Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Fire Places Spotlight on Cruise Liability Once Again
Washington travelers may wonder whether cruise ship vacations are bound for catastrophe based on the prevalence of cruise-gone-wrong stories in the news. This week, a fire broke out on the mooring deck of Royal Caribbean's cruise ship, Grandeur of the Seas. More than 2000 of their passengers were asked to gather at their assigned "muster stations" in the event an evacuation was necessary. Passengers slept on deck and watched smoke billow past for four hours. The ship made it to a dock without losing power, but the cause of the fire is still being investigated. No one was injured by the fire, but medical staff was called to assess passengers who fainted or had complaints of high blood pressure during the wait.
Customers of the ill-fated cruise are receiving a refund for the cost of this cruise and a voucher for a future cruise. Royal Caribbean also provided lodging and flights so passengers may return home. Questions may remain for some customers on whether or not that is enough compensation for the inconvenience or injuries sustained.
Maritime law has established that cruise ships must provide their passengers with "reasonable care under the circumstances." Any injury suffered by a passenger must be tied to an act of negligence by the cruise line. Like civil suits on land, a passenger must show the cruise ship company owed a duty to the passenger, that there was a breach of that duty, that the breach of duty caused the injury sustained by the passenger, and the amount of damages that resulted from that injury.
Anyone filing suit against a cruise ship company must also be aware of the parameters set by their ticket. The Supreme Court case, Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute, 499 U.S. 585 (1990) analyzed forum clauses on the back of tickets and whether or not the restrictions included were valid. In that case, a couple wanted to file suit in their home state for an injury sustained on a cruise ship. However, the forum clause on the back of their ticket mandated that the suit be filed in the state of the cruise line's headquarters. The Supreme Court upheld the forum clause, and now contracts signed by passengers instantly limit where suits may be filed and the time the injured passenger has to provide notice and file suit.
The experienced Washington cruise ship accident attorneys, Gordon Webb and John Merriam, have litigated numerous cruise ship accident cases. They are very familiar with the various cruise industry deadlines for filing notice of a suit, and can assist you in directly making a claim to the cruise ship company. Both encourage taking your own pictures of the scene as soon as possible and taking down the names and addresses of all witnesses before all return home. If you have been injured on a cruise ship and would like to speak to one of our attorneys in a free, confidential consultation, call today at 877.800.1007.