Skip to main content

Maritime Law--2 Big Decisions from the Florida Supreme Court

This week is an active one for the Florida Supreme Court.

The first case up for discussion is State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Curran, SC12-157 (Fla. Mar. 13, 2014).

After the Plaintiff was rear-ended by an underinsured motorist (UM), Plaintiff requested her $100,000 UM policy limits from State Farm. Plaintiff indicated that her damages were estimated to be $3.5 million because she suffered from reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome. State Farm responded that Plaintiff must schedule a compulsory medical examination (CME) pursuant to the terms of the policy. Plaintiff refused to attend a CME and instead filed suit against State Farm. The trial court entered judgment against State Farm for the UM policy limits. The court of appeal affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff breached the contract when she failed to attend the CME; but (2) State Farm must plead and prove prejudice to avoid liability based on noncompliance with the CME clause, and State Farm failed to meet its burden in this case. The Supreme Court approved of the court of appeal’s decision, holding (1) the forfeiture of benefits under a UM policy will not automatically result upon an insured’s breach of a CME provision unless the insurer pleads and proves actual prejudice as an element of its affirmative defense; and (2) the undisputed facts demonstrate that State Farm was not prejudiced in this case.

This case, because it involves a car accident case, would not appear to affect those of us that handle marine insurance matters. However, absent controlling federal  maritime law or a determination that the interests of national uniformity require that a rule of federal maritime law be fashioned, the interpretation of a contract of marine insurance will abide state law. Therefore, the argument to be made is that the insurer will be required to prove actual prejudice in the event the insured breaches the insurance contract when it fails to undertake an action post-loss.

The second case up for discussion is Estate of McCall v. United States, SC11-1148  (Fla. Mar. 13, 2014). Here, Michelle McCall received prenatal medical care at a United States Air Force clinic as an Air Force dependent. McCall died after delivering her son as a result of severe blood loss. Petitioners filed an action against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The federal district court found the United States liable under the FTCA. The court concluded that Petitioners’ economic damages amounted to $980,462 and Petitioners’ noneconomic damages totaled $2 million. However, the district court limited Petitioners’ recovery of wrongful death noneconomic damages to $1 million after applying Fla. Stat. section 766.118, Florida’s statutory cap on wrongful death noneconomic damages based on medical malpractice claims. The district court subsequently denied Petitioners’ motion challenging the constitutionality of the wrongful death statutory cap. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the application of the statutory cap on noneconomic damages and held that the statute was not unconstitutional. The Florida Supreme Court accepted certification to answer questions of Florida law and answered by holding the statutory cap on wrongful death noneconomic damages provided in Fla. Stat. section 766.118 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Florida Constitution.

Again, this appears to be one of those cases that would not apply in a maritime context. However, in cases where a federal maritime law statute would not be applicable, arguably state law applies to any liability. The law of Florida now is that statutory caps on wrongful death noneconomic damages violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Florida Constitution.

If you are interested in receiving copies of the decisions cited above or otherwise wish to reach me, you may do so by writing to me at




  1. The information in this blog is extremely useful for the people.
    courier services in London


Post a Comment

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--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…

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 …