Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s negligence may cause you to slip or trip and fall. If so, you may be entitled to compensation.
Here, I talk about slip and fall settlements (and cases) with Royal Caribbean. (I’ve written separately about other types of injury cases against Royal Caribbean.
Are Passenger Slip and Fall Cases Against Royal Caribbean Difficult?
Yes, passenger slip and fall cases are difficult.
Because before Royal Caribbean can be found liable, they must have had actual or constructive notice of the risk-creating condition.
Basically, to be liable, Royal Caribbean must have or should have known about the dangerous floor condition before your fall. Many passenger slip and fall lawsuits against Royal Caribbean are dismissed because the passenger can’t prove the cruise line had notice of the dangerous floor before the fall.
To make matters tougher for the injured person, even if Royal Caribbean had notice of the dangerous condition before you fell, Royal Caribbean doesn’t have to warn passengers of dangers that are open and obvious.
To get an idea of what courts consider to be “open and obvious”, you should read every cruise slip and fall case that has ever been decided by Miami’s federal courts. This takes a very long time.
I am going to use discuss some past Royal Caribbean slip and fall cases. Unless I say so, the cases that I mention are not mine.
Court Won’t Dismiss Passenger’s Slip and Fall on Puddle of Soap
These facts are from the case of Aponte v. Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Ltd, Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit 2018. This isn’t my case.
Freddie Aponte and his wife Fannie were passengers on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Freedom of the Seas in May 2014. Late one evening, Aponte and Fannie went to an upper deck (Deck 5) to get a snack.
When they reached the top of the stairs, Aponte decided to use the restroom. Here is a photo from the court record.
As Aponte entered the Deck 5 restroom, he saw to his left a crewmember standing at the sink nearest the door (the “first sink”), dumping water into the sink from a small, red bucket.
Aponte walked past the crewmember and the restroom’s four sinks—all to his left—to the urinals. He saw nothing on the ground as he went. The crewmember left the restroom while Aponte was at the urinal.
During this time, Aponte did not hear any noise other than the door opening and closing. Notably, he did not hear anything fall to the floor.
Aponte washed his hands in the sink nearest the wall that divided the sinks from the urinals (the “last sink”). He then decided to use the paper towel dispenser near the first sink instead of the air dryer to his right. He turned to his left and started walking toward the dispenser.
As he reached out to grab a towel, he slipped and fell, hitting the countertop with his arm on the way down and then landing on the floor on his lower back.
After he fell, he saw on the floor a puddle of soap roughly one-and-a-half feet in diameter and a plastic soap bottle. The bottle was roughly one foot tall and three inches in diameter.
Aponte sued Royal Caribbean for negligence. He claimed that, as a result of the accident, he sustained injuries to his neck and back. He ultimately required two surgeries.
He also testified that he suffered nerve injuries to his right arm that affected him from his wrist to his neck.
The trial court initially dismissed the lawsuit after Royal Caribbean asked it to (via summary judgment). The trial court made two key determinations in doing so.
Passenger Must Prove That Royal Caribbean Had Notice of the Substance on the Floor
First, the court found that Royal Caribbean did not have actual or constructive notice of the puddle of soap. Aponte saw a crewmember in the restroom. However, the court explained, there was no evidence establishing whether the puddle was on the floor while the crewmember was there or whether the crewmember was aware of the puddle or the soap bottle.
Second, the court found that Royal Caribbean had no duty to warn because there was “no dispute that the puddle of soap was open and obvious.” The judge cited Aponte’s testimony that he “obviously” would have seen the puddle on the floor had he looked at it.
The good news for the injured passenger?
He appealed the lawsuit. (Appeals are expensive.)
The appeals court said that the trial court shouldn’t have dismissed the case. It said that a reasonable factfinder (judge or jury) could conclude that the puddle of soap was on the floor before Aponte entered the restroom and while the crewmember was at the sink.
Given Aponte’s description of the soap bottle (roughly one foot tall and three inches in diameter) and the amount of soap on the floor (roughly one-and-a-half feet in diameter), it is reasonable to infer both that the soap on the floor came from the bottle and that Aponte would have heard the relatively large bottle hitting the floor if it had fallen while he was in the restroom.
Yet Aponte testified that he did not hear anything hit the floor or any noise other than the door opening and closing when the crewmember left the restroom. These facts suggest that the soap bottle had fallen to the floor before Aponte entered the restroom and that the puddle of soap was present on the floor while the crewmember was dumping water into the first sink.
Further, a reasonable factfinder could conclude that the crewmember knew or should have known about the puddle of soap. Aponte testified that the crewmember was standing at the first sink. He also testified that he slipped on the puddle of soap while reaching out to grab a towel at the dispenser to the left of that same sink.
It May Help Passenger’s Case if Crewmember Was in the Area Before the Fall
These facts place the crewmember in the immediate vicinity of a puddle of soap that was one-and-a-half feet in diameter. Drawing all reasonable inferences in Aponte’s favor, a factfinder could conclude that the crewmember knew or should have known about the puddle of soap at his feet and either removed the hazard or warned Aponte of it. Cf. Alterman Foods, Inc. v. Ligon, 272 S.E.2d 327, 330 (Ga. 1980) (“In some cases the proprietor may be held to have constructive knowledge if the plaintiff shows that an employee of the proprietor was in the immediate area of the dangerous condition and could have easily seen the substance and removed the hazard.” (quotation marks omitted)).
Puddle of Soap May Not Have Been Open and Obvious
To determine whether a condition is open and obvious, the court asks whether a reasonable person would have observed the condition and appreciated the nature of the condition.
Aponte described a “clearish” puddle of soap on the tile of the restroom floor in the area immediately in front of the sinks.
He testified that he did not see anything on the floor when he walked past that area to the urinals and that he was not looking at the floor when he slipped because he was looking at and reaching for the paper towel dispenser.
Although Aponte testified that he “obviously” would have seen the puddle of soap if he had looked directly at it, the fact that the puddle of soap was capable of being observed does not necessarily make it open and obvious to a reasonable person.
What a passenger actually perceives is, of course, relevant to the determination of what a reasonable person would perceive under the same circumstances. But Aponte did not testify that he saw the puddle and still stepped in it.
Rather, his testimony was that he did not see anything on the floor of the restroom until after he slipped. The appeals court cannot conclude, as a matter of law, that a reasonably prudent person through the exercise of common sense and the ordinary use of his senses would have clearly seen the “clearish” puddle of soap on the floor.
Royal Caribbean May Use Your Past Injuries Against You
In Aponte’s case, the trial court said that Royal Caribbean:
likely . . . would prevail on its argument that Aponte failed to show causation.
This means that the trial court was saying that Royal Caribbean likely would be able to show that Aponte couldn’t prove that her injury was caused by the accident. Royal Caribbean’s evidence was the deposition (testimony) of Dr. Scott Sherman, who treated Aponte before and after the accident.
Royal Caribbean argued that Aponte’s claimed back and neck injuries were the same ones that she treated for before the accident. However, there was some indication from the doctor’s testimony that Aponte’s back problems worsened after the accident, though not significantly so.
A passenger is entitled to compensation if his injuries (that he treated for before the accident) worsened after the accident. The greater that the injuries worsen from the accident, the higher the full value of the case.
In this case, the appeals court seems to think that perhaps the passenger’s injuries didn’t greatly worsen. Thus, it doesn’t seem like the worsening of the back and neck problems are worth a huge amount.
I don’t know the current status of this case. The last record I could find in the trial court was from 2017, which was way before this appeal was decided.
$55,000 Verdict For Shoulder Tear And Herniated Disc from Slip and Fall on Royal Caribbean Gangway
See a $55,000 verdict for pain and suffering compensation against Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. The fall caused a shoulder tear and herniated disc.
Learn more about this $55,000 Verdict For Shoulder Tear And Herniated Disc from Slip and Fall on Royal Caribbean Gangway. The case is Daniel v. Royal Caribbean Cruises. The verdict was in 2008.
Although not from this case, below is a MRI that shows a herniated disc from a $17,000 herniated disc settlement.
Court Dismissed Slipped and Fall on wet floor in bathroom on Royal Caribbean Monarch for failure to sue in time
In Psurny v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., 926 F. Supp. 2d 1325, 1328-29 (S.D. Fla. 2013), Frank Psurny, Jr. sued Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. He sued in United States District Court, S.D. Florida.
Tip: Passenger personal injury and death cases against Royal Caribbean must sue in federal court in Miami, Florida. This is true regardless of where the cruise sailed from, went to, or ended.
On February 25, 2013, the court issued an amended order on Royal Caribbean’s motion to dismiss and/or for final summary judgment. This means that the court ruled on Royal Caribbean’s attempt to permanently dismiss the case.
A Miami lawyer represented Psurny. Royal Caribbean’s in-house attorney counsel represented it.
Fact: Royal Caribbean may use its employee attorneys in some personal injury cases. If so, these employees do not bill by the hour. Royal Caribbean may argue that the case should be settled for less because it does not have to pay outside attorneys who bill by the hour.
Royal Caribbean Attempts to Dismiss the Case
Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. (“Royal Caribbean”) brought the motion for the case to be dismissed or, alternatively, for summary judgment on the basis that Psurny filed the lawsuit after the contractual limitations period had expired.
Tip: You have one (1) year to sue Royal Caribbean after the date of your injury.
In response, Frank Psurny Jr. (“Mr. Psurny” or “Plaintiff”) agrees that he did not begin his federal lawsuit within the contractual limitations period, but says that equitable tolling applies to the circumstances of this case and therefore Royal Caribbean’s request to have the case dismissed.
In its reply, Royal Caribbean argues that equitable tolling does not apply to the facts of this case, and thus the case should be dismissed.
The court said that it is undisputed that Psurny did not begin his lawsuit within the contractual limitations period, the sole question is whether Royal Caribbean has shown that equitable tolling does not apply to the undisputed material facts of this case.
Because the Court found that there is no genuine issue of material fact as to whether equitable tolling applies in this case, Royal Caribbean’s motion is granted for the reasons stated below. The case was dismissed.
II. Undisputed Material Facts
Royal Caribbean and Psurny agree on the following facts:
Frank Psurny and his wife (“Mrs. Psurny”) were passengers on Royal Caribbean’s cruise ship, the Monarch of the Seas (“the Monarch“) on October 13, 2011, when Mr. Psurny allegedly slipped and fell on a wet floor, injuring his hip, as he was attempting to use a handicapped bathroom onboard the Monarch.
Following the alleged accident, the ship’s medical crew treated Mr. Psurny. He remained in the Monarch’s infirmary overnight, and, according to an affidavit submitted by Mrs. Psurny, explained to several of the ship’s doctors and nurses that he fell as a result of the wet floor.
Tip: Generally speaking, the more time that you spend in the ship’s infirmary, the greater the full value of the case.
Mrs. Psurny says that the Monarch’s crew investigated the site of the reported injury.
Tip: Royal Caribbean will begin its investigation shortly after your fall. You should do the same.
The Psurnys’ tickets included several sentences that controlled their right to bring a personal injury lawsuit against Royal Caribbean.
Cruise Ticket Required Lawsuit to Be Brought in Miami
The ticket contained a forum selection clause, which provided that, except under certain circumstances not present here, all disputes arising from the passenger’s cruise “shall be litigated, if at all, in and before the United States District Court of Florida.”
Litigated basically means “sued”.
The ticket also required that a passenger seeking to bring a personal injury suit must submit a written notice of his or her claim to Royal Caribbean “at its principal office” within six months of the injury and begin suit against Royal Caribbean within one year of the injury.
The first paragraph of the contract, which was written in bold, capital letters, advised the passenger to pay “particular attention” to these two provisions since they “limit Royal Caribbean’s liability and your right to sue.”
After the Psurnys returned to their home in Florida, Psurny was allegedly diagnosed with a broken hip.
Mrs. Psurny further says that around November 2011, she called Royal Caribbean because, due to her husband’s injury, she wanted to reschedule three upcoming cruises that she and her husband had scheduled with Royal Caribbean.
Mrs. Psurny attests that she spoke on the telephone with at least two Royal Caribbean officials and informed them that her husband had been diagnosed with a hip fracture since getting off the Monarch.
Mrs. Psurny said that either she or her husband’s doctor sent a record of Mr. Psurny’s current diagnosis to Royal Caribbean.
A diagnosis is the process of determining which condition explains a person’s symptoms and signs.
Tip: Immediately send your medical records that contain a diagnosis to Royal Caribbean.
Eventually, in January 2012, Mrs. Psurny spoke with Ernest Garcia (“Garcia”) from Royal Caribbean’s Guest Relations Department. Mrs. Psurny claims that she expressed to Garcia her concerns about the presence of wet floors onboard Royal Caribbean’s cruise liners, in light of her husband’s accident on the Monarch.
After speaking with Mrs. Psurny, Garcia sent her a letter, dated January 12, 2012, in which were enclosed certificates that the Psurnys’ could use for future cruises in exchange for the cruises that they had earlier scheduled. Garcia also thanked Mrs. Psurny for affording him the opportunity to discuss and respond to the concerns that she brought to Royal Caribbean’s attention.
After the correspondence from Garcia, there was no communication between the Psurnys and Royal Caribbean for several months. The Psurnys agree that they did not submit a written claim to Royal Caribbean describing the particulars of his alleged injury, either before or after the six-month deadline for submitting the notice of claim.
Notwithstanding the Psurnys’ failure to provide such notice, on October 10, 2012, three days prior to the expiration of the one-year limitations period, Mr. Psurny filed suit against Royal Caribbean in state court (the “state lawsuit”).
On November 14, 2012, Royal Caribbean tried to motion to dismiss the state lawsuit based on the forum selection clause. On December 6, 2012, nearly two months after the contractual limitations period had expired, Mr. Psurny sued in federal court.
Equitable tolling refers to the law that permits a court to extend the time to sue where the court finds that an inequitable event has prevented plaintiff’s timely action. Justice v. United States, 6 F.3d 1474, 1479 (11th Cir. 1993).
Examples of inequitable events
Examples of inequitable events include cases where:
1. The cruise line misleads the passenger into allowing the statutory period of lapse
2. Passenger has no reasonable way of discovering the wrong perpetrated against him or her, or
3. Passenger timely files a technically defective lawsuit, but in all other respects acts with the proper diligence that the limitation period is intended to insure.
Extending time to sue is rare
However, “the Supreme Court has made clear that tolling is an extraordinary remedy which should be extended only sparingly.” The Eleventh Circuit has also provided that a passenger is not entitled to equitable tolling where he or she does not sue in time despite knowing or being in a position reasonably to know that the limitations period is running.
Fact: The Eleventh Circuit handles all appeals for Royal Caribbean cruise passenger personal injury cases.
Furthermore, the burden is on the passenger to show that equitable tolling should be allowed.
Two Eleventh Circuit cases address equitable tolling in the cruise line context:
Booth v. Carnival Corp., 522 F.3d 1148 (11th Cir.2008) and
Crist v. Carnival Corp., 410 Fed.Appx. 197 (11th Cir.2010), which this Court considers as non-binding but persuasive authority.
In Booth, the Court of Appeals considered the following facts, set forth in the district court’s decision. The passenger sent a timely notice of claim letter to Carnival Cruise Lines, indicating his intent to sue in Miami. Booth v. Carnival, 510 F.Supp.2d 985, 988 (S.D.Fla.2007).
In response, Carnival issued a letter acknowledging his notice of claim. Nineteen days before the time limit to sue expired, he sued in state court.
He served a copy of the lawsuit to Carnival the day after filing the state lawsuit, meaning that defendant’s legal response was due seven days after the expiration of the limitations period.
Prior to the answer deadline and the expiration of the time to sue period, Carnival asked the court for an extension to respond to his complaint. Eventually, although nearly two months after the expiration of the time to sue period, Carnival asserted the improper venue defense for the first time.
Fact: Venue is the location where the lawsuit must take place.
Approximately two months later, he filed an identical lawsuit in federal court, and Carnival moved to dismiss the case as untimely under the contractual limitations period.
Court granted extension of time to sue in Booth Case
On these facts, the Eleventh Circuit found that equitable tolling of the limitations period was appropriate because “Booth was entitled to believe that his state lawsuit might be sufficient given that cruise lines can, and often do, give up their defense of improper venue.”
Crist v. Carnival
In Crist, the Eleventh Circuit appeals court considered whether equitable tolling was appropriate in the following circumstance. Approximately three months prior to the expiration of the contractual limitations period, the passenger’s attorney wrote Carnival requesting insurance information.
When responding to this request two weeks later, Carnival explicitly informed Crist that Carnival would not give up its passenger cruise contract defense if a lawsuit is filed in the wrong court. Believing, wrongly, that the federal court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction, Crist sued in state court nine days before the running of the limitations period.
Carnival moved to dismiss the state lawsuit on venue grounds. On November 12, 2008, after the time to sue had expired, Crist filed an identical federal lawsuit and defendant raised the limitations period as a defense in its answer to the federal lawsuit.
Later, Carnival moved for summary judgment (have the case dismissed) on the grounds that the time to sue had passed. On these facts, the Court of Appeals held that equitable tolling was inappropriate because the untimely filing of the federal lawsuit in Crist was due to “garden variety” negligence on the part of passenger’s lawyer.
Back to the Psurny v. Royal Caribbean Cruises case
The present facts are more like Crist than Booth. In Crist, plaintiff’s late lawsuit could be traced solely to plaintiff’s disregard of the cruise line’s notice that it would strictly enforce the venue provision and passenger’s lawyer’s misunderstanding of the law concerning jurisdiction and venue; without any fault that could be attributed to Carnival, equitable tolling did not apply.
In Booth, at least part of the fault for Booth’s late lawsuit in federal court was Carnival’s failure to assert improper venue within the limitations period, which would have given Booth the opportunity to sue in federal court in time.
As in the Crist case, the Court is unable to trace any fault or inequitable conduct on Royal Caribbean’s part to Psurny’s decision not to sue in federal court on a timely basis.
The judge permanently dismissed the case. The passenger, Psurny, gets nothing. Hire a Miami cruise accident lawyer who knows that you need to sue Royal Caribbean cruise lines in federal court in Miami, Florida. I do.
My office is a 25 minute drive from the federal courthouse in Miami, Florida. Check out some other interesting Royal Caribbean cases:
Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. v. Doe, 964 So.2d 713, 718 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007) (incident reports created by employees and filed with the risk management department to be used to defend against potential litigation are protected as work-product).
See Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., 964 So.2d at 718; Dist. Bd. of Trs. of Miami-Dade Cmty. Coll. v. Chao, 739 So.2d 105, 107 (Fla. 3d DCA 1999)(even if a specific claim has not been filed, sending documents to a risk management department anticipates litigation).
I want to represent you if you were hurt in an accident on a Royal Caribbean cruise, or another cruise line or anywhere se in Florida.
List of Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships
- Allure of the Seas
- Harmony of the Seas
- Oasis of the Seas
- Freedom of the Seas
- Independence of the Seas
- Liberty of the Seas
- Navigator of the Seas
- Mariner of the Seas
- Adventure of the Seas
- Explorer of the Seas
- Jewel of the Seas
- Brilliance of the Seas
- Serenade of the Seas
- Radiance of the Seas
- Splendour of the Seas
- Symphony of the Seas
- Enchantment of the Seas
- Grandeur of the Seas
- Vision of the Seas
- Rhapsody of the Seas
- Legend of the Seas
- Majesty of the Seas
- Voyager of the Seas
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