Jurors awarded nearly $300,000 to a woman who suffered a broken leg and shoulder in a South Florida slip-and-fall injury that occurred on a cruise ship seven years ago. As our Palm Beach premises liability lawyers can explain, proving legal responsibility in such cases is rarely a cakewalk, particularly in a higher-value claim. Slip-and-fall cases especially have a high proof burden, as outlined in F.S. 768.0755.
In this case, according to Daily Business Review, the 64-year-old passenger was reportedly walking across an exterior passageway of the ship when she fell. The ship, which departed from Tampa, was in the Caribbean Sea at the time of her fall. As a result of the fall, she sustained serious injuries to both her leg and shoulder (a fractured left femur and a displacement fracture of her right shoulder).
The day after the accident, she disembarked the ship and was treated in Fort Lauderdale’s Broward Hospital Medical Center, where she had a rod placed in her leg and plates and screws placed in her shoulder. She endured nearly two weeks in the hospital, followed by nearly a month of inpatient rehabilitation therapy. There were also numerous follow-up orthopedic evaluations, with treatment concluding about five months after the trip. Ongoing health issues stemming from the fall include residual pain and certain limitations. She cannot easily raise her right arm anymore, and long periods of walking leave her in great pain. Despite reaching maximum medical improvement, these problems persist and may never go away.
In her subsequent South Florida slip-and-fall injury lawsuit (filed in federal court), she alleged the owner/operator of the ship was negligent in creating a dangerous condition that resulted in her fall. Specifically, she said her leg caught on a lounge chair, one of many chairs aligned in a row on a narrow, curved passageway next to a restaurant. The woman was walking behind her husband at the time because the walkway wasn’t wide enough for them to walk side-by-side. Her husband walking in front of her, she said, obscured her view of the chair. At trial, a cruise ship safety expert for the plaintiff testified that the chairs presented a walking hazard in that they substantially reduced the amount of space pedestrians had while traversing the walkway.
Defense attorneys pushed back on her claims, saying the chairs were an open, obvious condition that the plaintiff could have and should have avoided. A marine engineering expert witness for the defense testified that the walking space met all pertinent safety standards. Failure to maintain due attentiveness, the cruise ship attorneys said, was the primary cause of the accident and injury. The defense made it a point to note that the plaintiff had gone on a dozen cruises since the accident.
Ultimately, the jury found both parties equally liable. Although her total damages were figured at $580,000, her comparative negligence reduced the amount of damages she was entitled to collect by half. The breakdown of damages were as follows:
- $170,000 in past medical expenses
- $410,000 in past pain and suffering
It should be noted that there are unique legal issues that can arise in cruise ship accident cases. For starters, Florida slip-and-fall injury lawsuits that stem from cruise ship incidents typically must be pursued in federal court. Part of that is because these incidents occur on international waters and the businesses may be based somewhere other than the U.S. (despite operating there). Beyond that, many cruise ship tickets double as a contract between patrons and cruise line, with the fine print being that any litigation should be handled in federal court (if not privately arbitrated). Furthermore, while Florida law allows up to four years to pursue personal injury claims, the language on the ticket may substantially shorten that time to just one year. It is imperative for injury claimants to seek legal counsel as soon as possible after an injury to avoid running into potential issues like these that might undermine your claim.
Contact the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.
Elaine Carroll, an individual v. Carnival Corporation d/b/a Carnival Cruise Lines, April 15, 2020, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
South Florida Federal Jury Splits Liability in Cruise Passenger’s Personal Injury Suit, March 14, 2022, By Melissa Siegel, Daily Business Review, Law.com
More Blog Entries:
$900k Florida Slip-and-Fall Verdict Against Wal-Mart for Slippery Bathroom, Dec. 9, 2021, South Florida Slip-and-Fall Injury Lawyer Blog