In simple terms, a cruise line takes responsibility for all thepassengers on the ship. The cruise line provides meals, room, board, and all other regular services. A cruise line is basically a hotel on the water. While out at sea, there is nothing around other than the ship. Most often, there is almost nothing within the ship’s vicinity. This emphasizes the ship operator’s obligation to the passengers onboard the cruise.
In a recent case, however, questions arose as to the extent of the responsibility that falls upon the ship operator.
L.A. v. Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines
In the current case of L.A. v. Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, L.A., a minor plaintiff, claimed that while he was aboard a Royal Caribbean Cruise in 2017 he was sexually assaulted by two adults. Specifically, he claims that the two adult men were drunk early one morning and they came over to him, brought him to a room, and violated him.
The plaintiff claims that Royal Caribbean had a duty to maintain a safe environment, including monitoring drunk patrons, and that the cruise line breached that duty.
Elements of a Maritime Negligence Claim
Based on the 2012 11th Circuit case of Chapparo v. Carnival Cruise Lines, to succeed on a maritime negligence case, a plaintiff must demonstrate the following elements:
- Defendant had a duty to protect Plaintiff from a particular injury;
- Defendant breached that duty;
- The breach actually and proximately caused Plaintiff’s injury; and
- Plaintiff suffered actual harm.
Duty to Protect
In determining what Royal Caribbean’s duty was vis a vis the plaintiff, the plaintiff claims that Royal Caribbean had a duty to install surveillance cameras in common areas and to monitor those cameras for the security of the passengers. The issue is whether the plaintiff reasonably relied on surveillance cameras and therefore can allege a duty. The court noted that it is a question that cannot be dismissed based on a motion to dismiss.
In addition, Royal Caribbean has been a defendant in numerous lawsuits regarding safety aboard one of its many vessels. As such, courts reasoned, Royal Caribbean is aware that there are various dangers to passengers aboard one of its ships. As such, Royal Caribbean had sufficient warning and notice that it must maintain safety, provided that it is reasonable, at all times.
In tort law, an important aspect is causation, which, in these terms, means that it was foreseeable. It is required, for purposes of negligence, that the harm was foreseeable. It can be argued that if adults are visibly intoxicated upon a ship, then they are prone to violent acts. Consequently, it can be argued that a ship is responsible for the acts committed by one passenger to another, so there may very well be causation in this case.
This case is still in the courts and it will be interesting to see how the court judges these cases.
Have you been hurt aboard a ship? Contact a law firm that understands and is involved in the maritime sector. Contact the Kolodny law firm.