Many cruise goers already know that a ship operator can be held liable for injuries incurred by passengers onboard. In the tragic case of Chaparro v. Carnival, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals explains that this liability may also extend to injuries that happen off the ship at ports of call.
Liz Marie Chaparro was killed in a bizarre accident during a Carnival cruise vacation. Traveling with her parents and brother, the Chaparros left the ship for an island excursion while docked at St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. Although ship staff recommended the excursion, it was not sponsored by Carnival. The family was traveling in bus, returning from the excursion when the they were stopped in traffic related to a nearby funeral for a local gang member. Gang-related gun violence broke out while the bus was stopped and Liz Marie was shot in the cross-fire.
Liz Marie's parents sued Carnival in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, which sits in Miami, claiming that the company was negligent in failing to warn them about crime problems, gang violence and public shootings on St. Thomas and particularly near Coki Beach, where the excursion took place. The district court dismissed the case, finding that the plaintiffs failed to meet minimal pleading requirements because their complaint was limited to conclusory statements, rather than factual allegations.
On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit reversed the decision, finding that Carnival has a legal duty to warn passengers of known dangers at ports of call. The Court explained that "a shipowner owes the duty of exercising reasonable care towards those lawfully aboard the vessel who are not members of the crew," quoting the Supreme Court's 1959 decision in Kermarec v. Compagnie Generale Transatlantique. That duty, according to the court, includes a duty to warn of known dangers in places off the ship where passengers are invited or may be reasonably expected to visit.
While Carnival argued that it could not have reasonably foreseen Liz Marie's death by gang cross-fire, plaintiffs claimed that the company was aware of gang-related violence and crime, including public shootings, in the area. According to the court, the issue of foreseeability was best considered at trial.
The Court further found that plaintiff's pleading was legally sufficient. "The facts alleged in the complaint are plausible and raise a reasonable expectation that discovery could supply additional proof of Carnival's liability," the Court ruled. Specifically, plaintiffs put forth a valid negligence claim by alleging that they were encouraged to go to Coki Beach by a Carnival employee, the company was familiar with the area and generally aware of the gang violence taking place there and it acted negligently in failing to warn plaintiffs about the violence, which ultimately led to Liz Marie's death.
If you were injured on a cruise, the experienced Fort Lauderdale cruise ship accident attorneys at Anidjar & Levine can help. Anidjar & Levine have successfully handled all types of cruise ship accident claims, recovering compensation for victims in Florida and elsewhere. The firm has extensive experience litigating maritime personal injury cases, including accidents on cruise liners and other ships.
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