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Maritime Law--Jury Hits Royal Caribbean Cruises With $20.3M Verdict for Officer's Hand Injury

In Spearman v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Case No. 2011-023730-CA-01, a Miami-Dade County, Florida jury has awarded $20.3 million to a former crewmember of Royal Caribbean Cruises, whose hand was crushed while coming to the aid of a fellow worker during an emergency test in 2008. After a three-week trial, the jury found the Miami-based cruise company negligent in operating an unseaworthy ship and 100 percent liable for the injuries suffered by Lisa Spearman, who was working an officer on Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas.

Spearman sued the company in 2011, three years after her right hand was caught in a watertight power door during a fire-safety drill. According to her lawyers, Spearman was trying to prevent the door from closing on the ship’s nurse when her hand was pulled into a recess pocket of the sliding door and crushed. The nurse allegedly breached the company’s safety protocol when she stumbled through the door, prompting the response from Spearman.
According to allegations m…
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Maritime Law--Lozman's "Floating Home" Saga Ends at SCOTUS

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected Fane Lozman's latest appeal in his landmark case involving the seizure and destruction of his floating home. The justices denied without comment Mr. Lozman's petition asking them to enforce their 2013 ruling by ordering the city of Riviera Beach to pay him about $365,000 for the home's value and legal fees. Lower courts also ruled against Mr. Lozman, and this was his last appeal.
Fane Lozman and his dog with floating home in foreground Picture from the Associated Press
The ruling obtained by Mr. Lozman in 2013 set a new standard for floating homes and other structures. As posted previously in this blog, the ruling meant that federal maritime law that calls for seizure under Supplemental Rule C could no longer be applied to disputes involving floating structures that have no traditional characteristics of a vessel, such as an engine, rudder or sails. As reported by such news sources as the AP, the Daily Business Review and other well known…

Maritime Law--Florida Supreme Court Finds Concurrent Cause Must be Covered if Covered by Policy

In Sebo v. American Home Assurance Co., Case No. SC140897 (Fla. Dec. 1, 2016), the Florida Supreme Court ruled that insurance companies should not deny coverage for property damage just because it had more than one concurrent cause, as long as the policy covers one of the causes.
The opinion reverses a Second District Court of Appeal decision that instructed courts to determine the primary cause of damage and rule that an insurance claim could be denied if that primary cause was not covered by the policy. The Second DCA decision conflicted with a Miami appellate court ruling that had been the law since 1988. The 1988 decision in Wallach v. Rosenberg issued by the Third District Court of Appeal relies on the competing "concurrent cause" doctrine, which says coverage may exist if an insured risk is one of the causes of the damage, even if it is not the primary cause. The Florida Supreme Court opinion affirmed the Third DCA's logic.

Sebo's homeowners insurance company, …

Maritime Law--U.S. Crewmember Required to Arbitrate Claims Applying Norwegian Law

In Alberts v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., No. 15-14775 (11th Cir. Aug. 23, 2016), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that a U.S. citizen, working aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship is required to arbitrate his claims against Royal Caribbean.
Plaintiff, a United States citizen, worked as the lead trumpeter on a passenger Royal Caribbean cruise ship. The ship is a Bahamian flagged vessel with a home port in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Royal Caribbean, the operator of the vessel, is a Liberian corporation with its principal place of business in Florida. After plaintiff became ill while working for Royal Caribbean, he filed suit alleging unseaworthiness, negligence, negligence under the Jones Act, maintenance and cure, and seaman’s wages and penalties. Royal Caribbean moved to compel arbitration, and the district court granted the motion. This appeal presented an issue of first impression: Whether a seaman’s work in international waters on a cruise ship that calls o…

Maritime Law--Lozman Case Revisited in Miami?

In Hoefling v. City of Miami, Case no.: 14-12482 (11th Cir. Jan. 25, 2016), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit revived almost all of Hoefling's claims. You ask, "Who is Hoefling?" Hoefling  lived on his sailboat Metis O moored off Dinner Key for nearly a decade—until the day he came home and it was gone. About three months earlier, an officer from the Miami Police Department's Marine Patrol Detail tagged Hoefling's vessel for lacking a sanitary device and a working anchor light. He had a deal to use the facilities at the nearby marina but quickly went out and reportedly bought what he needed to comply. Three months later while he was on a business trip, the City of Miami seized and destroyed his boat and all his belongings. As a result, he was homeless. He sued under § 1983, maritime law, and state law. He stated a claim under the Fourth Amendment for seizure and destruction without notice or cause and a “taking.”  At the U.S. District Court leve…

Maritime Law--Lawsuits Filed Over RCCL's "Storm Cruise"

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd ("RCCL") faces lawsuits by passengers accusing the company of negligently endangering their lives by letting Anthem of the Seas sail into a February 7, 2016 storm.  One class action lawsuit filed in federal court in Miami specifically states that RCCL should be required to pay punitive damages to passengers on its ship for "knowingly sailing directly into" a strong winter storm with 120-mph winds. It is also alleged that people aboard the ship were "subjected to hours of sheer terror as the gigantic cruise ship was battered by hurricane-force winds and more than 30-foot waves."

The vessel reportedly encountered 100 mph winds and 30-foot waves, and RCCL said the storm was more severe than expected. RCCL later turned the ship around, and it returned to New Jersey on February 10. Anthem of the Seas’ port azipod reportedly burnt through “all four clutches” during the storm. RCCL reported four minor injuries among more than 6,000 p…

Maritime Law--Concordia Pax Ordered to Bring Suits in Italy

On January 27, 2016,  a 3-judge panel of the Third District Court of Appeal for the State of Florida has ruled unanimously that lawsuits filed by passengers on Costa Concordia, the infamous cruise ship that ran aground and sank in Italy in January 2012, should be heard in that country. The appellate court found that 57 plaintiffs, including five U.S. residents, should not be allowed to pursue their lawsuit against Miami-based Costa parent Carnival Corp. in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, which dismissed the case on forum non conveniens grounds.

Costa Concordia sank off the Italian island Giglio in January 2012 after its captain allegedly changed course to do a sail-by salute and hit a coral reef. More than 3,000 passengers and 1,000 crew members were evacuated--32 people died.  The court reasoned that the evidence is located in Italy. The court also noted that the wreckage, voyage data recorder, bridge voice recorder, ship cameras and the vessel's electronic navigation system are all in t…