, it is cause for celebration. Why Federal Courts are inclined to dismiss injured passenger claims A multitude of factors impede plaintiffs in their pursuit of justice, the primary one being that the law governing these kinds of cases is federal maritime law, written and applied in favor of the cruise industry. Basically, the law requires that the cruise line have some previous knowledge or notice of the condition that caused the specific accident. The cruise lines are masters at obscuring that information and making it difficult if not impossible to prove that they had notice. It starts with the discovery process, which refers to the way the rules of civil procedure allow–or at least are supposed to allow–parties to investigate and discover evidence that will help them prove their cases. Equally as important, the discovery process should help plaintiffs defeat the dreaded motion for summary judgment that will surely be filed and almost universally granted. For example, take the typical accident...

Suing Royal Caribbean: Motorcycle Excursion Accident Case in St. Maarten Dismissed

Since 1991 I have represented people who have suffered serious  injuries and accidents on cruise ships in their claims against the major cruise lines, like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, Disney, MSC, and others. Perhaps the most difficult kind of cruise ship passenger injury claim to win against a cruise line is one that occurs when the passenger is injured while participating in an excursion off the ship. Excursions are typically day trips that passengers buy while on a cruise, to explore the different ports of call. They can be as simple as a rum tasting in a local factory or as involved as zip lining and dune buggy rides. Just like accidents that happen onboard the ship, such as a slip and fall on a wet deck or a fall down a poorly lit staircase, excursion accidents also fall under general maritime law, which requires that the injured person has to prove that the cruise line had “actual or constructive knowledge” of the alleged danger that caused the injury. Proving this is even more difficult when the incident sometimes occurs hundreds of miles away from the port where the ship is docked. For example, recently a case was dismissed from United States Federal Court against Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (RCCL) and its excursion provider. A passenger who was injured during a motorcycle accident on St. Maarten Island, John Kadylak, sued “ETA,” an excursion provider, the cruise line, and one of the cruise line’s employees, Sergey Denysov, the ship’s Staff Captain, claiming that their carelessness caused him serious injuries while he was participating in the excursion.   ETA sells...

Lopsided Justice in Suing a Cruise Line: Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68

When our Miami personal injury law firm sues one of the major cruise lines—like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, or Norwegian—on behalf of a person who has been seriously injured on a cruise ship because of the cruise line’s carelessness, we must file the claim in federal court in Miami, Florida. One of the many reasons the cruise lines require that cases be filed in federal court rather than state court is that the rules of civil procedure are different and more complex, generally favoring the corporate defendant and not the individual claimant. Imagine a rule in the NFL that applies only to the home team. One of the most glaring examples of this lopsided justice is Rule 68 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the rules that govern cruise ship passenger litigation. Rule 68 is available only to the defendant cruise lines, and it allows them to make an offer of a certain amount of money to the injured cruise ship passenger before a trial. A passenger who does not obtain a verdict or judgment in excess of that amount will be subject to paying or reimbursing the cruise line for its costs of defense, attorneys’ fees, and interest. The intent of this rule is to put added pressure on the injured passenger to accept whatever offer the cruise line is making—reminding me of the classic line in The Godfather movie when Don Corleone suggests that he is going to “make him an offer he can’t refuse.” There is no similar rule available to the plaintiff. Rather, Rule 68 simply serves to intimidate and strong-arm plaintiffs who have...

Injured on a Cruise Ship: Crew Member’s Case Dismissed by Norwegian Cruise Line

Our Miami cruise ship accident lawyers focus on representing those who have been seriously injured while on a cruise. This includes both passengers and frequently crewmembers who get hurt. But the laws, remedies, and legal processes that apply to the 56-year-old lady from Omaha–who on her very first cruise slips and falls on a wet deck or trips over an unmarked threshold in her cabin–are completely different than those that apply to the 22-year-old lady from Manila who works in one of the many bars, casinos, pools, or buffets aboard the ship. Take for example the case of Javier Brock Moro, a Colombian citizen who worked on one of Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) cruise ships as a seaman. NCL makes all of its crewmembers sign an agreement called the Seaman’s Employment Agreement, which amounts to a contract that contains crucially important legal limitations as to how, when, and where any of its onboard crew and their families can bring claims against it for injury or death.  That agreement also stipulates which country’s law applies to the case. The agreement essentially limits an injured crew member to bringing claims only under the Jones Act and other legal theories and actions–such as unseaworthiness, wages, maintenance, and cure–under a binding arbitration proceeding rather than being able to file a lawsuit in a courthouse. This essentially deprives the injured cruise ship employee the right to have a judge and jury decide the case’s outcome and, perhaps equally importantly, to hold cruise lines like Norwegian Cruise Line accountable for how they maintain the safety of their ships–not just for crew members but passengers, too....

Injured on a Carnival Cruise Ship: Passenger Shatters Elbow

Christmas arrived early for Carnival Cruise Line this year when it succeeded in having yet another injured cruise ship passenger’s claim dismissed before the case ever reached a jury.  The case involved a slip and fall accident that occurred on a staircase aboard the ill-fated Carnival Triumph when a passenger slipped and fell while attempting to descend the staircase on the first full day of her cruise. She claimed that her fall was caused by a “liquid” on the step, and as a result of her fall, she shattered her left elbow and had to undergo a number of surgeries in an effort to repair it. Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian, and the other major cruise lines routinely move for summary judgment–a legal process where a judge is asked to dismiss an entire pending case before a jury ever hears the facts because, as the standard requires, “there is no genuine issue of material fact”. In other words, the facts of the case are such that no possible jury could ever render a verdict in favor of the non-moving party–which in cruise ship accident litigation is inevitably and virtually always the injured passenger. To oppose and defeat the motion, all the injured plaintiff has to show the court is that a jury could reasonably return a verdict for them, by a standard that would amount to more than a mere “scintilla of evidence.” In this case, the plaintiff sued Carnival and alleged in her one-count complaint that Carnival was negligent and responsible for her injuries based upon the following failures: (1) failing to properly maintain the floor in a...
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