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Cruise Line Law Reporter

Welcome to the Cruise Line Law Reporter. The Cruise Line Law Reporter is a monthly summary of important cases with respect to admiralty and maritime claims against cruise lines. Each day, a seaman or passenger on a cruise ship is injured or killed due to someone else’s negligence. Many times, responsibility for an accident falls upon the cruise line itself for failing to provide a safe environment for those onboard, including the failure of the cruise company to check equipment, failure to properly train crew members, failure to maintain vessel sanitation, as well as failure to provide adequate shipboard security. Yet, despite the fact that there are national and international maritime laws protecting both cruise guests and crew members, these laws are often violated by the cruise lines, leading to severe injuries, illnesses, criminal activity, and even death. Due to the nature of the cruise industry, there are innumerable cases that go unreported and unrecognized. The Cruise Line Law Reporter strives to bring accident and liability cases to light, providing insight into cruise line negligence, maritime laws and regulations frequently violated by the cruise lines, and a general overview and outcome of current and prior notable admiralty and maritime cases.

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December 2013 Issue

Please click on an item below to view details.

FLORIDA’S THIRD DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL REVERSED AND REMANDED TRIAL COURT’S ORDER DENYING CRUISE SHIP DOCTOR’S MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION.

Chris TAYLOR, M.D., Appellant, v. Hilda Patricia GUTIERREZ, Appellee.

2013 WL 6246464 District Court of Appeal of Florida, Third District.

No. 3D12–3045. | Dec. 4, 2013.

PROCEDURAL POSTURE:

Passenger on Caribbean cruise filed negligence action in Florida against nonresident shipboard physician in connection with treatment received on ship. The Circuit Court, Miami–Dade County, Diane V. Ward, J., entered non-final order denying physician’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Physician appealed.

OVERVIEW:

Hilda Patricia Gutierrez and her husband embarked on a seven night cruise aboard Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s Oasis of the Seas. A couple of days into the cruise, Gutierrez visited the ship’s medical facility as it was approaching Labadee, Haiti, complaining of severe abdominal pain. She was seen by a ship’s nurse and Dr. Taylor, a shipboard physician. Dr. Taylor diagnosed and treated her for gastritis. Her condition worsened and, upon reaching port in Mexico, Gutierrez disembarked the ship and went to a Mexican hospital where she underwent abdominal surgery. There, she was allegedly treated for abdominal sepsis and multiple organ failures. She thereafter suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. Gutierrez filed the underlying negligence action against Dr. Taylor and Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. in the Miami–Dade Circuit Court. With respect to personal jurisdiction, the complaint alleged, in relevant part, that the circuit court had general jurisdiction over Dr. Taylor—a British citizen who does not live in Florida, does not own real property in Florida and who is not licensed to practice in Florida—because of his “substantial and not isolated activity within the State of Florida,” as evidenced by his contacts with the State in connection with his career position as a shipboard physician for Florida-based cruise lines. No allegations were made in the Amended Complaint regarding any medical treatment performed by Dr. Taylor with respect to Gutierrez either in the State of Florida or within Florida territorial waters. Dr. Taylor moved to quash service of process, to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action. He also participated in jurisdictional discovery—i.e., responding to jurisdictional interrogatories and attending a deposition via Skype. The matter then came before the lower court for hearing where the parties agreed that the court should defer ruling on the motion to quash service and focus solely on the two motions to dismiss.  Appellate Court held that because Dr. Taylor’s contacts with the State of Florida were not sufficient to meet either Florida’s long arm statute, section 48.193, or the federal due process considerations set forth by the United States Supreme Court in Helicopteros, the court below erred in finding general jurisdiction over him. The Court reversed the order denying Dr. Taylor’s motion to dismiss.

OUTCOME:

Reversed and remanded with instructions.

SEAMAN SLIPPED AND FELL ON HYDRAULIC OIL WHILE CLEANING THE VESSEL DECK. DEFENDANT MOVED FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON SEAMAN’S JONE’S ACT NEGLIGENCE AND UNSEAWORTHINESS CLAIMS. THE COURT DENIED DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT BECAUSE A JURY COULD CONCLUDE THAT SEAMAN’S FALL WAS DUE TO NEGLIGENT LEAKAGE OF HYDRAULIC OIL.

Mitchell EVANS, v. TRANSOCEAN OFFSHORE USA, INC.

2013 WL 6490345 United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana.

Civil Action No. 12–1338. | Dec. 10, 2013.

PROCEDURAL POSTURE:

Defendant Jones Act Employer GlobalSantaFe Drilling Company (“GSF”) moved for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff Mitchell Evans’ Jones Act negligence and unseaworthiness claims.

OVERVIEW:

Plaintiff injured his lower back while working as a roustabout for GSF aboard the DEVELOPMENT DRILLER I (“DDI”).  Plaintiff was cleaning drilling mud from the deck of the DDI when he slipped in an area he had previously cleaned with soap and water.  Rather than reporting the incident, plaintiff cleaned the area again with soap and water, completed his tour, and went to bed. He reported the alleged accident when he woke up the next morning and asserted that he likely fell in hydraulic oil.  Plaintiff filed claims for Jones Act negligence and Maintenance and Cure.  Defendant moved for summary judgment on plaintiff’s negligence and unseaworthiness claims. Defendant argued they could not be held liable if he fell in drilling mud, which he was supposed to be cleaning.  Defendant further argued lack of notice and that based on the evidence, a reasonable jury could not find by a preponderance of the evidence that plaintiff slipped in hydraulic oil as opposed to drilling mud.  Court found it clear from plaintiff’s deposition testimony that although he was able to detect an oily sheen at the accident site that was not present after he first cleaned the area, he was unable at that time to discern from its appearance whether the sheen was caused by hydraulic oil or drilling mud.  Court also found it true that the defendant lacked personal knowledge of the nature of the substance. Accepting as true plaintiff’s uncontroverted assertions (1) that he had thoroughly cleaned the accident site, which was free of an oily sheen before his fall; (2) that after slipping, he noticed an oily sheen, although he could not be sure it was hydraulic fluid; and (3) that the defendant told him the next morning that there was a hydraulic leak in the area, that evidence, taken together, could permit a reasonable inference that the plaintiff slipped on hydraulic oil.

OUTCOME:

The Court DENIES defendant’s motion for summary judgment.


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