First Class Action in Admiralty Allowed

Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Landmark Cases

HERNANDEZ v. The MOTOR VESSEL SKYWARD 61 F.R.D. 558 (S.D. Fla. 1973)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: In an action for breach of contract, negligence, and breach of implied warranty of fitness arising out of a pleasure cruise during which the passengers and the crew were exposed to contaminated food or water, plaintiff passengers filed a motion to certify their action against defendant cruise line as a class action pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(1)(A).

OVERVIEW: The cruise line contended that a mass tort or mass accident case was unsuitable for class action treatment. The court held that only the negligence issue was available for class treatment because a ruling on that issue would be applicable to any prospective claimant and the requirements under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23 for class treatment of that issue were present in the case. The other issues pertaining to proximate cause, contract liability, adequacy of medical treatment afforded to each passenger, and damages were individual in nature and could not be certified for class treatment. The court held that the interests of all concerned would be advanced by a single determination of the negligence issue under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(c)(4)(A).

OUTCOME: The court certified for class treatment the single issue of negligence in the preparation of food and water provided to the passengers.