Court Explains Duty of Care in Florida Cruise Accident Cases – Carroll v. Carnival Corp.

Florida negligence cases often center around the question of whether the person or company being sued failed to satisfy the duty of care – if any – owed to an injured party under the circumstances. In Carroll v. Carnival Corp., the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida explains that the extent of the duty owed depends on the specific facts of the case.

Ms. Carroll was injured in two separate accidents while a passenger aboard the Carnival “Miracle” during her first ever cruise. Carroll broker her elbow when she slipped and fell in one of the ship’s elevators and broke her femur two days later in a second slip and fall accident in a cabin bathroom. She sued Carnival for two counts of negligence in federal district court, alleging that the duty of care owed to her by the company increased following the first accident.

As the court explained, Carroll acknowledged that she was under no special restrictions after the first accident. She was treated for the elbow injury by a doctor in Nassau while the ship was in port and had her arm placed in a sling, but was not told to wear certain clothes, walk a certain way or refrain from any particular activity. Carroll did not request help from the ship’s staff in getting around the boat, according to the court, and suffered the second injury after having trouble with her pants while in the bathroom.

“The duty a ship owner owes to its passengers is reasonable care under the circumstances of each case,” the court explained. “A carrier by sea is not an all-purpose insurer of its passengers’ safety.” As a result, the court rejected Carroll’s claim that Carnival owed her a higher degree of care than the reasonable standard- including telling her what clothes to wear and providing a female staff member to help her navigate the bathroom, if necessary – because it knew she had already been injured on the boat.

The court additionally found that Carroll’s reliance on the Second District Court of Appeal’s 1966 ruling in Alpert v. Zim Lines was inappropriate. In that case, the appeals court said a cruise ship operator owed a higher duty of care to an elderly passenger with a noticeable limp. Roughly 17 years later, however, the Second District explained in Rainey v. Paquet Cruises that “reasonable care under the circumstances” is the correct standard in cruise passenger accident cases.

“In sum, whether a carrier is negligent, or not, depends on if it acted reasonably under the fact-driven circumstances of each case,” the District Court explained. “To be sure, a carrier with knowledge of a passenger’s abnormal physical disability may have to do more under the reasonable care standard toward that passenger than it would toward a passenger with no physical disability.” In the present case, however, the court found there was no reason for Carnival to know that Carroll needed assistance walking around the boat or going about her daily routine. Instead, she resumed her daily activities after the first accident and did not ask for assistance.

The court granted summary judgment to Carnival on Carroll’s negligence claim related to the second accident. Her other negligence claim, related to the first accident, is still being litigated.

If you were injured on a cruise, contact the Florida cruise ship accident attorneys at Anidjar & Levine. Our vast personal injury experience and client-centered approach make us uniquely qualified to help clients confidently navigate the judicial system’s waters after an accident at sea or on land.

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