Skip to main content

Single Act of Negligence Does Not Render a Cruise Ship Unseaworthy

In FLUERAS vs. ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES, LTD., 36 Fla. L. Weekly D2131a (Fla. 3d DCA Sept. 28, 2011), the Third District Court of Appeals of Florida held that a single act of negligence by an otherwise competent crew member does not render ship unseaworthy. The Plaintiff, individually, and as the personal representative of the Estate of Diana Elena Flueras (“Ms. Flueras” or “Crew Member”), appeals from a final summary judgment entered in favor of defendant Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. (“RCCL” or “Shipowner”) in an action alleging the unseaworthiness of RCCL's vessel, the Explorer of the Seas, arising out of the alleged negligence of the vessel's medical crew. Ms. Flueras was employed by Image Corp., The Image Group, or Image (collectively, “Image”), not by RCCL, as a photographer on the Explorer of the Seas. On October 10, 2005, Ms. Flueras visited the ship's infirmary complaining of back and abdominal pain.

On October 20, 2005, Ms. Flueras underwent an outpatient abortion procedure performed in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. The doctor sent a letter to the “Ship's Doctor” advising that the amount of tissue removed during the procedure was inconsistent with her gestational age and that she should submit to further testing to rule out an ectopic pregnancy. The ship's doctor did not complete this testing and after Ms. Flueras worsened on board the vessel, she was disembarked shoreside where the Ship's Doctor received a letter from the port agent indicating that Ms. Flueras had a ruptured ectopic pregnancy and intra-abdominal bleeding. Ms. Flueras died at the shoreside hospital on October 24, 2005. The primary cause of death was septic shock and a ruptured ectopic pregnancy.

Mr. Flueras filed an action for unseaworthiness, alleging that RCCL's vessel was unseaworthy because: (a) the vessel was unsafe and unfit as a consequence of RCCL's conduct; (b) the vessel was manned by a medical crew that was not properly trained, instructed or supervised; (c) the vessel's medical crew was unfit; (d) the vessel lacked adequate manpower for the tasks being performed; and (e) “[o]perational negligence existed in defendant's inadequate medical care provided to Ms. Flueras; incompetent medical care provided to Ms. Flueras, and unfit medical crew caring for Ms. Flueras.” Subsequently, RCCL moved for summary judgment on the ground that the Ship Doctor's negligent conduct could not render the vessel unseaworthy because Mr. Flueras failed to put the Ship Doctor's competence at issue. In response, Mr. Flueras argued that the crew members' conduct and incompetency, as well as the absence of or failure to follow shipboard policies and procedures rendered RCCL's vessel unseaworthy. Mr. Flueras also argued that the necessity for additional discovery precluded the entry of summary judgment. The trial court heard the motion on October 18, 2007, reserved ruling, and ordered the parties to submit supplemental memoranda of law. The trial court subsequently granted RCCL's motion for summary judgment.

The appellate court found that heart of the analysis in these cases is the crew member's specific knowledge, degree of skill, sufficiency of experience, and/or adequacy of licensure, and the affidavits produced by Mr. Flueras fail to directly challenge these aspects of the Ship Doctor's qualifications. Because the Ship Doctor's Harris's licensure, experience, knowledge, and skill remain unrebutted by the affidavits, the appellate court affirmed the trial court's entry of summary judgment on this issue.

This case addresses other issues related to the sufficiency of the discovery undertaken by Mr. Flueras and thus, the case was remanded for further proceedings. The case is lengthy and instructive and thus, if you are interested in obtaining a copy of this decision, please feel free to contact me at miamipandi@comcast.net or motero@houckanderson.com.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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--Tour Boat Captain Implicated in Tragedy Off Nicaragua

As reported in the Daily Business Review on January 25, 2016, Nicaragua's police, army and navy will investigate the captain of a tourist boat and his assistant for the deaths of 13 Costa Rican passengers killed on January 23rd when the vessel capsized in bad weather. The Reina del Caribe, Spanish for "Caribbean Queen," was carrying 33 people when it went down Saturday amid rain and strong winds as it ferried between the Corn Islands, a popular tourist destination, off Nicaragua's Caribbean coast. The Daily Business Review article can be accessed here=> Daily Business Review article.

The government clarified on the 24th that the boat was carrying 25 Costa Ricans, two Americans, two British citizens, a Brazilian and three Nicaraguans. Previous reports had said there were 32 people on board, including four Americans. All the dead were Costa Ricans.

Nicaragua's naval commander for the southern Caribbean region said the boat's captain was detained because the …

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…