Court Allows Negligence Claim Stemming from Cruise Excursion Accident to Proceed – Heyden v. Celebrity Cruises

As mentioned in our previous posts, a person injured in an accident aboard a cruise ship may very well have a claim against the ship’s owner. But what about when the accident happens during an onshore excursion? In Heyden v. Celebrity Cruises, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida explains that the ship owner may be liable for negligence in selecting and retaining a third party excursion operator who is unfit.

Heyden was a passenger on a Celebrity Cruises ship when he was injured while riding a Segway during a shore excursion in St. Maarten. The accident occurred as Heyden was traveling on a pedestrian boardwalk. The Segway caught a bench nailed to the ground, causing Heyden to tumble from the vehicle, which then fell atop him. The tour was operated by Caribbean Segway Tours, an independent contractor. Heyden sued Celebrity for negligence, claiming that the company was remiss in selecting and retaining the excursion operator, among other claims.

Denying Celebrity’s motion to dismiss the action, the Southern District found that Heyden properly alleged claims for negligent contractor selection and retention.
“Though cruise ship owners . . . cannot be held vicariously liable for the negligence of an independent contractor, it is well-established that they may be liable for negligently hiring or retaining a contractor,” the court explained, citing its 2011 decision in Smolnikar v. Royal Caribbean. To state such a claim, an injured person must alleged that the contractor was not competent to perform the work; the ship owner knew that the contractor was unfit; and the contractor’s incompetence caused the injury.

Here, Heyden alleged that Caribbean Segway Tours was a “fly-by-night” operation whose workers themselves were not properly trained and failed to provide appropriate training and supervision for its customers. Indeed, the company gave only a two-minute orientation on how to operate the Segways, according to Heyden, and did not mention any dangers of operating the vehicles on the boardwalk before embarking on the excursion.

Heyden also argued that Celebrity was or should have been aware of CST’s incompetence based on previous incidents. Specifically, he asserted that other CST customers were robbed at gunpoint during a Segway excursion in Nassau, Bahamas in 2009 and that Celebrity cancelled CST excursions at the site as a result.

The court found that this alleged incident was sufficient to show that Celebrity perhaps should have been aware of CST’s supposed incompetence. “Where the contractor’s poor judgment in choosing tour locations is the particular incompetence or unfitness at issue, it cannot be said that a prior incident involving a similar lapse in judgment is unrelated,” the court explained.

If you were injured on a cruise, the experienced Fort Lauderdale cruise ship accident attorneys at Anidjar & Levine can help. Anidjar & Levine have successfully handled all types of cruise ship accident claims, recovering compensation for victims in Florida and elsewhere. The firm has extensive experience litigating maritime personal injury cases, including accidents on cruise liners and other ships. Our client-centered approach, combined with vast personal injury experience, will help you to safely and confidently navigate the judicial system’s waters after an accident at sea or on land.

Related blog posts:

Injured on a Cruise Ship? Florida Court Explains Negligence Claims for Injuries at Sea – Stewart-Patterson v. Celebrity Cruises, Inc.

Court Declines to Enforce Cruise Company’s Liability Waiver in Jet Ski Accident Case – In re the complaint of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

Jurisdiction in Florida Cruise Ship Negligence Cases – Vincenzo v. Carnival